Herbal remedies

There are some herbal remedies that may help treat depression in some people.

Over the past few years there has been a lot of interest in herbal remedies to help treat depression.

Although herbal remedies are natural products, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are all safe. Some carry a potential risk and can interact with other medicines you are taking.

It is very important to let your doctor know before you decide to take any herbal medicines to help treat your depression.

St John’s Wort

There is some research that shows St John's Wort can help to treat mild to moderate depression.

But for more severe depression, research suggests it doesn’t work as well as anti depressant drugs. It can have side effects in the same way as prescribed anti depressants.

You shouldn’t take St Johns Wort with anti depressants because they may interact. It can also interact with other drugs including:

  • the contraceptive pill
  • some chemotherapy drugs
  • some HIV drugs
  • some epilepsy drugs

Talk to your doctor first if you are planning on taking St John's Wort, particularly if you are taking any other medicines. Your doctor can’t prescribe it for you. You have to buy it from health food stores or alternative medicine suppliers.

Ginkgo

Ginkgo is also called ginkgo biloba, fossil tree, maidenhair tree, kew tree, bai guo ye and yinhsing.

Ginkgo has been reported to help people with anxiety, memory loss, stress, sexual problems and asthma.

We know from research that ginkgo can improve blood flow to the brain, so it may help improve mood. But it can cause side effects, including:

  • diarrhoea
  • headaches
  • heart palpitations
  • dizziness

There have also been reports of spontaneous bleeding and fits in people who have taken ginkgo. So if you are taking drugs to help thin your blood (anticoagulants), such as warfarin or aspirin, or drugs to stop you having fits, you should not take ginkgo.

Other remedies

There are other remedies that you may have heard about, such as S-Adenosyl Methionine (SAM-e) or certain homeopathic medicines. But there is no research evidence to show that these work.

Because their benefits are uncertain, you shouldn't use them instead of anti depressant drugs if you have moderate or severe clinical depression.

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