Herbal remedies

Some herbal remedies 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

Some research 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 antidepressant drugs. It can have side effects in the same way as prescribed antidepressants.

You shouldn’t take St Johns Wort with antidepressants 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. You should not take ginkgo if you are taking drugs to help thin your blood (anticoagulants). These include drugs such as warfarin or aspirin. You shouldn't take it with drugs to stop you from having fits, either.

Other remedies

You may have heard about other remedies, such as S-Adenosyl Methionine (SAM-e) or certain homoeopathic medicines. Some research shows that these can help with depression, but we need more research.

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

Last reviewed: 
03 Nov 2022
Next review due: 
03 Nov 2025
  • Depression in adults with a chronic physical health problem: recognition and management (CG91)

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), October 2009

  • Depression in adults: treatment and management

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), published 29 June 2022

  • S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) in major depressive disorder (MDD): a clinician-oriented systematic review

    A Cuomo and others

    Annals of General Psychiatry, 5 September 2020. Volume 19, Issue 50

  • Clinical use of Hypericum perforatum (St John's wort) in depression: A meta-analysis.
    Ng QX and others
    Journal of Affective Disorders, 2017

  • Ginko Biloba Leaves Extract for the Treatment of Anxiety, Stress, and Depression

    N Deravi and others

    ASEAN Journal of Psychiatry, April 2022. Volume 23, Issue 4, Pages 1-7

Related links