In the cold months, especially, some of us might experience the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Certain dietary herbs and supplements could be of use in mitigating the depression and lethargy that comes with SAD.
What Exactly Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is seasonal depression
. Most people with SAD experience symptoms in the colder months, when days are short, and you're less likely to spend time outdoors. However, a less common form of SAD exists wherein a person experiences seasonal depression in spring and summer months.
Factors such as family history, mental health, and levels of serotonin and melatonin
, can all contribute to SAD. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with SAD than men, and SAD is also more common in younger adults than older adults.
Standard treatments for SAD
include the use of antidepressants, light therapy, and talk therapy. However, more accessible means to mitigate SAD exist in the form of home remedies. Maintaining a sleep schedule & routine is recommended, as well as activity in sunlight and time outdoors, and regular exercise.
Herbs and Supplements for SAD
The following herbs and supplements have the potential to alleviate depression and elevate mood in those who experience seasonal affective disorder. One or more of these supplements could prove useful in mitigating SAD, especially when used in tandem with other lifestyle measures to mitigate seasonal depression. Be sure to discuss your use of any of these with your doctor.
5-HTP, short for 5-hydroxytryptophan, is a nutrient that can have a significant antidepressant effect. Supplementing with 5-HTP has been shown to be just as effective as some antidepressants, including Prozac, at alleviating symptoms of depression
. The body converts 5-HTP into serotonin, the hormone primarily responsible for positive mood. The stark positive effect of 5-HTP on depression is complemented by its lack of any real side effects (when contrasted with Prozac and other prescription antidepressants).
Vitamin D is aptly named the sunshine vitamin
; without enough of it, you are more likely to experience depression. Individuals experiencing SAD have been shown to have low levels of vitamin D. In fact, a large portion of the adult U.S. population does not get enough vitamin D, despite its natural availability by way of UV sunlight. Supplementing with vitamin D could potentially mitigate depression in those with SAD who are vitamin D deficient.
Melatonin, like serotonin, is a hormone that is synthesized using tryptophan. Taking melatonin to foster a healthy sleep/wake cycle
can be beneficial for those with SAD. Changes of the seasons can disrupt the sleep/wake cycle, just as they can cause depression in some people. Taking melatonin to ensure better sleep could be of great benefit to those who experience SAD.
St. John's Wort is a plant, and its extract has various potential benefits. St. John's Wort is known for its ability to help balance mood as well as promote mental and emotional ease. For these reasons, St. John's Wort
could potentially help alleviate symptoms of SAD.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a supplement that can help relieve depression in those with depressive disorders
. NAC can help reduce inflammation in the brain, as well as prevent damage being done to cells. Because NAC can interact with some prescription medications, consult your healthcare provider before taking NAC for seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder, whether in winter or in summer, should not go unaddressed. If you experience seasonal depression, then consider the above herbs and supplements as one way to lesson your symptoms. Talk to your healthcare provider before using any of these supplements for the first time.