Consider this: You’re lying on the couch, unable to motivate yourself enough to get up and get dressed. Everything seems pointless, hopeless, and dark, and all you want to do is stare into space. There’s a pill sitting on the coffee table a few feet in front of you that promises to make you feel 100 percent better and take your depression away.

And you can’t muster the enthusiasm or energy to get up and get it.

That’s the best- and truest- description of severe depression I’ve ever heard.

Depression is no picnic. Not only is it one of the greatest problems of our time, it’s also potentially life threatening. Severe depression needs to be medically treated.

That said, many of us are suffering with what’s called mild or moderate depression- anything from “the blues” to a general feeling that some of the sparkle is gone from everyday life. For mild or even moderate depression, there are a number of natural remedies that are worth trying before going the pharmaceutical route. One of the best of those natural substances is 5-HTP.

The term 5-HTP stands for 5-hydroxytryptohan, and it’s the stuff out of which your body makes serotonin, one of the major players in a group of chemicals called neurotransmitters- chemicals that transmit information in the brain. Serotonin is known as a “feel-good” neurotransmitter. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, and in fact, the biggest class of anti-depressant pharmaceuticals (SSRI’s like Prozac) work by keeping serotonin hanging around the brain longer. In your body, the amino acid L-tryptophan converts to 5-HTP which then, with a little help from vitamin B6, turns it into serotonin.

Try 50mg of 5-HTP three times a day and increase if necessary. A common dose for depression is 300 mg a day. Make sure you’re getting enough B6 in your diet- some of the better 5-HTP supplementshave some B6 built in.

St. John’s Wort is a perennial herb with a long and honorable history of use for mild (or moderate) depression. It got some bad press in a loaded study back in 2002 which had the media gleefully proclaiming “St. Johns Wort ineffective” but what they didn’t tell you was that the study tested the herb on people with severe depression who also didn’t respond to even the strongest pharmaceutical drugs. It’s quite effective for mild depression. A meta-analysis in the British Medical Journal reviewed 23 published trials on St. John’s Wort involving more than 1,700 patients and found it effective for the treatment of mild and moderate depression.

The best preparations of St. John’s Wort are standardized to contain 0.3 percent hypericin, and the recommended dose is 300 mg taken 3 times a day.

Then there’s SAMe, arguably the most effective “natural” antidepressant around, albeit one of the more pricey ones. The best thing about it is that you’ll know whether it’s working within a week About 70 percent of people with depression respond to SAMe, according to Richard Brown, MD, author of “Stop Depression Now”.

A common dose of SAMe for depression is 400 mg taken twice a day, though people have taken up to 1600 mg. SAMe should be taken with B vitamins, and is not- repeat not- for people with bipolar disorder. SAMe usually comes in blister packs since it is highly sensitive to light and air.

Two other nutrients are also helpful: Fish oil and folic acid. Fish oil is being studied for it’s effects on mood, and high doses- as high as 10 grams a day- may produce a real effect, though many people will notice something with as little as 2-3 grams a day. Folic acid is also involved in mood, and high doses- 5 grams or more- are absolutely worth a try. Since both these nutrients have other multiple benefits and are absolutely safe, they’re worth adding to whatever natural treatment you’re going to try.

If you’re currently on an anti-depressant drug, do not just stop and switch to one of the “natural” treatments. Most antidepressants should be discontinued gradually and under the eye of a health-care provider. But if you haven’t started on a drug yet, it makes a lot of sense to try the natural route first.

Author's Bio: 

Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS is the author of "the Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth as well as two other best selling books. A board certified nutritionist with a Masters degree in psychology, he is a featured health writer on America Online and was the Weight Loss Coach for for ten years. A popular and dynamic speaker, he has been contributed material to over 50 national publications and appeared on CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC as a nutrition, weight loss and health expert. Dr. Bowden is Self-Growth's Official Guide for Nutrition. For more info, free newsletter and free audio courses, please visit him at