Have you been feeling blue lately? Almost everyone faces mild bouts of depression from time to time as a result of emotional or psychological turbulence. However, prolonged periods of it could indicate clinical depression. In an attempt to boost our mood and feel better, we often find a pill to pop. Little do we realize that these pills come with a host of side effects such as weight gain, low sex drive, fertility issues and incredibly difficult withdrawal symptoms.

There are many natural alternatives that can help you deal with depression. While these aren’t a replacement for medical treatment, they surely work to alleviate the symptoms and make you feel better. Here are four such natural options.

1. St John’s Wort
This herb has been used for centuries to treat mild to moderate depression and is regarded as one of the most popular natural antidepressants. Current research suggests that St John’s wort can effectively treat depression as well as any modern antidepressant drug therapy, but with fewer side effects. It is believed that this herb exhibits its antidepressant properties by inhibiting the re-uptake of serotonin by the nerve cells, thereby making more of the neurotransmitter available to the brain.

It should be noted that the herb interacts with numerous drugs (medical antidepressants, HIV drugs, oral contraceptives) and can hamper its effectiveness or cause adverse drug reactions. So it is often recommended to take this herb under the guidance and approval of a doctor. You can take St John’s wort in capsule form, as a tea, or a liquid extract as guided by your physician.

2. Saffron
This spice is rich in vitamin B and carotenoids. Clinical studies have equated the antidepressant effects of this herb with Prozac and Imipramine. It also has fewer side effects as compared to its medical counterparts. The mood-enhancing chemicals are not limited just to the petals, which is the expensive part of the herb, but also the stigma part of the flower. You can take a 15 mg capsule of saffron twice a day to alleviate depression symptoms. Alternatively, you can sprinkle four to five petals in your curries or desserts. (Related Article: Did You Know? 1 Pound Of Dry Saffron Uses Up 75,000 Flowers & 20 Labor Hours)

3. Fish Oil
Omega-3 fatty acids which are copiously present in fatty cold water fish and fish oil supplements have been shown to alleviate depression symptoms and enhance the mood. Omega-3 fatty acids influence the function of serotonin in the brain and also improve the function of hippocampus region. Research has shown that supplemental omega-3 fatty acids can regulate the mood and reduce the likelihood of recurrent depression episodes. So grab some fish (sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna) for your lunch or dinner tonight. If you are not a fish eater, add 1tsp of ground flaxseeds, which is another good source of omega-3, to your cereal, yogurt or salad every day.

4. Essential Oils
It’s no secret that a pleasant and refreshing fragrance can lift the mood. Aromatherapy oils like frankincense, lemon, lavender, sandalwood, basil, sage and chamomile are effective in enhancing moods by calming the nerves and stimulating the production of endorphins in the body. You can use these oils in a number of ways to treat your anxiety and depression.

  • Diffuse: Add seven to eight drops to your diffuser and allow it to diffuse throughout the day.
  • Inhalation: Add one to two drops to hot water and inhale the steam.
  • Massage: Add 10 to 12 drops of your favorite essential oil to a carrier oil (jojoba, grapeseed) for a massage.
  • Relaxing Bath: Add a few drops (five to six) to your bath water and soak in to let your depression fade away.

Recognizing the first signs of depression can be the first step towards treating it. Little changes in your lifestyle, diet and habits can all contribute to managing your depression and preventing it from getting any worse. The next time you feel depressed, try these natural remedies instead of heading for the medicine cabinet.

Read More: 

9 Benefits Of Medicinal Herbs
4 Little-Known Facts About Depression (& How You Can Manage It)
6 Yoga Poses To Drive Away Depression
Why Essential Oils Can Help With Anxiety