As a professional therapist in an ER, I’m frequently asked about treating mental health concerns, like anxiety and depression, both with and without medications. Many patients and family members are interested in treatment without psychotropic medications, whether they tried an antidepressant and had negative side effects, or they know a family member who did, or they just want an alternative. These are several supplements that seem to have a solid evidence base and appear to have multiple positive functions within the body. I hope they can be a helpful place for you to start!
This post contains affiliate links. This basically means that if you purchase the product I’m discussing through the link on this site, I get a small commission of the sale at no extra cost to you. I am an affiliate for Amazon, which offers countless brands of supplements available. The ones I chose to share with you are due to their quality and affordability. I am not sponsored by or working for any specific companies or brands mentioned in this article.
Remember, supplements literally do what their name suggests: supplement. They are not a replacement for therapy, social supports, or positive lifestyle changes. Treating mental illness must be done in a holistic manner. You have to pursue physical, mental, and emotional well being to truly combat a mental illness. See this disclaimer as well:
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and I am not a medical doctor. I am a mental health practitioner, but I cannot write prescriptions or recommend medications in my scope of practice. These are supplements that I believe have evidence-based effectiveness through my own research. I always recommend checking with your doctor before starting any new supplements, particularly if you’re on other medications that could have an interaction. That being said, most supplements do not have scary side effects are often safer than medications. I work with a naturopathic doctor who understands holistic health and recommends supplements specifically for me, and that has helped tremendously.
B vitamins are an important part of the health of the sympathetic nervous system. If you’re frequently anxious, you may feel like you’re in constant “fight or flight” mode, which leads back to an overexertion of the sympathetic nervous system. B vitamins can help calm it. Supplements that cover the “full spectrum,” as in Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12 seem to be really effective, but some people just focus on B-12 too.
These are the healthy fats found in avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil. You know, the fat you’re supposed to eat. In capsule form, you’re looking for fish oil with EPA and DHA as the main ingredients. Nordic Naturals and OmegaBrite are two brands I’ve consistently heard good things about. I also like Carlson and Jarrow, as they are reputable brands that have a much better price tag.
Magnesium is important for countless functions in the body, from countering potassium in the heart to helping cells make energy. When we have a deficiency, we tend to feel stressed, anxious, depressed, insecure, and irritable. Magnesium supplements can help ease these concerns. This article from Psychology Today on the benefits of Magnesium includes some fascinating case studies. Whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, and beans are ways to eat your Magnesium, and supplements are usually recommended in 400-800mg daily doses. I saw multiple articles that recommended avoiding it in the form of magnesium oxide and citrate, which can both cause diarrhea. Magnesium can also be absorbed through the skin, so try an Epsom salt bath with salts that have magnesium as a primary ingredient.
GABA is a naturally occurring amino acid in the brain. Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin, act on GABA, reducing anxiety and producing a sedative like effect. These drugs are highly effective, but highly addictive. Supplementing GABA itself can be a much safer alternative.
If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, take Vitamin D during the winter to help boost your mood. It could be that lack of sunshine!
Most people are aware that Vitamin C boosts your immune system. Does it directly help depression? No idea, but if my body is feeling better, my mind usually is too!
Avoid the sleeping pills and use melatonin to help you sleep naturally. Melatonin helps regulate our bodies when we’re constantly surrounded by phones, laptops, TVs, and lights that confuse our bodies into thinking we need to be wide awake at night.
There are more than 200 studies out there on the many benefits of Ashwagandha. It can help treat thyroid hormonal imbalances, which can in turn lift your mood. It also has calming properties, which is why you’ll often see it supplements for sleep and relaxation. Ashwagandha can also help improve adrenal function, which can lead to better mood and more energy. Overall, it’s a great supplement to have in your arsenal no matter what’s going on! 500mg 1-2x daily is generally recommended.
St. John’s Wart:
I listed this one because it’s a supplement for depression that people frequently ask about. I have not taken it myself, but what I usually hear is that its effectiveness is likely due to a placebo effect more than anything else. Generally, it’s no longer highly recommended. If it works for you, great, but perhaps start with some of the others on this list first. It can also make you more prone to sunburns!
More Supplements to Try:
NOW Food True Calm amino relaxer-I’ve heard really good things about this one. It includes B Vitamins, Magnesium, and GABA.
Mountain Peak Nutritionals Adrenal B Complex– I personally have been taking this supplement for several months, under the care of my naturopathic doctor. It’s packed with the entire Vitamin B complex, Ashwagandha, ginseng, and folinic acid, among others.
Integrative Therapeutics Cortisol Manager– This supplement helps balance out of whack cortisol levels, which can often occur in people who have been dealing with chronic or severe stress. I’ve been taking this one for several months now to help regulate my own cortisol levels.
HUM supplements – HUM offers a variety of specialized supplements and vitamins designed specifically for women. HUM works on a subscription basis, so you get the supplements you need sent to you every month. I’m currently testing Base Control (multivitamin), Skinny Bird (weight loss supplements), and Daily Cleanse (green algae detox blend). I’ll update you with a review on their effectiveness in a month or two! Find them at humnutrition.com.
Resources for Supplements:
If you want to do a little more digging, here are a few of the articles I researched for this post:
I found some excellent information in this article at HannahHepworth.com regarding supplements for anxiety.
We’ve all heard of probiotics, but this article explains what prebiotics are, as well as their connection to anxiety.
This was another really helpful article on supplements for depression, from Everyday Health.
ConsumerLab shows you which supplements have been tested by third parties, so you know you can find a quality supplement.
- Several of these supplements overlap, so don’t consider this a shopping list! This is just a collection of supplements I’ve done research on. Consider them a group from which to choose those that seem most beneficial to you.
- See your doctor or a knowledgeable healthcare provider before taking supplements, especially if you take other medications, have chronic medical conditions, or are pregnant or nursing.
- For the best results, add in supplements to a healthy diet, regular exercise, and emotional self care.
I hope these give you a great place to start! Do you use other supplements that are effective for treating anxiety or depression? Let us know in the comments! As always, if you enjoyed this post, sharing is caring! For more Ivory & Pine, subscribe to The Ivories below.