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Natural Alternatives To Antidepressants

Natural Alternatives To Antidepressants

With an estimated 77 million people in America taking prescription antidepressants to cope with conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, phobias, and PTSD, it's no wonder that many are seeking gentler, more natural remedies to alleviate their symptoms. Our society has become increasingly interested in holistic health and wellness, and with this shift in mindset, people are exploring various ways to address mental health challenges without relying solely on pharmaceuticals.

Antidepressants, also known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), are powerful medications that can offer relief to many. However, they often come with a range of side effects, and their effectiveness varies from person to person. For some, the negatives may outweigh the benefits, leading them to search for alternative solutions. This growing trend has given rise to a plethora of natural treatments and therapies aimed at addressing the root causes of mental health issues, rather than just masking the symptoms.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the world of antidepressants, exploring their history, how they work, and the reasons why people use them. We'll also discuss the potential side effects and the importance of a gradual approach to starting or stopping these medications.

But most importantly, we'll introduce you to a variety of promising alternatives, including talking therapy, holistic treatments, CBD, and nootropics.

What are antidepressants?

Antidepressants are also known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). The most commonly prescribed SSRIs are Fluoxetine, Citalopram, Paroxetine, Sertraline and Vilazodone. They were first made in the 1950s by accident when developing a drug for another purpose. 

As the name suggests, SSRIs work by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, therefore elevating serotonin activity. By ‘reuptake’, we refer to a mechanism that takes place within the synapse (the gap between two neurons where messages are transmitted). Sometimes, when serotonin is synthesised within the synapse, a ‘reuptake’ occurs, disallowing it from being passed on. Therefore a deficiency occurs. SSRIs stop this error from occurring, and allow serotonin to flow naturally and in quantities that restore balance. 

Antidepressants rely on the serotonin hypothesis of depression (the idea that depression is caused by a lack of serotonin). But many other models of depression exist and some say that antidepressants work just as well as talking therapies and other depression treatments. 

Antidepressants are prescribed in various doses, and often people will begin taking them on a lower dose and then build up to a higher dose over time. They can be taken acutely or for many years. Everyone reacts differently to antidepressants. 

Why do people use antidepressants?

Antidepressants serve as a critical therapeutic tool in addressing a vast array of psychological conditions, ranging from moderate to severe depression and anxiety disorders to bipolar disorder, eating disorders, paranoia, and addiction-related issues, among others.

Statistically, women have a higher likelihood of being prescribed antidepressants compared to men, and there is a notable trend of increased antidepressant usage correlating with age. A myriad of life events and circumstances can contribute to the need for SSRIs, such as experiencing the loss of a loved one, enduring high levels of stress, navigating relationship turmoil, facing career challenges, grappling with unresolved mental health concerns, or recovering from various forms of abuse.

Opting to use antidepressants is a deeply personal choice, often made after exhausting alternative treatment options. In contemporary medical practice, physicians are urged to prioritize social therapies and counselling as initial interventions before resorting to pharmacological solutions, primarily due to the potential side effects associated with these medications. By first exploring non-pharmaceutical approaches, healthcare professionals can help patients make informed decisions about their mental health treatment and develop a tailored plan that best suits their individual needs and circumstances.

Antidepressant side-effects

All antidepressants come with a long list of side effects, some of which can seem very severe. The side effects are usually most severe when you first start taking the medication because it is new to the body, and adjustment is needed to tolerate it better. So, in the first few days of taking SSRIs, you can expect dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, sickness, stomach complaints, hyperactivity, headaches and problems focusing. Although, some people will only have one or two of these symptoms, or may not notice any at all. Other people have symptoms so severe that they stop taking the medication or need other medicines to try and offset the side effects (for example, you might take a beta blocker and sleep aid until the initial symptoms subside).

It is a good idea to start on a low dose of antidepressants and let your body adjust bit by bit. It might take a few weeks for the ‘fog’ to lift and for you to feel yourself again, and hopefully you will also then notice some positive changes to your outlook. If you decide to withdraw from SSRIs, you should stop slowly and gradually. 

However, some people do not notice any positive changes, and might discontinue their medication for this reason. They may try a few different SSRIs, or wish to hunt for something more natural and gentle, but promising in its effects. As a word of caution here, every SSRI carries the risk that you will feel worse than you did before taking the treatment, because nobody can truly predict how the drug will interact with your body chemistry. 

Natural Alternatives to Antidepressants

In a quest to feel better, people are turning to alternatives to antidepressants. Here are some we think are worth investigating. 

Talking Therapy / Holistic Therapy

Hypnotherapy, acupuncture, CBT, psychodynamic therapy and Shiatsu are just some of the natural, non-drug therapies used to treat depression. These therapies can help deal with the life stressors that lead to the low mood. For example, if you have been through a difficult divorce and have been in a low mood ever since, talking therapy can help you confront the situation that led to the low mood. Whereas antidepressants treat the symptom. 


CBD is a natural compound extracted from the cannabis plant. It is safe and legal to use and does not create any sort of high. It is also safe for people with addiction issues to use, because it is non-addictive. CBD has shown promising results in the treatment of depression after being used for as little as 4 weeks. Unlike SSRIs, you won’t notice any side effects, and CBD works in harmony with your body. 


Nootropics are natural compounds that are taken as oral supplements, teas or powders. Examples of nootropics are caffeine, mushrooms, zinc, calcium and many other compounds that might form part of your diet already. In particular, L-Theanine is thought to be good for the treatment of low mood and anxiety when taken for 8 weeks. 

You can also try a mushroom supplement like Chaga, Lion’s Mane, Reishi or Turkey Tail. For example, Reishi mushroom has been shown in animal studies to have antidepressant-like activity in the brain, but without the harsh side effects. 


Exercise is a powerful catalyst for promoting mental well-being, as it stimulates the release of endorphins—natural chemicals in the brain that enhance mood and alleviate stress. Engaging in regular physical activity not only bolsters self-esteem and cognitive function, but also reduces anxiety and depression symptoms.


Meditation is a valuable tool for fostering mental health, as it promotes mindfulness, self-awareness, and emotional regulation. By cultivating a state of relaxation and focus, meditation helps to alleviate stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Regular practice can enhance cognitive function, improve attention span, and bolster resilience to daily stressors.


A healthy diet plays a crucial role in promoting mental well-being. Consuming a balanced mix of nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, can help regulate brain function, mood, and energy levels. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fish, nuts, and seeds, support cognitive function and emotional stability.


We Can Help

We stock a range of CBD and nootropic products that can help fight depression. We recommend you always speak to a doctor before stopping or starting any medication for depression. 

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