Natural Alternatives to Effexor

Major depression is a serious mental condition that many people around the world suffer from. It negatively affects a person’s life with ruined moods and choices compromised by a depressed mental state. When left unchecked, there is always a chance that it may end in a rather life-threatening outcome. To counter this growing threat, many medications have been created in these past years that are designed to fight depression.


Effexor is a medication that works as an antidepressant by working on the unbalanced chemicals found in the brain of depressed people. The drug remedies anxiety, major depressive disorder, and panic disorder. Effective and prevalent as it may be, there are risks of side effects that can make matters worse for the depressed. Severe mood changes, suicidal thoughts, agitation, and hyperactivity are among the few reported side effects associated with Effexor use, and there are also dangerous interactions when this is taken in conjunction with other drugs like MAO inhibitors.

Fortunately there are natural alternatives that will help those with depression without the side effects that can exacerbate their already serious problem. As depression is a case that is not to be taken lightly, make sure to coordinate first with an expert to talk about which of these alternatives are the best for your situation:

Do not substitute this for actual advice from an expert as many cases require treatment that CAN NOT be remedied with natural options.  These natural options may only be helpful in addition to treatments, again consult with a medical professional before self treating or self diagnosing. 

1. Ginkgo Biloba

The ginkgo biloba is considered to be among the oldest trees in existence, with a long history of medicinal use that focuses primarily on conditions that affect the brain. Published studies in 2005 and 2007, at the Chinese Medical Journal and Phytotherapy Research respectively, show that the herb indeed has antidepressant capabilities. Ginkgo gets the job done by encouraging proper blood circulation and oxygen supply to the brain, alleviating many disorders that are caused by a lack of these two. As an added bonus, the improved oxygen and blood flow also enhances brain function and making it more resilient to degenerative neurological diseases. Ginkgo’s phytochemicals, ginkgo-flavone glycosides and terpene lactones, are the ones primarily responsible for the herb’s wonders on the brain. Kaempferol, one of the ginkgo-flavone glycosides, inhibits neurotransmitter breakdown due to the enzyme monoamine oxidase, causing different kinds of depression. Capsule and tablets are the usual forms of ginkgo biloba, and some health stores sell dried forms that are steeped for tea or made into tinctures.

2. L-Theanine


An amino acid that is abundant in Camellia sinensis, or the shrub that is used to make black and green tea. L-theanine is noted for being extremely relaxing without relying on sedation by boosting the brain’s dopamine (known as the pleasure chemical) and GABA levels while lowering the ones that cause anxiety. Also, it bolsters alpha brain wave creation, resulting to a much deeper state of relaxation that is similar to meditation. The amino acid easily slips past the blood-brain barrier, making it a better option than relying on GABA supplements for the same purpose. Since it does not sedate, the relaxing feelings are not followed by drowsiness, making L-theanine a good option for people on the go. Green and black tea bags are widely available in the market, or dried leaves of Camellia sinensis if you prefer steeping them yourself. L-theanine supplements are another way to provide your body with the amino acid.

3. Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids are renowned for their benefits for the cardiovascular system, and research has uncovered the same for depression and mood disorders thanks to two kinds of these acids: docosahexaenoic (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA). Brain tissue is also reliant on omega 3 for their proper growth, function, and development. A deficiency in DHA appears to result in a handful of diseases including depression, as stated in a published study in 1999 at the journal Pharmacological Research. Also, this deficiency pressures the brain cells to make use of other types of fatty acids available, those that are not built for their benefit, hence ending with cells that are built poorly and resulting in weaker cognitive function. A more recent study in 2007 was presented during the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Hungary, wherein lower DHA and EPA levels are found to result to negative moods especially for adults who are past 45 years of age. Another study in the same meeting showed MRI scans of patients who consumed omega 3 on a regular basis, and the images showed more dominant gray matter (thus better functioning) in areas of the brain that controlled emotions and moods. The best omega 3 fatty acid sources include flaxseed and flaxseed oil, salmon meat and oil, fried chia seeds, sardines, mussels, tuna, and trout.

4. Passion Flower

Passion Flower

Native in the southeastern parts of the United States, the passion flower is named as such due to its resemblance to the biblical crown of thorns. Its beautiful blue and white flowers are crushed for medicinal purposes. Similar to L-theanine, the passion flower relieves anxiety, depression, and mental stress by increasing the brain’s GABA levels, resulting to feelings of immense calm and relaxation. However it does its work with a sedative effect, so expect sleepiness after taking passion flower. The two active ingredients of the flower, ethyl maltol and maltol, are noted to be the ones responsible for the flower’s sedative antidepressant effects. Passion flower can be taken in capsule and extract forms, and the latter is believed to be the one with a much more powerful kick when ingested.

5. Saffron

Derived from the stigmas of the crocus flower, the arduous steps in harvesting saffron makes it a limited and very expensive spice with a great number of uses ranging from culinary, medicinal, to perfume and candle creation. High quality studies on saffron extract concerning depression have produced promising results, with its two active components crocin and safranal being the reason behind the spice’s antidepressant effects. Adding the spice to food is the same as taking extracts or supplements, making the choices of saffron intake a lot more flexible. Don’t worry, for extracts of saffron do not contain a hefty price tag.

6. Sceletium


Native to South Africa, sceletium (or kanna) has been around for hundreds of years as a mood booster, food source, painkiller, and even as currency. Its effects on the mood are because of three alkaloids present in the plant namely mesembrenone, mesembrine, and tortuosamine. These three work hand in hand in improving dopamine production and extending the effects of serotonin, a compound that is important in regulating mood. The effects of sceletium also work in sharpening mental acuity and boosting brain energy. Herbal supplements are sold in many health stores, and its efficacy without the risk of side effects make sceletium a very appealing natural antidepressant.

7. Turmeric

A spice with a very long history of culinary and medicinal use, turmeric’s benefits for the health are linked to its primary ingredient curcumin. Regular intake of the spice has shown an increase in dopamine and serotonin, hence resulting in greater feelings of happiness and optimism to patients who suffer from depression. Studies have pitted turmeric against several well-known antidepressants, with the spice being able to go toe to toe with these drugs without the fear of side effects associated with long term use. Other ways it helps in remedying depression are by countering the inflammatory and oxidative responses that occur when depression strikes, boosting neurotrophic factor levels that contribute to nerve cell growth and development, and by controlling the brain’s neurotransmitters. Its anti-inflammatory effects repair damage wrought by oxidative stress, restoring lost glucose and oxygen, and protecting against future oxidative damage instances. Turmeric is very common in many Asian dishes like curry, while capsule and powder forms are available for alternative ways of taking the spice.

8. 5-hydroxytryptophan

Also known as 5-HTP, it is the chemical produced by the body from tryptophan, an amino acid derived from food sources. From there, 5-HTP is then converted into serotonin, hence improving mood and relieving anxiety and depression. Many studies have shown 5-HTP to be a superior choice compared to over the counter antidepressants, with a very high rate of success when used by severely depressed patients. Its other effects include reduction of headache instances and severity, enhancing sleep, and minimizing appetite. Food sources that are rich in tryptophan include chicken, collard greens, milk, potatoes, pumpkins, seaweeds, sunflower seeds, turkey, and turnips.

9. Vitamins B6 and D

Two vitamins are found to have positive effects on depressed patients:

a. Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 helps in the creation of many important neurotransmitters that ensure the brain’s proper function and development, including serotonin.  Deficiency results in depression, irritability, and flawed mental accuracy. Rich food sources of the vitamin include many organ meats like beef liver, fish meat, potatoes, and starchy vegetables like corn, pumpkin, yams, and zucchinis.

b. Vitamin D: A nutrient that plays many important roles in the body, including the strengthening of the immune system, maintenance of strong bones, and in the preservation of mental acuity. As receptors of the vitamin are abundant in the brain, a lack of vitamin D is shown to make depression and other related conditions in the brain a lot worse. Being the “sunshine” vitamin, vitamin D is easily acquired through exposure to sunlight during the early morning hours where its rays are not harmful to the skin. For people who do not get much sun, canned tuna, milk, yogurt, calf liver, egg yolk, and sardine oil are food sources of vitamin D, and supplements are another way to get a regular supply.

10. While taking these alternatives, there are things you can do to help relieve your depression:

a. Exercise, get yourself moving, and don’t be stagnant. Running, swimming, cycling, hitting the gym, and many other physical activities facilitate the release of endorphins in the brain that produce feelings of happiness. Don’t forget the physical benefits that come along with regular exercise.

b. Keep a journal and pen a list of things that happened during the day that made you happy. Did you go out with your college friends? Did your son win the spelling bee? Boyfriend made a surprise visit? Write these down and relieve these happy memories when you read them. Also include the accomplishments that you achieved as well, no matter how small. Wrote a chapter on your novel? Beat your last week’s jogging distance? Shocked your girlfriend with a surprise visit? Do not underestimate the therapeutic power of writing in this situation.

c. Take some time alone to meditate or pray, whichever works for you. There are dozens of studies that attribute the impressive benefits of these two on the brain, diminishing negative thoughts and bringing about a relaxing sensation upon both body and mind. There are many online resources on how to get started with meditation, and it is not actually a hard thing to do once you get a hang of it.

d. The food you eat play a role in how you feel inside. Avoid processed food, overly sugary treats, and sodium-packed snacks. Try to stick to the organic choices, eat healthily, and your brain and body will thank you for it.

e. Do not take lightly the power of talking to your loved ones. Find time to sit with your spouse, closest of friends, or family and talk to them regarding how you feel, what you want, and how they can help you in your situation. It is better than having to lock yourself up in a room and avoiding human interaction for the rest of the day. It will only make matters worse.

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Bridget Rogers
Bridget Rogers is an independent freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. Bridget's work can be found on a variety of sources in both online and print media.