Thursday, July 18, 2024

Natural Alternatives to Prozac

Natural alternatives to Prozac

Many types of antidepressants have emerged over the past decades in response to the prevalence of depression, a mental disorder that is not meant to be taken lightly. A type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) works by keeping the serotonin levels of the brain on a proper level, as depression is caused by a lack of it. The first ever SSRI was fluoxetine, later on marketed as Prozac after an approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1987. Up to this day, Prozac is one of the most prescribed antidepressants in America.


As effective as it may be, Prozac is not without side-effects including diarrhea, nausea, restlessness, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain to name a few. SSRIs also pose the risk of Serotonin Syndrome, or a potentially fatal condition that leads to high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and shock. This is often caused when there’s too much serotonin present in the brain. Also, Prozac has been linked to an increase in suicidal tendencies to the youth, forcing the FDA to release a public warning in 2004 regarding this.

Fortunately there are safer alternatives in treating depression that pose minimal side-effects. Before deciding on a certain alternative, seek the advice of a medical professional first regarding proper dosage and other information:

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.) Aromatherapy

The use of essential oils has been documented since the ancient times in improving a person’s well-being with its powerful scents. It is believed that the nose contains receptors that are directly linked to the brain, specifically to its areas that control moods. Aromatherapy alone may not directly treat depression, but it helps in keeping one relaxed and stress-free. There are a lot of essential oils available in the market, but here are some that works wonders when one wishes to minimize the blues:

Roman Chamomile

There are a handful of ways to perform aromatherapy:

Simply drop a few on your palms and inhale with slow breaths. The essential oils can also be applied on a cotton ball and placed on a zip lock bag for portability.
Mix carrier oils with the chosen essential oils to be used in a body massage.
Apply essential oils in a warm bath.
Utilize aroma diffusers, potpourri cookers, or just a room spray in spreading the scent.

2.) Exercise

Depression makes it difficult to become motivated in performing certain physical actions, especially exercise. But once a depressed person gets motivated, exercise can actually have a positive impact not only physically but also mentally. Hitting the gym, running, swimming, and other physical exercises trigger the release of endorphins, or chemicals that reduce pain and flood the brain with euphoric sensations known as “runner’s high”. The endorphins act similarly to morphine, minus the risk of addiction. Other than endorphin release, exercise provides mental benefits like clearing brain fog, enhancing sleep quality, and improving a person’s energy and self-esteem. An arduous session of exercise is not required, even a simple 15-minute jog will do for starters as the time spent on exercise will eventually increase since the body will have more energy in the long run.

3.) Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba

The Ginkgophyta plant order originated at around 250 million years ago, but only the Ginkgo biloba tree stands today, with the other trees now extinct. Ginkgo’s use in China and other Asian countries date back to almost 1,500 years. Its seeds are commonly included in traditional Chinese dishes, and extracts from its leaves are used for medicinal purposes. Ginkgo is believed to enhance blood circulation and the transportation of oxygen to the brain cells, which is attributed to its treatment of disorders in the brain that stem from reduced blood flow. Studies done with the herb show that it can impede the progress of symptoms caused by dementia like memory loss, and reduce damage wrought by stress to the brain that is also believed to eventually lead to depression. Phytochemicals found in ginkgo prevent the breakdown of dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters in the brain caused by monoamine oxidase, and this breakdown is also a cause for depression. Ginkgo can be taken in capsule and tablet forms, and there are also tea bags available in the market. It is also possible to make a ginkgo tincture by placing fresh or dried ginkgo leaves in a jar filled with vodka, shaken daily and stored in the dark for a month. Afterwards strain the mix and store the liquid in glass bottles.

4.) Magnesium

The human body contains a large amount of magnesium, a mineral that plays an important role in ensuring the body’s proper function. Magnesium has ions that control the flow of calcium ions and manage the production of neuronal nitric oxide. If the body experiences magnesium deficiency, neuronal production will be decreased, and the risks of depression may increase if the neuronal requirements are not met. A steady supply of magnesium prevents deficits in the neurons and other mental health problems associated with its deficiency such as agitation, irritability, headaches, and insomnia. Magnesium sources are found on foods that are rich in fiber like almonds, chocolates, green leafy vegetables, legumes, meat, and whole grains. Epsom salts added to a warm bath also provide adequate amounts of magnesium absorbed by the skin, and it also ensures a good night’s rest when performed prior to sleeping.

5.) Saffron


The red stigmas of the purple crocus flower are collected and dried, and since a flower only has three stigmas the process of making saffron is indeed laborious .Considered as one of the most expensive spices in the world, saffron is used in French, Italian, Spanish, and Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian dishes. The precious Golden Ham of San Gimignano, Italy utilizes saffron in its preparation, and certain candies, liquors, and perfumes also make use of the spice. Ancient civilizations in the Fertile Crescent prescribe saffron while reciting magical incantations to alleviate dyspnea, menstruation, and urinary problems. More recently, Iranian researchers discovered saffron’s powerful anti-depressant capabilities thanks to its neuroprotective, neuroendocrine, and serotonergic properties. Other studies revealed evidence of saffron’s ability to reverse the effects of sexual dysfunction caused by the use of antidepressants.

6.) St. John’s Wort

A clinical trial funded by the medical insurance system of Germany compared the efficacy of St. John’s Wort as an antidepressant against Prozac. Although the findings showed that their antidepressant effects are on equal ground, St. John’s Wort was superior to Prozac due to its rare chance of triggering a mild gastrointestinal upset side-effect, compared to the drug’s number of unwanted symptoms associated with its use. Also known as hypericum, St. John’s Wort has been used for treating other disorders aside from depression since the time of the ancient Greeks, making it a powerful medicinal herb. It is available in capsule, liquid, and tea bag forms.

7.) Turmeric


Turmeric is a plant whose rhizomes are dried and ground into a bright yellow powder whose culinary, cosmetic, and medicinal uses date back to 5,000 years in Eastern countries. In modern times, its benefits grow in number as researchers unveil more evidence regarding turmeric’s powerful effects in health. The spice’s incredible powers stem from curcumin, the natural compound responsible for the golden hues of the powder. Studies show that curcumin fights off depression and its effects by increasing the production of dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters that evoke feelings of happiness and positivity. Another study conducted in April 2014 and published in Phytotherapy Research compared depressed patients who took curcumin oil and Prozac to patients who only took the spice. After a period of six weeks the study revealed curcumin’s promising effects sans the psychotic side-effects wrought by drugs. Many Asian dishes make use of turmeric and are good sources of curcumin, along with natural supplements in oil and pill forms.

8.) Tryptophan-rich Sources

Tryptophan is one of the important amino acids present in the human body and is the precursor of crucial compounds, with serotonin being one of them. Being an essential amino acid, tryptophan cannot be produced organically hence the body relies on external sources to maintain adequate levels and prevent serotonin deficiency. The said deficiency often leads to anxiety, depression and, in worse cases, suicidal tendencies. Fortunately, tryptophan can be found in foods rich in protein (albeit in varying amounts). Some notable sources are cheese, fish, poultry, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, soybeans, red meat, and dark chocolate. Contrary to popular belief, turkey’s tryptophan content does not induce drowsiness. Over the counter dietary supplements are also available.

9.) Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important nutrient used by the body to maintain healthy bones, bolster the immune system, and ensure mental well-being. Multiple studies published in the British Journal of Psychiatry show the link of vitamin D deficiency and depression. Vitamin D receptors are found in several parts of the brain, and the lack of it has been associated with exacerbating many mental conditions. Even healthy individuals are prone to the symptoms of depression when subjected to a deficiency in the vitamin. Exposure to early morning sunlight is the easiest way to acquire vitamin D, and natural food sources of vitamin D include beef liver, dairy products, fish and fish oils, and soy milk. Over the counter supplements are readily available in almost all drug stores. People who spend too much time indoors and rarely bask in the sun are at risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Bridget Rogers
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.


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