Herbal help for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder or winter depression)


St John's Wort

Last year we looked at the cause of SAD, how adjusting your diet helps and other self-help measures.  Please see http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/dont-be-sad-embrace-season.html

This year I want to tell you about some herbal remedies that may be of benefit if you need a little extra help.

St John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) is used to treat mild depression including SAD. Compared to conventional anti-depressants (SSRIs - selective serontin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac), it is just as effective but has far fewer side effects and fewer withdrawal symptoms.  It helps with sleep problems, anxiety and appetite changes, as well as the depression associated with SAD. How it works is not fully understood but it would seem to reduce the re-absorption of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.  Reduced levels of these neurotransmitters are linked with depression.  Be aware however that maximum benefit may only be gained after a few weeks of taking St John's Wort.  A further benefit is that St John's Wort has anti-viral properties. 

Do not take St John's Wort if you are pregnant.  If you are taking any medication or receiving treatment for a mental health condition CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR. It may also increase your sensitivity to the sun and reduce the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill.

Rhodiola (also known as 'Arctic root' because it is grown in the cold Arctic regions) - whereas I have not tried St John's Wort, I have used rhodiola for several winters.  Rhodiola is an adaptgen, helping the body cope with stress.  It reduces fatigue, anxiety and helps with depression.  It works by increasing serontin where this is low. It also may improve learning and memory and have neuroprotective effects.  I found it to be effective but I would advise that you take it in the morning as it is a mild stimulant.  Again however ask your doctor if you are on any medication before taking it.

Hope this helps
Janet x

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