MENU
ConsumerLab.com Answers

Supplements for Depression and Anxiety

Question:
Which supplements help with depression and anxiety?

Answer:
A wide variety of supplements have shown some benefit in reducing anxiety and/or depression, as summarized below (with links to more details -- including dosage -- within our reports).  

Fish oil has been found to be helpful for both depression and anxiety. Supplementing with fish oil with a high percentage of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA has been shown to improve symptoms in moderate and major depression (although not in mild depression) and may help to improve the effectiveness of various antidepressant medications. Similarly, fish oil high in EPA has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety.

Certain strains of probiotics have been found to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in short term studies, and one prebiotic product has been shown to lower levels of the "stress" hormone cortisol, as well as improve responses in a test associated with anxiety and depression.

A small clinical study in people already taking prescription medication for major depression found daily supplementation with curcumin significantly reduced depressive symptoms after four weeks and the effect was greater in those with atypical depression. The study found that anxiety was also reduced in those taking curcumin, although this reduction did not reach statistical significance.  

saffron extract was found to decrease self-reported symptoms of depression and anxiety (including separation anxiety, social phobia, panic, obsession and compulsions) compared to placebo in a two-month study of 80 adolescent boys and girls with mild-to-moderate anxiety and/or depression. Those who took the extract reported an average decrease in symptoms of 33%, compared to a 17% reduction in those who took a placebo. The dose of the extract (affron® -- standardized to 3.5% lepticrosalides) was 14 mg taken twice daily. Parents of those taking the saffron extract reported a 40% reduction in symptoms, compared to a 26% reduction perceived by parents of those taking placebo. (See the Encyclopedia article about saffron). The study was funded by the manufacturer of the extract, Pharmactive Biotech Products (Lopresti, J Affect Disord 2018).

One study found 5-HTP to be as effective as fluvoxamine (Luvox) for depression, with fewer side-effects; it was also found to be effective in people suffering from anxiety disorders, although not as effective as the prescription medication clomipramine.  

There is evidence for a number of other supplements that may be helpful specifically for depression, including St. John's wort, SAMe, DHEA, and Rhodiola rosea. In women, daily supplementation with folic acid has been shown to increase the effectiveness of the antidepressant SSRI drug fluoxetine (Prozac) and increase the rate of recovery from depression compared to treatment with Prozac alone.

Some, but not all research suggests that L-theanine, an amino acid found in black and green tea (also sold in tablet and capsule form) may reduce stress and anxiety without causing drowsiness.

Having low blood levels of vitamin D is associated with a higher risk and severity of depression. One study found that supplementation with high-dose vitamin D significantly improved mood in women with type 2 diabetes who had serious depressive symptoms.

Having low blood levels of magnesium, and having a low intake of magnesium from foods are also each associated with an increased risk of depression. One small clinical study suggests magnesium supplementation may help reduce symptoms of depression.

In one clinical study, taking ashwagandha daily, in addition to a multivitamin, was shown to significantly reduce anxiety compared to treatment with a weekly psychotherapy session and a placebo. It has also been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety mixed with depression and panic disorder. NAC has been shown to significantly reduce the anxiety-related compulsion to pull hair, known as trichotillomania. The herbs passionflower and lemon balm may also be helpful for anxiety. Although melatonin and valerian are sometimes promoted for anxiety, there is not enough evidence to support their use for this purpose. There is weak evidence, however, that valerian may produce calming effects in stressful situations.

A number of studies suggest kava may reduce symptoms of anxiety; however, be aware there are potential safety issues and drug interactions. (See the Encyclopedia article about Kava for more information).

In addition to their potential as stand-alone agents, a review of clinical studies investigating the use of supplements along with antidepressant medications (including SSRI drugs such as fluoxetine and sertraline and tricyclic drugs such as amitriptyline) found that SAMe, EPA from fish oil, methylfolate and vitamin D may increase the benefits of these drugs (Sarris, Am J Psychiatry 2016). Deficiency in B-3 (niacin), B-6, and/or B-12 can cause depression and some studies show that giving B-6, B-12, or folate may help with depression, particularly among those deficient in these vitamins.

However, if you are taking a prescription medication to treat depression or anxiety, consult your physician before taking any of the supplements mentioned above as there could be a risk of drug interactions. For more about this, see the extensive Drug Interactions section of our website. Consult with a qualified health professional for any serious symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Learn more about supplements for depression, anxiety and stress:



Can probiotics reduce anxiety? >>

I take fluoxetine (Prozac), a SSRI drug to treat depression. Are there supplements I should avoid, or be taking, due to this drug? >>

I'm taking Lumiday, a supplement to improve mood. It seems to help me but is it safe? >>

Is Rhodiola rosea effective for depression and does it have other uses? Will ConsumerLab.com be testing these supplements? >>

Do any supplements help relieve stress? >>

Are there any supplements I should avoid when taking Valium or Xanax? >>



See other recent and popular questions >>
Comments
Add Comment

Susan 16879   June 3, 2018
A relative uses Venetron (150 mg) for depression when needed. It makes a huge difference in lowering what appears to be situational depression. Some capsules sold are 50 mg. However, the manufacturer said 150 mg was best. It doesn't cause sleepiness like other products.

He's also been using SAMe (400 mg) daily for years and takes it about 6 pm. When he awakes in the morning, he is ready to get going for the day. Because there are concerns about SAMe increasing Homeocysteine, he takes a 750 mg capsule of Trimethylglycine daily. Recently, he had his blood tested for the Homeocysteine and the result was within the normal range. In fact, it was on the lower side.

Lazar16734   April 18, 2018
My relative has suffered from a severe depression for four years. No prescription medication had any significant effect. During this time she also tried without much success most supplements including 5HTP that claimed to be helpful for such condition. The real relief came when she start taking Seratonin formula [from Allergy Research] and SAMe. The Seratonin formula includes both 5HTP and 5-MTHF. This brought an improvement in about 3 weeks, and helped her to get completely out of the medication [by gradually reducing the dosage] in about four months. At this, she was taking only one Seratonin capsule and one caplet of SAMe, which was about one third of recommended dosages on their labels (there was a concern of taking larger dosages of these supplements simultaneously with an antidepressant).

Barry11366   October 31, 2016
How about CBD from hemp for anxiety/depression?

ConsumerLab.com   January 1, 2017
Hi Barry - Please see the CL Answer about CBD here: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/_/cbd/

richard11362   October 30, 2016
Lactium, a bioactive milk peptides have since been shown to act on the brain's GABA-A receptors.

ConsumerLab.com   October 31, 2016
Hi Richard - This appears to be based on the following study in mice: http://lactiuminfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Study-08022016.pdf

Donna11299   September 25, 2016
I use Swanson magnolia bark. I first heard of it from the Dr. Oz. show. Have used it for several years and works pretty good. I used to take Zoloft but had too many side effects. No side effects with the magnolia bark.

don11364   October 30, 2016
What side effects do you have, I take itand my balance ism not very good and get dizzy if i turn around too fast?

Joanne11297   September 25, 2016
I'm a therapist and work with women. I suggest to all my clients struggling with depression to take a look at the research on Omega3 augmentation (or as a stand alone) and to have their thyroid and D3 levels checked out. I've seen huge changes in my clients disposition when the correct blend and amount of Omega3s are added and their Ds levels are well above the bottom of the range. Choices for D3s and Omega3s have been researched by me on Consumerlab as I want my clients to get the purest and best product for their individual need.

Juli11298   September 25, 2016
I agree, it's important to check both thyroid and D levels before resorting to prescription drugs that often have detrimental side effects. I've been on increased D, probiotics, sam-E, and then added a very low-dose thyroid pill to that mix. I can see an effect. I have more energy, sleep better at night, and am less irritable. And don't overlook the benefits of a good, old-fashioned walk. Exercise is as important for our mental health as our physical health. It's amazing how just going outside and moving can lift one's spirits.

Juli11361   October 30, 2016
I fully agree with all of that, am taking same and have seen a mild but definite improvement.

lynne8139   December 6, 2015
By using NAC nightly I find I sleep much better and have stopped taking Prozac, after many years of use!

don11303   September 27, 2016
What is NAC thanks Don

ConsumerLab.com   September 28, 2016
Hi Don - NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine) is a synthetically modified form of the amino acid cysteine. There is some evidence it may be helpful for compulsive behavior. You can learn more and see our tests of NAC products in the NAC Supplements Review: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/n-acetyl_cysteine/

David8106   November 29, 2015
Having used all of the above I can say that kava has a far more profound stress reducing effect than any of these.

ConsumerLab.com   December 3, 2015
Hi David - Thank you for sharing your experience using kava. We have now added information about this to the answer above.

This CL Answer initially posted on 5/2/2015. Last updated 4/17/2018.

Add Comment...

Share your thoughts and comments about this topic in the space below. Please abide by the following rules:
  • If you make a statement of fact, such as whether a type of treatment does or does not work, state your basis -- such as personal experience or a published study.
  • If you make a positive or negative comment about a product, note whether or not you have a financial interest in the product or in a competing product.
  • Please be respectful in your tone.
  • Please do not submit any type of HTML markup or scripting as it will not be accepted.
Comment:

Add Comment...

Share your thoughts and comments about this topic in the space below. Please abide by the following rules:
  • If you make a statement of fact, such as whether a type of treatment does or does not work, state your basis -- such as personal experience or a published study.
  • If you make a positive or negative comment about a product, note whether or not you have a financial interest in the product or in a competing product.
  • Please be respectful in your tone.
  • Please do not submit any type of HTML markup or scripting as it will not be accepted.
Comment:

Edit Comment...

You can modify your comment below. Please be aware the comment will have to approve the changes before they will be shown:
Comment: