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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

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Alternatives for Mood Disorders

There are lots of alternative treatments for clinical depression and anxiety disorders, but you may need tried-and-true treatments.

The Top Contenders continued...

Also, the FDA has issued a warning on St. John's wort, saying it dangerously interferes with a long list of prescription drugs. Too many people don't recognize that herbs affect the body physiologically just like prescription drugs do, Leuchter says.

Herbals can cause side effects, such as dizziness, headaches, stomach upset, or can dangerously affect how the body metabolizes other drugs, he says.


It's short for S-adenosylmethionine, a molecule that naturally occurs in the cells of plants and animals -- and it's not an herb. As we age, our bodies produce less SAM-e, so replacing it with a supplement can theoretically treat clinical depression.

"In my mind, SAM-e is really promising," says Glick. "In some studies, it has held up as well as an antidepressant in treatment of major clinical depression. It's a compound in the body, involved in a number of pathways, including the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. And it doesn't cause side effects for most people."

Glick's cautionary note: "Most people don't realize these products are medicines and that there are certain precautions. You don't want to take them with another antidepressant. You can get all kinds of side effects by getting too much serotonin. Also, SAM-e can be outrageously expensive, so that limits accessibility for most people."

Leuchter also likes SAM-e but stresses that the data are "suggestive, not conclusive."

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

It's not fishy, it's likely fact: Growing evidence shows that caviar, salmon, mackerel, and sardines can chase away clinical depression. These coldwater fish -- as well as walnuts and flaxseed -- have high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

"This is another natural substance that plays a part in the functioning of every cell of the body," Glick explains. "It reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease, and it seems to have a preventive effect on manic depression -- but also is beneficial for clinical depression."

In parts of the world where fatty fish are a dietary mainstay, there is less depression, he notes. One small study showed that people with manic depression who took omega-3-rich fish oil capsules every day had fewer episodes of manic-depression than those who took a placebo.

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