What Herbal Medicines Work for Depression?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), primary definition for depression is “a common but serious mood disorder” where people feel constant anxiety, tiredness, and sadness. It is often difficult for them to control these feelings without using some special types of medicines.

Depression becomes one of the serious health and mental problems today for majority number of people. According to the NIH research, there were approximately 7% of the U.S. population suffered from depression in 2015. In the worst case they reported that severe depression may cause people to suicide. Although people who suffer depression tend to use a placebo or an antidepressant for treatment, it does not work well or show effective results for some people. For those people, I would like to suggest an alternative remedy to cure depression which uses herbs and discuss how they are effective or safe or not to use as medicines. Today, herbal medicines are the key medicines that has been believed to work for various diseases.

3 Herbal Medicines for Depression

Hypericum Perforatum (St. John’s Wort)

St. John’s Wort. Retrieved from website

Hypericum perforatum, in other name, St. John’s wort is one of the most known herbs that has been used and believed to work for depression treatment. However, there are some controversies to use this herb as medication for depression. In some clinical studies conducted by psychiatrists reveal that this herb work effectively to mild mood disorder compared to a placebo or an antidepressant. On the other hand, NIH argued that St. John’s wort did not show any effective results in their 2002 study. In addition to this study, NIH also emphasizes possible side-effects caused by St. John’s wort for depression treatment. It warns that there is a possible risk of excess increase in serotonin due to using St. John’s wort with particular antidepressants. In terms of safety, Angela Dailey, a mental health therapist emphasizes in her blog that the herb will make birth control pills ineffective. Although St. John’s wort has been used widely today, it is still unclear about its mechanisms that can work for depression and controversial to use it as a remedy. It is still required for further research of its efficacy and safety.

Crocus Sativus L. (Saffron)

Saffron. Retrieved from website

Crocus Sativus L. or Saffron is a herbal medicine that has been used particularly in Middle-East countries. This herb is discussed in Tóth et al.’s research article which is about effectiveness of saffron against depression. In this article, they consider that saffron has the reliable antioxidant content that can work for depression. They compared the efficacy of saffron and anti-depression medicine or placebo by using PICO method (patients, intervention, comparison, outcome). From this study, they have found that saffron actually works better than placebo through experiments with patients who suffer depression. In addition to this research, Yeung et al.’s  journal of psychiatric research also proves that the depression rate decreased dramatically among the patients using Chinese herbal medicines (CHM), including saffron. In addition, the patients who took CHM also showed less side effects (e.g.  nausea, dry mouth, and dyspepsia) compared to those who took synthetic antidepressants. From the results of these studies, it is worth to continue researching about saffron as an alternative depression treatment.


Chamomile. Retrieved from website

Chamomile is one of the popular herbs that can be used for making a tea. In addition to its relaxation effect, it is also helpful to reduce depressive feelings. According to Medical News Today, there is a study about comparing effects caused by chamomile and a placebo against patients with depression. This study demonstrated that the patients who took chamomile as an antidepressant medicine signify better results than the results expressed by a placebo. Similar study was discussed in Dailey’s “12 Herbal Remedies for Depression and Anxiety” blog. She also emphasized that chamomile is useful to reduce depressive symptoms. There is a significant difference in efficacy between chamomile and a placebo, and both studies revealed that chamomile is beneficial for depression treatment than a placebo. Although it is still required for further research, chamomile has a definite potential to cure depression.


All of the herbs discussed in this blog have been considered as effective medicines that can be used as an alternative depression treatment. Although medicinal herbs are widely used today, most of them still require further research to figure out their mechanisms that can work for diseases. Therefore, I would strongly recommend to see and talk to physicians or specialists to understand correct and safe ways of using herbal medicines before use them. 

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