It’s that time of year when the sun sets early and freezing temps send us seeking shelter indoors.
For many people, this time of year represents the beginning of unexplained moodiness, sadness, insomnia and more.
If that sounds like you, it may be a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal depression, also called seasonal affective disorder, is a certain type of depression related to changes in season. Usually, this disorder begins and ends about the same times each year.
People with SAD (ironically abbreviated) usually sleep a lot as the disorder deprives the body of much needed energy.
Though it can happen any time of year, it is far more common in the winter due to decreased daylight and more time spent indoors.
Like other forms of depression, seasonal affective disorder may make you feel incessantly moody, lethargic, unmotivated and just overall gloomy.
But there is good news in all this.
This condition can be treated effectively using simple natural remedies, including certain herbs for seasonal depression.
Top 3 Herbs for Seasonal Affective Disorder
St. John’s Wort
This natural herb is so effective that it’s quite the legend in the realm of herbalism. It’s known to help manage nearly every type of depression, although it’s not usually indicated for all 13 types of depression.
The exact mechanism of St. John’s Wort’s antidepressant activity is still not known, despite the fact that it is among the most studied herbal medicines used in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
Nonetheless, St. John’s Wort is effective in alleviating the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder because it has been conclusively found to act on serotonin receptors.
It also exhibits certain monoamine oxidase inhibition.
These mechanisms give it the ability to alter levels of neurotransmitters in the brain and keep signaling mechanisms in the brain under check.
In general, the herb is extremely safe with little side effects. It is even among the most used herbs in the pharmaceutical industry to manufacture medications for various nervous system disorders.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Studies have shown that Ashwagandha root can be used to manage mental health problems such as fatigue, nervousness, tension, anxiety, mood swings, and in this case, seasonal depression.
The mechanism by which ashwagandha alleviates symptoms of depression are somewhat complex, but studies have shown that it significantly lowers levels of cortisol in blood.
Cortisol is a hormone commonly branded as the “stress hormone.”
As a result, ashwagandha root works to effectively alleviate symptoms of stress while at the same time maintaining safety.
Among the best herbs for seasonal affective disorder, ashwagandha improves the overall quality of life of those who use it.
Another deeply studied herb, chamomile has been used for centuries to relieve increased levels of anxiety and depression.
Its effectiveness is enhanced by the fact that it has no predominant side effects and its long term use is considered very safe.
Most studies have been done to determine the effects of chamomile when used to manage anxiety and depression.
Those studies overwhelmingly indicate that chamomile not only soothes the nervous system but calms it as well.
It also has some relaxing effects on smooth muscles and blood vessels, which help ensure that treatment of depression with chamomile has a good prognosis.
Additional Natural Remedies for Seasonal Depression
There are also other natural remedies that may not be as common but can potentially aid in the treatment of seasonal depression. They include:
Some studies in adults have shown that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can be beneficial in the management of mild or moderate depression, though more research and clinical trials are needed to validate this concept further.
What we do know is fish oil plays a critical role in maintaining stable brain functions.
Usually, depression is caused by low levels of chemicals in the brain like ecosapentanoic acids, which are naturally abundant in fish oil.
Supplementing with fish oil can enrich your system with these chemicals, which essentially reduces your risk of developing seasonal depression in the first place.
Fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:
Light therapy is often indicated for the management of seasonal affective disorder because it’s been proven that lack of exposure to light can trigger it.
That’s why seasonal depression is rampant in winter months.
Light therapy for depression is very simple and involves sitting next to a device (usually in the morning) that emits bright light.
In this study conducted in 2015, researchers sought to study the effect of light therapy at the onset of winter depression.
The study found out that light therapy involving either bright white light or infrared light significantly reduced the incidences of seasonal affective disorder.
Along with limited light, winter temperatures also send people indoors for the majority of the day. This means they get less vitamin D from the sun.
Several studies link vitamin D deficiency to depression, so some researchers suggest taking steps to protect against vitamin D deficiency may also help protect against seasonal affective disorder.
This research review by Cambridge University posits that decreased levels of vitamin D increases the susceptibility to developing seasonal depression.
However, there have been no clinical trials to validate this claim, so we simply have to go off of the clinical trials that have been done on general depression and apply it to the seasonal sort.
The typical treatment for depression is prescription antidepressants, which come with a laundry list of side effects.
Since seasonal depression is almost always temporary, it’s beneficial to seek natural remedies that don’t open you up to potential side effects.
Besides the treatment modalities discussed above, there are other natural treatment strategies that can work well for seasonal depression.
It just seems that herbs for seasonal affective disorder provide the easiest way to treat SAD naturally.
Check out our herbal mood-boosting tincture called "Happy." It provides a potent mixture of these herbs and more to naturally boost mood and reduce stress.
Always consult your doctor before treating depression at home.