Herbs, Vitamins, and Supplements Used to Enhance Mood
Mood problems, including depression and bipolar disorder, are no laughing
matter. More than 20 million American adults have a mood disorder and 40
million an anxiety disorder. And these numbers don’t include the average
worrywart or person who suffers an occasional bout of the blues.
For depression alone, the annual cost for treatment and lost wages may be as
high as $52 billion.
Wouldn’t it be nice if every pound of chocolate you ate would make you lose
a pound of flab? Well, perhaps chocolate won’t do the trick, but new
research is showing that there are certain foods that can help make you thin
and actually can help you drop pounds.
“A pound of carrots will fill you up, with only a smattering of calories —
or you can have a pound of cheeseburger, and you’ll gain weight faster than you
can jump on a scale,” says Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD, author of 10 Habits That
With these statistics, it’s no wonder that many people are searching for
mood supplements or other mood-enhancing alternatives to drugs.
The Need for Mood Enhancers
“For so many people, antidepressant medication either stops working or has
too many side effects,” says Henry Emmons, MD, a psychiatrist with the Center
for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. Emmons, author of
The Chemistry of Joy: A Three-Step Program for Overcoming Depression through
Western Science and Eastern Wisdom, prescribes medications for his
patients, but he also highly recommends exercise and good nutrition as physical
treatments for depression, combined with a few targeted mood supplements.
Which leads to the question: what vitamins, herbs, supplements, and
lifestyle changes are the best mood enhancers?
The experts we talked to didn’t reach complete consensus; more research is
clearly needed for the plentiful options available. But here is a brief
overview of some of the more common complementary approaches used to treat mood
Of course, if you suffer from severe mood problems see a doctor — before
you reach for mood enhancers or supplements
Mood Supplements with Potential
One of the most touted herbs used for enhancing mood is St. John’s wort, a
yellow-flowered plant containing many chemical compounds.
“Even though the evidence is mixed, it’s better for St. John’s wort than for
other herbs,” says Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, associate professor, Complementary
and Alternative Medicine Master’s Program, Department of Physiology and
Biophysics at Georgetown University School of Medicine. Fugh-Berman says that
trials in the U.S. have been oddly less positive than in Germany, where it is
SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine), derived from an amino acid and also
available from protein food sources, is another widely studied mood-enhancing
substance that’s commonly used in Europe, Fugh-Berman tells WebMD.
Though the data is less solid, other potential mood enhancers include:
Valerian: an herbal remedy created from dried roots, often taken as
a sleep aid and sometimes used for anxiety.
Lavender:aromatherapy, essential oils, and teas use lavender to
enhance relaxation and possibly help relieve anxiety and
Omega-3 fatty acids: found in cold-water fish and certain vegetable
oils, and available as a supplement, omega-3 fatty acids are sometimes used to
help depression. Emmons recommends a dose of 2,000 to 4,000 milligrams or more
when taken for mood problems.
B vitamins: essential for cell metabolism and central nervous system
maintenance. Emmons recommends a good B-complex or multivitamin to ensure
plenty of B vitamins, which can help stabilize nerve cell membranes.
- Vitamin D: although not enough evidence exists to make any claims about the
effectiveness of vitamin D as a mood enhancer, at least one study reported
benefits from vitamin D in treating seasonal affective disorder, a form of
depression that occurs during the winter months.