Happy Pills You Haven't Heard Of
It's summer, the sun's out, and we should all be feeling awesome, dammit (at least that's what everyone keeps telling us). But what if all you feel like doing is hiding inside, huddled in your A/C, listening to “Cemetry Gates” on repeat? We respect that decision and encourage you to goth out for as long as your morose little heart desires. But what if you actually kinda want to feel better? Consider one of these natural supplements rumored to help boost emotional outlook (without lining the already-fat pockets of Big Pharma). Talk to your doc first to be clear on any potential drug interactions—then shelve your Smiths records (at least until September?) and get happy.
This Indian herb, aka tulsi, is known for its therapeutic effects on issues such as depression, stress, arthritis, and digestive problems. Apparently this special little herb helps squash depression by supporting and repairing the nervous system. According to the University of Michigan Health System, standard daily dosage is between 1,000 to 2,500mg of dried, powdered holy basil leaves. (You can get it in capsule form, obvs.) A caveat: It’s not recommended for individuals with severe mental-health issues, so check with your shrink before you start going to town.
5-hyrdroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid found, in small amounts, in foods such as bananas and turkey. The body uses it to make serotonin, which, yup, helps boost mood. Taking 5-HTP as a supplement is most commonly suggested for folks who have the unfortunate and un-fun double-whammy of depression and anxiety, but it can also help with insomnia. A typical dose is 100 mg twice a day (but some folks take up to 200 mg three times a day).
This lovely spice, derived from crocus plants, is used in cooking (which you probably already knew). It’s also used in traditional Persian medicine to treat depression and other issues. It can be a bit pricey, but it’s promising: In a series of small, controlled trials in Iran, saffron did shockingly well at treating mild to moderate depression—delivered in 30-milligram doses per day, according to CNN.com, saffron “outperformed placebo and has demonstrated an antidepressant effect comparable to Prozac and imipramine (an older tricyclic antidepressant),” at least in the short term.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter involved in stress relief and inhibition—it’s sort of like the brain’s own natural Valium. It’s also involved in the production of endorphins—those much-wanted brain chemicals that create feelings of awesomeness otherwise known as a "runner’s high." Low GABA levels have been linked to depression and anxiety. GABA supplements can help foster relaxation, as well as promote an overall sense of warm fuzzy (aka well-being). You’ll find GABA in health food stores; talk to your doctor about proper dosage.