Supplements That May Have Mood-Related Effects
There are a number of supplements and dietary compounds that may have potentially-beneficial effects on mood.
However, keep in mind that the science behind these is still mostly preliminary, and none of these supplements have been officially approved for treating mood issues or any other psychological conditions.
In other words, there is still insufficient evidence for the efficacy of these supplements in treating mood disorders: therefore, none of these compounds should be used to replace any ongoing medical treatments that your doctor has recommended.
It’s also always a good idea to consult with your doctor before trying out any new supplements or other dietary changes , as there’s always the possibility that these compounds could have adverse interactions with other ongoing medications, pre-existing medical conditions, etc. Therefore, we don’t recommend “experimenting” with supplements on your own without at least discussing them with your doctor first!
With all that in mind, here’s what some of the latest science says about several supplements that might have potential mood-related effects. 1) Inositol
Individuals with depression have often been reported to have low levels of inositol in the brain (frontal and prefrontal cortex) [ 1 , 2 ].
Inositol has been concluded to be “likely effective” for depression, according to a meta-analysis of DB-RCTs [ 3 ].
Myo-inositol (0.6 or 2 grams) was reported to reduce depressive symptoms in a study (DB-RCT) of 71 women with premenstrual depression [ 4 ].
Some evidence suggests that myo-inositol may act by decreasing serotonin transporter activity, thus increasing available serotonin [ 5 ]. 2) St. John’s Wort
St John’s Wort (H ypericum perforatum ) is one of the most-studied herbs with supposed “antidepressant-like” effects, and is even widely prescribed for depression in Europe. The recommended dose is 900-1800 mg/day.
According to multiple meta-analyses (of DB-RCTs), St. John’s Wort was reported to have anti-depressive effects similar to SSRIs, with very few side effects [ 6 , 7 ].
St John’s Wort has also been reported to potentially prevent or delay depression relapses in 426 patients (DB-RCT) [ 8 ].
St. John’s wort is believed to act in part by increasing serotonin receptors and dopamine signaling [ 9 , 10 ]. It also may inhibit serotonin reuptake and glutamate release [ 11 , 12 ]. However, these mechanisms are still only based on relatively early studies, and more research will be needed to figure out the exact biological mechanisms underneath this herb’s effects in the body and brain. 3) Fish Oil / Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Low levels of omega-3s have been associated with depression [ 13 , 14 ].
According to a few early studies, omega-3s have been reported to be effective for those with clinical depression, as well as non-diagnosed individuals with depressive symptoms [ 15 , 16 ].
According to one meta-analysis, EPA may be the most beneficial specific type of omega-3 when it comes to depression-related symptoms [ 17 ].
Adding omega-3s to the antidepressant Citalopram (an SSRI) was reported to improve depressive symptoms in 42 patients (RCT) [ 18 ].
Some researchers have proposed that omega-3s may reduce depression by lowering inflammation in the brain, although a lot more research will be needed to confirm this for sure [ 19 ]. 4) S-adenosyl-L-methionine (“SAM-e”)
According to one meta-analysis, the compound commonly known as “ SAM-e ” has been reported to be effective and safe in treating symptoms of depression [ 20 ].
In one study (DB-RCT) of 73 patients who did not respond to SSRIs, 800 mg of SAM-e taken twice a day for 6 weeks was reported to lead to improvements in depressive symptoms as well as reduced remission rates [ 21 ].
Some researchers have proposed that SAM-e may have therapeutic effects similar to those of common antidepressants, such as SSRIs [ 22 ]. SAM-e may also have some other advantages over common depression medications, such as a relatively fast onset and increased safety (lower rates of adverse side-effects) in higher doses [ 23 , 22 ].
Although its precise mechanisms are not yet fully known, some evidence suggests that SAM-e’s effects may stem from improved methylation of neurotransmitters ( catecholamines ), increased serotonin and norepinephrine levels, and increased dopamine activity [ 24 ]. However, more research will still be needed to explore its potential mechanisms further, and how these might related to some of this substance’s purported effects on mood. 5) Curcumin
Curcumin — also commonly known as the spice turmeric — has been reported to reduce depressive symptoms in patients with major depression, while also being relatively safe [ 25 , 26 , 27 ].
For example, curcumin taken at 1 g/day for 6 weeks reportedly reduced depression along with inflammatory cytokines and cortisol, and increased BDNF in 108 adults (DB-RCT) [ 28 ].
According to one animal study, administering curcumin along with piperine (a compound found in black pepper) was reported to enhance the antidepressant effects of SSRIs in mice [ 29 ].Similarly, another study in mice reported that curcumin increased serotonin and dopamine, and blocked MAO-A and MAO-B . It has also been suggested that curcumin may also promote the development of new brain cells in stressed rats [ 30 , 31 , 32 ].However, it should be kept in mind that a lot of this evidence comes from animal studies, and so much more research in humans will be needed to confirm any of these effects and mechanisms for certain. 6) DHEA Low DHEA levels have been associated with increased depressive symptoms, and are often especially low in clinically-depressed patients [ 33 , 34 ].A handful of double-blind randomized control trial (DB-RCT) studies have reported that 90 mg/day or more of DHEA may reduce depressive symptoms and improve mood [ 35 , 36 ].DHEA is believed to influence the release, breakdown, reuptake, and receptor binding activity of serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA, which may account for some of its purported effects [ 37 ]. 7) Probiotics Recently, scientists have proposed that the gut microbiota may have a surprisingly […]