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Video:Natural Remedies to Brighten Your Mood

with Cathy Wong

Have the rain clouds been hovering over your head lately? Try one of these natural remedies that can help improve your mood and brighten your outlook.See Transcript

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Transcript:Natural Remedies to Brighten Your Mood

Hi, I'm Cathy Wong, your Guide to Alternative Medicine on About.com. Are there natural remedies that can help brighten your outlook and lift your mood? Let's take a look.

St. John's Wort as a Mood Remedy

The herb St. John's Wort is a centuries-old folk remedy for sadness, worry, nervousness, and poor sleep. Today, the results of 23 clinical trials suggest St. John's Wort works better than a placebo and is as effective as anti-depressants for mild to moderate depression, with fewer side effects. It's available at health food stores, drug stores, and online. It can take 4 to 6 weeks to notice the full effects.

St. John's Wort Side Effects and Use

Side effects can include dizziness, dry mouth, indigestion and fatigue. St. John's Wort can increase sensitivity to light, so caution should be taken to protect the skin and eyes. It's not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, children, or people with bipolar disorder, liver or kidney disease. And although St. John's Wort appears to be reasonably safe when taken alone, it cannot be combined with many prescription or over-the-counter drugs. It can be taken with certain anti-depressants under a doctors supervision.

Fish Oil as a Natural Mood Remedy

Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, a type of good fat that's needed for normal brain function.
They're an important part of cell membranes. Our bodies can't make omega-3s on their own, so we must obtain them through our diet. Studies have found depression rates are lower in countries that consume large amts of fish, such as Japan. Studies have also found that taking omega-3s together with anti-depressants may be more effective than anti-depressants alone. Experts suggest getting omega-3s from fish oil capsules, because unlike fish, many companies distill their fish oil to remove mercury and other pollutants.

Fish oil capsules are sold in drug stores, health food stores, and online. Look for the active ingredients EPA and DHA on the label. Fish oil capsules may interact with blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin and aspirin.

Fish Oil Side Effects and Use

Side effects can include indigestion and bleeding. It should be taken just before meals to avoid a fishy aftertaste.

Folic Acid as a Natural Mood Remedy

There's a clear connection between food and mood. A large percentage of people with depression have low folic acid. Researchers at Harvard University have found that people with low blood levels of folic acid don't respond as well to anti-depressants, but their response improves when they take folic acid in supplement form.

Getting More Folic Acid

Folic acid is a B vitamin found in green leafy vegetables, fruit, beans and fortified grains. Most of us don't eat enough of these foods, which is why folic acid is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies. To make matters worse, approximately half of the folic acid in food is lost when it is cooked, processed, or stored. It's also available as a individual supplement or in B complex vitamins or multivitamins. Medications such as aspirin, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and oral contraceptives can increase the need for folic acid.

Exercise as a Mood Enhancer

Regular exercise is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to lift your mood, increase feelings of well-being, and restore your energy. It releases mood-elevating chemicals in the brain and can decrease stress hormones. One of the best options to beat the blues is taking a brisk walk outside each morning for at least 30 minutes. But what's important is that you choose something you enjoy and will stick with, whether it's going to the gym, signing up for dance classes, playing tennis, or gardening.

Light Therapy as a Mood Remedy

Getting enough sunlight may help with the seasonal mood changes that happen in the darker winter months. That's because levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that's key in influencing our mood, can drop in the winter, making us feel tired and depressed.
Exposure to bright light in the morning helps the body's sleep/wake cycle work properly and has been found to significantly increase serotonin levels.

There are plenty of ways to get your morning dose of light. One of the most simple is to take a long walk outside. Or try arranging your home or office so you're near a window. Just be sure to use sunscreen to protect your skin from damage by the sun's ultraviolet rays. Another option is to use specialized light boxes that simulate natural daylight, called light therapy.

Light Therapy and Seasonal Affective Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association supports the use of light therapy for people with seasonal affective disorder. The lights are typically made with fluorescent bulbs and are covered with a plastic screen that helps to block out harmful ultraviolet rays and prevent tanning. On average, they're used for 30-45 minutes a day. They can be found online.

Although they're rather expensive, ranging from $150-$500, they may be covered by insurance. People with bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, increased risk of retinal disease, or who are taking medications that make them more sensitive to light should consult a doctor before using these lights.

Depression and Your Mood

If you think you're depressed, the first step is to seek professional help. Depression is a serious illness that shouldn't be self-treated. Depression can also be a symptom of another disorder, such as hypothyroidism or anemia. Talk with your doctor before trying any natural remedies, especially if you are taking any medications. And finally, do not stop taking medications on your own.

Thanks for watching. To learn more about alternative medicine, please visit us on the Web at altmedicine.about.com.
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