Depression Treatment Alternative

Alternative treatment for depression should always be used in conjunction with conventional treatment, not as a replacement for traditional medical methods of treating depression. Speak to your doctor before beginning any alternative therapies for depression, as some may interact negatively with medications you’re currently taking.

Alternative Treatment for Depression: Herbal Remedies

Europeans have used St. John’s Wort for years as a treatment for depression. Mild to moderate cases of depression usually respond well to this herbal remedy. St. John’s Wort has relatively few side effects, but is usually ineffective at treating major depression.

Don’t take St. John’s Wort with prescription antidepressants, as this may actually worsen your depression symptoms or cause unwanted side effects. This alternative method of treating depression may also interact poorly with medications used to treat:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Seizures.

St. John’s Wort may also interact negatively with certain drugs used to prevent rejection of organ transplants.

Other herbal remedies often touted as effective treatment for depression include:

  • Echinacea
  • Ephedra
  • Gingko biloba
  • Ginseng.

Clinical studies have yet to prove the effectiveness of these herbal supplements on depression. Consult with your doctor before treating depression with St. John’s Wort or any other herbal remedy.

Alternative Therapies: Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Developed in the 1930s, ECT was originally used to treat a wide variety of mental disorders. Some consider this a dangerous method for treating depression, as the following severe side effects may occur:

  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Possible long-term brain damage
  • Sleep disturbances.

ECT is sometimes successful in treating chronic depression. Evidence suggests that the small electric charges sent to the brain stimulate the release of neurotransmitters, thereby treating depression symptoms.

Before each session, electroconvulsive therapy patients receive a muscle relaxant and anesthetic. Patients should expect three sessions per week, with the best results seen after several sessions.

In spite of its bad reputation, ECT is a viable alternative for those who don’t respond to conventional treatments for depression. The American Psychiatric Association issues strict ECT guidelines, and most states also require written consent before patients may receive ECT.

Alternative Treatment for Depression: Lithium

An older antidepressant medication, lithium is most often used to treat bipolar disorder. Patients usually require two to three weeks of treatment.

Among its side effects, lithium can affect kidney and liver function. It can also react with many over-the-counter and prescription drugs. If other antidepressants fail to work, however, lithium is a viable alternative.

Seasonal Affective Disorder and Phototherapy

Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD or “winter depression,” is a type of depression caused by a lack of natural light during the winter.

Doctors usually recommend exposure to natural light outdoors. When this isn’t possible, phototherapy is effective as a treatment for depression of this type. This alternative therapy uses artificial light to duplicate the natural light that stimulates the brain.


Lawrence, J. (2002). Effects of ECT. Retrieved June 23, 2010, from

National Institute of Mental Health. (2010). Depression. Retrieved June 23, 2010, from

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2002). Lithium. Retrieved May 30, 2003, from

Mayo Clinic. (2004). Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Retrieved June 23, 2010, from