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Depression

Depression is a cognitive state associated with hopelessness and apathy. Clinical depression is a realm for medical doctors to address, but subclinical ennui might be counteracted with some supplements. Consider physical exercise as well, it might help a little.

Research analysis led by Kamal Patel.
All content reviewed by the Examine.com Team. Published: Nov 19, 2012
Last Updated:

Human Effect Matrix

The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies (it excludes animal and in vitro studies) to tell you what supplements affect depression
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-a Notable Very High See all 23 studies
Fish oil supplementation has been noted to be comparable to pharmaceutical drugs (fluoxetine) in majorly depressed persons, but this may be the only cohort that experiences a reduction of depression. There is insufficient evidence to support a reduction of depressive symptoms in persons with minor depression (ie. not diagnosed major depressive disorder)
grade-a Notable Very High See all 9 studies
30mg saffron daily (both petals and stigma) appear to be effective in reducing depressive symptoms in persons with major depressive disorder, and the potency has been noted to be comparable to reference drugs (fluoxetine and imipramine).
grade-b Notable Very High See all 8 studies
Curcumin seems to be somewhat more effective than placebo in reducing symptoms of depression. It may take 2-3 months to see any outcomes. Skepticism is warranted though, as the studies comparing curcumin to placebo were not well designed and produced effect sizes not too far apart, even though the differences were statistically significant.
grade-b Notable Very High See all 4 studies
The reduction in depression is notable only for treatment resistant depression alongside a pharmaceutical antidepressant; there does not appear to be a benefit to persons who respond to antidepressants and the inherent anti-depressant effects without a pharmaceutical add-on are modest at best.
grade-b Minor Low See all 5 studies
There is limited preliminary evidence for chromium having an adjuvant role in aiding depressive symptoms (betters overall outcomes when paired with a more effective 'reference' therapy), although the limited evidence for chromium in isolation is unconvincing.
grade-b Minor Very High See 2 studies
Limited evidence suggests small reduction in depression symptoms
grade-b Minor Very High See all 8 studies
There appears to be a reduction in depressive symptoms associated with inositol supplementation, although it is less potent than the benefits of inositol on anxiety and panic attacks.
grade-c Notable Very High See all 3 studies
Depression symptoms seem to improve noticeably. This improvement is probably related to serotonin (creatine supplementation appears to enhance SSRI therapy). Possible gender differences (a greater efficacy in females) require further study.
grade-c Notable - See study
Depression as a side-effect of menopause has been noted to be decreased to quite a significant level (around 80%) which needs to be replicated due to possible funding issues.
grade-c Notable - See study
Limited evidence, but up to a halving of symptoms has been noted with higher doses of Rhodiola
grade-c Notable Very High See all 3 studies
Has been noted to augment SSRI therapy (similar to creatine) and monotherapy with SAMe appears to be of similar potency to tricyclic antidepressants for some studies.
grade-c Minor Very High See all 3 studies
Antidepressive effects have been found with ashwagandha, although they are less notable then the anti-anxiety effects. They may be mediated by similar mechanisms.
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
An anti-depressive effect has been noted, but to a relatively small magnitude. Requires more context-based evidence
grade-c Minor - See study
A reduction in depressive effects may be secondary to the treatment of anxiety.
grade-c Minor - See study
Depression as a symptom of cancer-related fatigue was reduced, may not hold inherent antidepressive effects
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
Depressive symptoms have been reduced vicariously through reductions in anxiety; per se antidepressant effects of kava uncertain
grade-c Minor Moderate See 2 studies
May reduce depression in postmenopausal women, unlikely to occur in otherwise healthy youth
grade-c Minor - See study
Anti-depressive effects may be secondary to reducing menopausal symptoms
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
Can attenuate depressive symptoms that occur during PMS secondary to reducing PMS symptoms in general.
grade-c Minor - See study
Decrease in depressive symptoms has been noted, which may be secondary to attenuating menopausal symptoms
grade-c - - See study
No significant interactions with depression noted
grade-c - - See study
Supplementation of ginkgo does not appear to significantly influence depressive symptoms in older individuals
grade-c - - See study
Depressive symptoms that occur during acute stressors have not been affected by Tyrosine supplementation; chronic depression not yet researched
grade-c - Very High See 2 studies
Depression as a symptom of multiple sclerosis does not appear to be significantly affected by marijuana therapy.
grade-c - - See study
grade-c - - See study
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on depressive symptoms
grade-c - - See study
grade-d Strong - See study
One very preliminary study exists, but remission was achieved in all three subjects with 2-3g agmatine.
grade-d Minor - See study
A decrease in depressive symptoms during generalized anxiety disorder has been noted
grade-d Minor - See study
Depression as a side effect of anxiety appears to be reduced
grade-d Minor - See study
Reduced depressive symptoms have been found in elderly diabetics
grade-d Minor - See study
Depressive symptoms following a stroke appear to be reduced following ingestion of phenylpiracetam. Currently, there are no studies on otherwise healthy persons with depressive symptoms
grade-d Minor - See study
Reduction in irritability noted with Royal Jelly may be secondary to reducing symptoms associated with menopause
grade-d Minor - See study
Depressive symptoms in bipolar disorder have been noted to be reduced
grade-d - - See study
grade-d - See study
One randomized, controlled trial in 40 depressed patients found a modest but non-significant (p=0.06) reduction in Beck-II score compared with placebo after supplementation of 50,000 IU of vitamin D once at the start of an 8 week period.