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What are the Different Types of over-The-Counter Antidepressants?

By B. Schreiber
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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Over-the-counter antidepressants include herbal antidepressants, vitamins, and other types of supplements. One of the better known herbal over-the-counter antidepressants is St. John's wort, which is available without a prescription in the United States. Supplements that may have a positive effect on mood include fish oil and the substance known as S-adenosyl methionine, or SAMe. Certain vitamins, especially the B vitamins and D, could be as helpful as other over-the-counter antidepressants in some cases of mild depression.

St. Johns wort is probably the most widely used of the herbal over-the-counter antidepressants. It is used as a prescription medication for the treatment of depression in Europe. Some studies have found St. John's wort to be as effective as some prescription antidepressants in cases of mild or moderate depression. It may also have fewer side effects than prescription drugs in sensitive people. Common doses range from 500 mg to 1,000 mg, taken daily.

Other herbal over-the-counter antidepressants have been less studied than St. John's wort. Gingko biloba is sometimes recommended as an herbal mood enhancer. Other traditional herbs that have been used for depression include damiana, vervain, and yohimbe.

Supplements containing S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) may have a beneficial effect on depression. SAMe is produced naturally in the body and is thought to play a part in regulating dopamine, one of the chemical substances in the brain that affects mood. There is evidence that SAMe, taken as a supplement, can have a positive effect on mood. The most common dose for depression is 1600 mg daily.

Some people with depression may have lower levels of certain B vitamins. These include vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid in particular, which are required for normal nervous system functioning. B-complex vitamin supplements contain all of these vitamins, as do complete multivitamins. Low levels of vitamin D may also cause mood disturbances in some people. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin D 400 to 800mg.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and fish oil supplements, are also necessary for a healthy nervous system. Low levels of omega-3s are thought to be a possible factor in depression and anxiety disorders. A common dosage for omega-3 supplements is 1,000 mg of fish.

Depression can become worse if not properly treated. For this reason, over-the-counter antidepressants are not a replacement for treatment with a mental health professional in cases of severe depression. Certain supplements, for instance St. John's wort, may interfere with drugs used to treat other health conditions. So-called natural products are not necessarily safe or any safer than prescription medications. People with a physical health condition or who take other drugs should consult a doctor before using supplements.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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