Our pharmacist looks at supplements to help with low mood and anxiety
By Rita Ghelani
Whether it’s work stress, a break-up or something else entirely, it is common to feel low mood from time to time. If you’re confident your low mood isn’t something more (see below for the distinction between depression and low mood) there are things you can do to help. Alongside self-care (such as these practices), prioritising sleep and maintaining a healthy diet, some supplements may alleviate symptoms of low mood. Our pharmacist explains…
What supplements do you suggest for low mood?
Firstly it is important to distinguish if it is low mood or depression that you are experiencing. Low mood is an emotion that most people have experienced. Low mood is part of normal changes in emotion and can come about for no apparent reason. People often describe this as feeling down or sad. Sometimes there may be an underlying cause that is making you feel anxious about stressed, this may be contributing to you feeling down or sad. You may experience anxiety, sadness, worry, fatigue, or even anger. Low mood will tend to lift after a few weeks.
Depression is different from feeling down and sad. A person experiencing depression will experience intense emotions of anxiety, hopelessness, negativity and helplessness. These feelings stay with them all the time. Depression cannot be treated with any supplement or herbal remedies and you should speak to a GP or the Mind helpline if you are suffering and require advice and support.
If you are experiencing low mood due to anxiety or stress then using a herbal supplement may help. As with all products of this nature, check with your GP or pharmacist about conflicts with pre-existing medication. Here are a few remedies you can buy to help with low mood, stress and anxiety:
Valerian is a popular herbal remedy used to help with sleep and anxiety problems. It is thought to work by binding to certain receptors in the brain that help to promote sleep and reduce anxiety.
Passiflora is used to help relieve symptoms of anxiety nervous tension, and ongoing stress leading to low mood. Passiflora contains a flavonoid called Chrysin, which is also found in chamomile and bee propolis – both are these have been used as healing and calming remedies for many years.
Passiflora is thought to support the nervous system, rather than sedate the nerves. It helps to reduce levels of anxiety, tension and lessening the feeling of being on edge with a nervous system that is continually on over stimulated.
St John’s wort
St John’s wort is widely available and a well-established treatment for mild anxiety and low mood.
St John’s wort contains hypericin and hyperforin that are thought to increase the activity of serotonin and noradrenaline in the brain, these both play an important role in regulating our moods.
Avena sativa is better known as the oat plant and is also referred to as oat straw or oat extract. The leafy green parts of the oat plant are used to make Avena sativa tincture, which contains a substance known as Gramine. Gramine is thought to inhibit the reuptake of noradrenaline, this changes the brain chemistry and communication in brain nerve cells that regulate mood.
Avena sativa drops are available to buy in health food shops and some pharmacies. The drops should be taken at night 30 minutes before bedtime.
5-hydroxytrytophan is a naturally occurring amino acid that is a building block for making serotonin and melatonin in the body. 5-HTP is derived from the amino acid L-tryptophan in the body. Supplements containing 5-HTP are produced from the seeds on an American plant known as Griffonia Simplicifolia.
5-HTP works by increasing the production of a chemical messenger called serotonin. Serotonin has an effect on mood levels, increasing serotonin levels by taking 5-HTP may help improve symptoms of low mood.
Self-help tips to improve your mental wellbeing
- Keep active and exercise – exercising uses up any extra energy you have and distracts you from your worries. It also release endorphins which help lift your mood.
- Relaxation techniques – try taking up yoga or meditation, or even simple breathing exercises will help relieve your symptoms.
- Think about having some talking therapy – a medical professional will guide and teach you ways to influence your thought processes to have a more positive outlook.
- Stay in touch with friends and family – being connected with people is a great way to put life into perspective. It will gives you an opportunity to talk and distracts you from stress and anxiety.
- Prioritise rest and sleep – Make sure you get a regular good night’s sleep.
- Reduce alcohol intake – Alcohol can exacerbate feelings of low mood and anxiety.