Don't be SAD this Winter! Here are Effective Remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
By RaDonna Fox, M.A. Psychology, Holistic Health Specialist
Depression that repeatedly strikes during the winter months can be attributed to what is commonly known as, seasonal affective disorder or SAD, the “winter blues.” For some, the winter months are full of inexplicable periods of sadness, lethargy, hopelessness, an inability to sleep or sleeping too much, anger or irritability, an inability to concentrate, even thoughts of suicide. This depressive malaise can be little more than an annoying for some and totally disabling for others, many fall somewhere in-between.
Take heart though, you are not alone, as many as 1 in 20 people or some 36 million Americans suffer from this annual malady. Seasonal affective disorder has been blamed on reduced sunlight during the winter months. It is believed that a lack of light in the blue green spectrum is responsible as those colors are mostly absent from the light spectrum in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months. When the full light spectrum is altered so are the neurotransmitters responsible for creating a positive mood. It is believed that a lack of sunlight causes the pineal gland to increase the production of melatonin, while destabilizing serotonin, both of which have a negative impact on mood. Exposure to sunlight seems to have the opposite effect.
Should you or a loved one find yourself suffering from similar symptoms during the winter months, the condition known as seasonal affective disorder, may well be the cause. Don't lose heart, there are several remedies that prove to be therapeutic in eliminating many of the symptoms of this disorder. Photo-therapy, herbs and supplements, aromatherapy, and even a vacation to a sunny location can greatly reduce or eliminate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
Photo-therapy is an important remedy, and there are many manufactures offering lights that have high output broad spectrum lighting that is specifically designed to treat seasonal affective disorder. The cost of these phototheraputic lamps is high. It is just as easy to make your own lighting system from florescent lights using 4 strip bulbs that are called “cool white.” Place them in an area of the home where you can sit near them, about 3 feet away, for about 3 hours per day. Along with the cool white lights, several online companies offer florescent bulbs, in the blue green spectrum, for about $6.00 each. When you get done with them alternate the “cool white” with some “warm white” lights and you can start your spring garden seedlings indoors!
Herbs that are helpful for depression are turmeric and St. Johns Wort. Turmeric must be taken with with black pepper to make it most effective as black pepper causes turmeric to be better absorbed by the body. St. Johns wort is also an effective remedy for depressive symptoms, but it should not be taken with prescription anti-depressants and thwarts spending much time in the sun or even under an indoor lighting system as it can cause photo-sensitivity or photo-dermatitis. A turmeric black pepper combination is, in this instance, the optimal choice. The University of Maryland recommends a dosage of 1 to 3 grams of ground turmeric per day. This should be divided in half, with half taken in the morning and half in the evening, as turmeric has a short half life. One gram of turmeric powder is the equivalent of ½ teaspoon. 1g = ½ tsp, 2g = 1 tsp, 3g = 1.5 tsp. Again, always add black pepper to your turmeric, and do not use turmeric if you take blood thinners.
Be sure and take a vitamin D supplement with at least 2000 IU of vitamin D. This is the minimum dosage needed to see mood improvement. Better yet, make every effort to sit or go outside for at least 20 minutes per day, assuring that you get direct sunlight on your arms and especially face. Sunlight is the optimal way to increase vitamin D levels. Do not use sunscreen or wear sunglasses.
Take a multivitamin with extra B vitamins. B-12 has been shown to improve symptoms of depression.
Omega 3's are also an important supplement when suffering from depression. The addition of salmon or other fish that are high in Omega 3's is a good way to add Omega 3's. In addition to that, high quality salmon oil and flax seeds are excellent supplements.
Exercise is also an outstanding way to increasing mood enhancing neurotransmitters. Taking a walk for 20 to 30 minutes a day, is a great way to get not only exercise, but also the daily sunlight needed to keep vitamin D levels optimal.
Probiotics are also beneficial for depression as they improve gut health. Recent studies have shown the mind to have a direct link to the gut. In fact a significant portion of serotonin is actually produced in the gut. The quickest and easiest way to improve gut flora is to eat yogurt with live and active cultures. Then there are the fermented vegetables, such as cabbage, that produce significant amounts of live and active cultures. Here is a link on how to make your own live probiotic cultures.
Curcumin essential oil contains the vital constituents found in turmeric, and has been proven to have significant properties that alleviate depressive symptoms. Essential oil of curcumin is highly recommended; however, do not use it in conjunction with the ground herb turmeric. Essential oil of basil is also one of the best, and is also highly recommended for depression. Jasmine essential oil has been shown to stimulate beta brain waves on EEG. This will improve cognitive tasks performance, and help with concentration. Frankincense, lemon, orange, grapefruit, ylang ylang, and lavender are all useful in helping with depressive symptoms. Essential oils can be used in a diffuser, in your favorite lotion, or in a carrier oil and applied to your skin; they can also be added to your bath water, and placed on your pillow. A wonderful essential oil dilution guide can be found here.
There is defiantly hope and help for seasonal affective disorder, and armed with these remedies you should be feeling better in no time. Visiting a holistic doctor and a psychotherapist should also be considered, as more often than not they can offer useful guidance that may not be found elsewhere. However, if you or a loved one are having thoughts of suicide seek emergency medial intervention by calling 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.