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Can Supplements Really Help With Depression or Anxiety?

Posted 17 June 2022

SCAM OR NOT

Here’s what the evidence says about what works (and what doesn’t).

St. John’s wort “promotes a positive mood.” Valerian root reduces “levels of anxiety and stress.” Lavender oil is “calming for body and mind.”

If you are among the tens of millions of people in the United States who suffer from depression or anxiety, it is easy to be captivated by the promise of mood-boosting supplements. Take these pills daily, their marketing suggests, and soon you’ll be happily bouncing through verdant, sun-soaked fields, no prescription required.

But, while experts say that some mood-lifting supplements are better studied than others, the wider evidence on their effectiveness is shaky at best. “I’m not saying that there’s evidence that these things aren’t useful,” said Dr. Gerard Sanacora, a professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and the director of the Yale Depression Research Program. It’s more that “the quality of the evidence isn’t to the level that we can really have much confidence in.”

And when compared with other treatments such as traditional medications or psychotherapy, the experts said, supplements fall short. Here is what we know about some of the most common supplements that are marketed for mental health.
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