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Complementary medicines benefit mood disorders

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Melissa Peterson ● 2 min read

Mood disorders are a major health problem, with 30-40% of patients with major depression having only a partial response to pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatments. Evidence is emerging that complementary therapies can be used as first-line treatments in many mood disorders, and as adjunct therapies in major psychological conditions.[1] The following provides an insight into some of the recent research showing benefits for complementary medicine and mood disorders.

A 2015 randomised, placebo controlled study showed the benefits of a basic multivitamin and mineral supplement on mood parameters in healthy adults aged between 18 and 39 years old. Supplementation given for four weeks significantly improved moods in the depression-dejection scale. Additionally, they found reduced homocysteine levels, and, although this reduction was independent of the effect of the supplement on mood, high levels have been linked with neurocognitive and psychiatric consequences in older populations. After four weeks, analysis also showed increased blood levels of vitamin B6 and B12, and red blood cell folate.[2]

This study supports previous research with positive outcomes into the use of multivitamin and mineral supplements for mood, stress and anxiety, with emerging evidence for benefits in cognitive function of young, healthy adults. Whereas, previous studies into cognitive function and age-related dementia that have only looked at single B vitamins have shown mostly null results. Correcting a single B vitamin deficiency assumes that the other B vitamins required for the complex biochemical processes are in adequate supply and availability at the time of supplementation.[2]

The amino acid l-theanine, found in green tea and known for its stress relieving and relaxation properties, has been tested recently for its ability to improve major depressive disorder (MDD). In a 2016, open-label study, 20 patients diagnosed with MDD received 250mg of l-theanine a day for eight weeks. The results showed benefits for depressive symptoms, anxiety, sleep disturbances and cognitive impairments, with the researchers suggesting placebo-controlled trials would be the next step in consolidating these effects.[3]

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, have also shown benefits in research on depression, but in a recent study lower blood levels were identified in post-combat veterans who expressed a risk of being depressed or suicidal. The decreased physical activity and lower omega-3 levels seen in these veterans were associated with diminished mood and resilience. The research this study originated from showed that veterans who had committed suicide were more likely to have lowered omega-3 blood levels.[4,5]


  1. Qureshi NA, Al-Bedah AM. Mood disorders and complementary and alternative medicine: a literature review. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat 2013;9:639-658. [Full Text]
  2. White DJ, Cox KH, Peters R, et al. Effects of four-week supplementation with a multi-vitamin/mineral preparation on mood and blood biomarkers in young adults: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrients 2015;7(11):9005-9017. [Full Text]
  3. Hidese S, Ota M, Wakabayashi C, et al. Effects of chronic l-theanine administration in patients with major depressive disorder: an open-label study. Acta Neuropsychiatr 2016:1-8. [Abstract
  4. Neuroscience News. Fish oil may help improve mood in veterans. [Link
  5. Barringer ND, Kotwal RS, Lewis MD, et al. Fatty acid blood levels, vitamin D status, physical performance, activity, and resiliency: a novel potential screening tool for depressed mood in active duty soldiers. Mil Med 2016;181(9):1114-1120. [Abstract


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Melissa Peterson has been a writer and educator in the health and medical science fields for over 15 years. Naturopathically trained, Melissa also has postgraduate qualifications in literature research and reviewing. Her business, Words On Therapy, provides many services to industry including technical articles, white papers, blogs, SEO content, copywriting and research collation.