Supplements for Mental Well Being

by Matt Elphick

Depression Signs and Symptoms

Depression is a common mental disorder that affects people of all ages. According to the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), one

Good mental health is an essential part of our overall wellbeing, but not that many years ago mental health issues were thought of by many as something that was all in the mind. And while we know now that the mind is as important for health as the body, back then saying something was all in your mind was simply another way of saying you were probably imagining it.

Thank goodness, then, for the discoveries scientists have made in more recent years about the causes of mental health problems, including the biological processes in the brain that are affected when someone has a mental illness.

Types of mental illnesses

There are many different types of mental illnesses, each of which alters a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours in specific ways. Some of these include:

Depression: Throughout the world, depression is the most common mental health problem (ii). Find out more about it in our guide.

Anxiety: Also common, anxiety becomes a problem when you’re worried or feel anxious most or all of the time. Read more in our article on anxiety symptoms.

Panic disorder: This is when you have recurring and regular panic attacks, often for no obvious reason.

Eating disorders: Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating, each of which change your attitude towards food and your body, influencing your behaviour and eating habits. Read more about eating disorders in our guide.

Bipolar disorder: Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder can cause extreme mood swings, triggering periods of depression and mania (feeling very high and overactive).

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): This usually affects people during the autumn and winter months, when they feel tired, moody, irritable and low. There’s lots more information about SAD in our guide.

Schizophrenia: A serious long-term mental health condition, schizophrenia can cause symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations and changes in behaviour. Despite this, many people who are affected by schizophrenia can lead a normal life.

Natural support for mental wellbeing

Besides having a lifestyle that’s as healthy as possible, there are also some nutritional supplements you may like to try if you’re experiencing issues with your mental wellbeing. Eating healthily is of course important, since it helps to make sure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs. However, if you’re not eating as healthily as you should for any reason, taking a good-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement may be a good idea, especially since there’s some evidence to suggest a multivitamin may help you cope with stressful situations (v).

Below are our Top 6 nutritional supplements that may be useful if you’re experiencing symptoms of problems such as anxiety, stress and low mood include the following:


The amino acid 5-HTP – or 5-Hydroxytryptophan – is often used as a remedy for depression and low mood as it’s a natural compound that’s converted in the brain to serotonin. Indeed, some studies suggest it may be as effective as conventional antidepressants (vi). There’s also some evidence that 5-HTP may help with anxiety disorders (vii).

St John’s wort

St John’s wort is a popular herbal remedy used for the relief of slightly low mood and mild anxiety, based on traditional use only. There’s evidence it may be more effective than a placebo at treating mild to moderate depression (viii). Studies also suggest it may be as effective as some popular prescription antidepressants (ix).

Always speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you’re taking any other medicines before trying St John’s wort, as it may interact with certain medicines including the contraceptive pill.

Fish oils

The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are found in oily fish, have been studied extensively in relation to a range of health problems, including depression.

One study involving older women suffering from depression showed that, after taking high doses of EPA and DHA for eight weeks, their symptoms had improved significantly compared to other women who received a placebo (x). Other stu

dies have investigated the benefits of EPA in treating depression, with some suggesting it may be helpful (xi).

You can get omega-3 fatty acids by eating more oily fish such as salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, pilchards and sardines, or by taking fish oil supplements. Vegetarian and vegan omega-3 supplements are also more widely available these days. These supplements source their active ingredients from plant organisms called microalgae rather than fish.


This traditional Ayurvedic herb is often used to help with tiredness, fatigue and stress. One small-scale study suggests ashwagandha may reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol (xii), while another found 88 per cent of trial participants felt less anxious after taking it (xiii).

Researchers believe ashwagandha may help relieve stress because of the way it moderates interaction between the hypothalamus – a small region in the brain – and the pituitary and adrenal glands (the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis) (xiv). The HPA axis is thought to play a key role in the body’s response to stress.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola is a herb used traditionally throughout Europe for stress relief. Its roots contain many active ingredients, including rosavin and salidroside. There is some evidence it may help reduce anxiety and stress more effectively than a placebo (xv), with one study finding it effective in people with burnout symptoms (xvi). Another study concludes that rhodiola may treat stress symptoms comprehensively as well as prevent chronic stress and stress-related complications (xvii).

If you want to try rhodiola, look for a supplement that guarantees a potent 3% level of rosavins.


Found almost exclusively in green, black, oolong and pekoe tea, theanine is a non-protein amino acid that’s thought to help your brain produce calming alpha waves. Studies suggest taking a theanine supplement may help you feel more relaxed without making you drowsy (xviii), and that it may make you feel calmer by reducing your heart rate when you’re faced with something that stresses you out (xix).

Dealing with a mental wellbeing problem can be a challenge, but it’s helpful to know that any symptoms you may be experiencing are caused by changes in your brain, and that they’re not just all in your mind. This guide also shows there are ways to keep your symptoms under control and continue living your life normally.

Disclaimer: The information presented on this post is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor’s care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications

i. National Institutes of Health. Information about Mental Illness and the Brain, 2007. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK20369/

ii. Available online: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-depression

iii. Available online: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/mental-health/depression

iv. Available online: https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/effects-brain#How-Does-Depression-Affect-the-Brain?

v. Schlebusch L. et al., A double-blind, placebo-controlled, double-centre study of the effects of an oral multivitamin-mineral combination on stress. S Afr Med J. 2000;90: 1216-1223.

vi. Byerley WF. et al., 5-hydroxytryptophan: a review of its antidepressant efficacy and adverse effects. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1987;7:127-137. Available online: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3298325-5-hydroxytryptophan-a-review-of-its-antidepressant-efficacy-and-adverse-effects/

Poldinger . W, Calanchini. B, Schwarz. W. A functional-

A functional-dimensional approach to depression: serotonin deficiency as a target syndrome in a comparison of 5-hydroxytryptophan and fluvoxamine – PubMed

H.M. van Praag has been suggesting a reappraisal of syndromes in psychiatry for over 20 years. He has tried to define syndromes originating from the same biochemical disorder. He has denoted this concept as ‘functional psychopathology’. As an example of such a functional syndrome, he has cited the s …

dimensional approach to depression: Serotonin deficiency as a target syndrome in a comparison of 5-hydroxytryptophan and fluvoxamine.Psychopathology. 1991;24:53-81.Available online: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1909444-a-functional-dimensional-approach-to-depression-serotonin-deficiency-as-a-target-syndrome-in-a-comparison-of-5-hydroxytryptophan-and-fluvoxamine/

vii. Kahn RS. et al., Effect of a serotonin precursor and uptake inhibitor in anxiety disorders; a double-blind comparison of 5-hydroxytryptophan, clomipramine and placebo. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 1987;2:33-45. Available online: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3312397-effect-of-a-serotonin-precursor-and-uptake-inhibitor-in-anxiety-disorders-a-double-blind-comparison-of-5-hydroxytryptophan-clomipramine-and-placebo/

viii. Kasper S. et al., Superior efficacy of St Johns wort extract WS® 5570 compared to placebo in patients with major depression: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-center trial. BMC Med. 2006 Jun 23.

Uebelhack R. et al., Efficacy and tolerability of Hypericum extract STW 3-VI in patients with moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Adv Ther. 2004;21:265-75.

ix. Singer A. et al., Duration of response after treatment of mild to moderate depression with Hypericum extract STW 3-VI, citalopram and placebo: a reanalysis of data from a controlled clinical trial. Phytomedicine.2011;18(8-9):739-742.

Bjerkenstedt L. et al., Hypericum extract LI 160 and fluoxetine in mild to moderate depression, A randomized, placebo-controlled multi-center study in outpatients. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2004 Nov 12.

x. Rondanelli M. et al., Effect of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on depressive symptoms and on health-related quality of life in the treatment of elderly women with depression: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. J Am Coll Nutr. 2010 Feb;29(1):55-64. Available online: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2010.10719817

xi. Jazayeri M. et al., Comparison of therapeutic effects of omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid and fluoxetine, separately and in combination, in major depressive disorder. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2008;42:192-198. Available online: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1080/00048670701827275

xii. Chandrasekhar . K, Kapoor. J, Anishetty. S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012;34(3):255-62.Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573577/

xiii. Anrade C. et al., A double-blind, placebo-controlled evaluation of the anxiolytic efficacy ff an ethanolic extract of withania somnifera. Indian J Psychiatry. 2000 Jul;42(3):295-301. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21407960

xiv. Lopresti A. et al., An Investigation Into the Stress-Relieving and Pharmacological Actions of an Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) Extract: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Medicine (Baltimore).2019 Sep;98(37). Available online: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31517876/

xv. Cropley M. et al., The Effects of Rhodiola rosea L.Extract on Anxiety, Stress, Cognition and Other Mood Symptoms. Phytother Res. 2015 Dec;29(12):1934-9. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26502953

xvi. Kasper. S., Dienel A., Multicenter, open-label, exploratory clinical trial with Rhodiola rosea extract in patients suffering from burnout symptoms. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017;13:889-898. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5370380/

xvii. Anghelescu IG. et al., Stress Management and the Role of Rhodiola rosea: A Review. Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract. 2018 Nov;22(4):242-252. Available online: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29325481/?from_term=rhodiola+stress&from_pos=1

xviii. Turkozu. D., Sanlier N., L-theanine, unique amino acid of tea, and its metabolism, health effects, and safety.Crit Rev Food Sci

L-theanine, unique amino acid of tea, and its metabolism, health effects, and safety – PubMed

Tea has been a very popular beverage around the world for centuries. The reason that it is delicious, enabling hydration, showing warming and relaxing effect can be mentioned why it is consumed so much in addition to its prominent health effects. Although the catechins and caffeine are the primary b …

Nutr. 2017 May 24;57(8):1681-1687. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26192072

xix. Kimura K. et al., L-Theanine Reduces Psychological and Physiological Stress Responses. Biol Psychol. 2007 Jan;74(1):39-45. Available online: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16930802/?from_term=theanine+stress&from_pos=2


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