Nootropics, Supplements

16 Natural and synthetic alternatives to antidepressants

Depression is becoming more and more serious problem. Number of people that have been diagnosed with depression is growing, therefore it is important to search not only for causes but also for various treatment options that can help us to get back to regular life. Time to time , each one of us have a bad period in life , when everything seems hopeless. But depression is an illness that will not disappear by itself. It is an illness that is needed to be cured. According to the portal NHS, depression can have a wide variety of symptoms , ranging from hopelessness, sadness, loss of interest in things person enjoyed before, to physical symptoms, such as loss of appetite, low libido, changes in sleep cycles, fatique and feeling pain in different parts of body.

Causes of depression

  It is important to know not only symptoms but also causes of depression. One of the factors is genetics. If there was a person in the family that previously suffered from depression, the possibility of occurence of depression in another family member is higher. Formation of depression can be caused by past trauma, drug abuse or chronic ilnesses. During depression, there is always an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine, serotonin , or hormones – mostly testosterone.

Dopamine is a part of a reward system of the brain. Lack of dopamine has an impact on learning, motivation, and causes loss of interest in activities which were enjoyable before depression. Connection between dopamine and depression is still under investigation, but scientists are almost sure dopamine plays role not only in depression but also development of schizophrenia. Also Serotonin plays huge role in regulation of behavior and impacting mood and mental well-being. Scientists discovered that lack of serotonin does not have to cause depression, but using drugs based on modulation of the serotonin can drastically help with depression treatment.

Testosterone plays important role in the treatment of depression, even if the low testosterone level in men does not necessary mean development of this disease. This can change in the process of aging. Studies have shown that around 20 percent of men above the age of 60 have lower level of testosterone , which can cause development of depressive symptoms. At the other hand, studies are showing that also low or too high estrogen can cause development of depression in men. For example, low level of testosterone and high level of estrogen can cause many problems, such as erectile dysfunction.


Neurotransmiters play important role in human body. They impact mood, movement , and many other processes in the body. Excitation neurotransmiters are extremely important, because they can “turn on “neurons in the brain. Mostly occurring excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain is Glutamate. Glutamate impacts another neurotrasmiter GABA. If there is too much glutamate in the brain, excitotoxicity can occur and neurons can become damaged. In this brain state, many psychiatric illnesses can come into existence. For many years, scientists are researching the role of glutamate in formation and treatment of depression. Nowadays, scientists are experimenting with medicine that are lowering levels of glutamate in the brain or they have an impact on glutamate receptors.


GABA is most occuring neurotransmiter in the brain after glutamate. It has inhibitory effect, lowers excitation and inhibits the activity of the central nervous system. If neurotransmiter GABA binds to GABA receptor, person notices reduction of fear, anxiety and stress. Balance between GABA and Glutamate is crucial, if this balance is disturbed, it can lead to worsened cognitive functioning and even to development of psychiatric diseases, such as anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disease and depression. Studies have shown that in some patients with depression, level of neurotransmitter GABA is lower.


Acetylcholine not only affects muscle contraction, but also cognitive functions sucha s memory and ability to learn. If the function of acetylcholine is impaired, i tis very hrd for brain to store memories into long-term memory. It also impacts motivation, focus and sleep. Low levels of acetylcholine can cause neurological diseases, such as Parkinson disease or dementia caused by Alzheimers.


Noradrenaline (or norepinepinephrine) is a neurotransmitter that occur in central nervous system , but also in peripheral nervous system and it is connected to “fight or fligt” mode of the human body. Fight or flight mode is a reaction of a body to something that can cause danger to us. It is a body function that exists thousands of years. Our ancestor´s bodies switched to fight or flight mode when they were hunting , or if some animal was hunting them. When we are under the stress, the activity of sympathetic nervous system changes, heartbeat and blood pressure raises, energy stores of the body mobilize. Muscles are getting tense and pupils dilate. Noradrenaline plays important role in modulation of behavior during depressive states and has a large impact on mood. It can also impact sleep cycle.


Most of the serotonin is being produced in the digestive tract, but it also occur in the central nervous system. Serotonin is the strongest mood stabilizator in the body. Lack of serotonin can lead to depression and anxiety. Serotonin is also responsible for regulation of emotions, impact cognitive functions, motor functions and has an impact on perception of the pain in people. It also affects appetite, libido and sleep cycle.



SSRI´s are are mostly prescribed medication for depression treatment. They have less side effects than their predecessors and they are milder. They are being prescribed in cases of more serious depression and they are combined with other forms of treatment , such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. SSRI´s are effective in treatment of other diseases, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or various phobias. Its main purpose is to raise the level of serotonin in the body. After serotonin is used in the body, usually it is reabsorbed . SSRI´s are preventing this reabsorption, what is also called  reuptake inhibition. That means body have more serotonin available for the use.


L- Tryptophan

One of the substances that supports creation of serotonin in the body, is amino-acid L-tryptophan. This amino acid can´t be produced by the body and it is important to consume it in the food form, or in a form of supplement. Studies have shown that L-tryptophan can be helpful in many ways – it helps with the sleep cycle and helps fight insomnia. Uses of L-tryptophan in depression are being researched.


Second , very important precursor to Serotonin is 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). 5-HTP can be produced by body itself. 5-HTP also impacts bodyweight (positively) and works as appetite suppressant. Another studies are showing that 5-HTP can help mitigate symptoms of migraine. Scientists believe Migraine can be caused by low levels of Serotonin.

St.John´s Wort

  St. John´s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a plant that is known for its antidepressant effects, and it also helps with other affective disorders and addictions. Main componenets of the plant that are used in medicine are hypericin and hyperforin. St. John´s Wort also contain useful flavonoids and tannins. St. John´s Wort effectively increases body´s Serotonin levels, which helps with headaches and migraines.


Phenylalanine is an amino acid that exists in two forms, and that is D and L . It is an amino acid that is a main building block of proteins and enzymes in the body. It is useful tool against depression, and also used as a painkiller. Similar to other amino acids, it is important to consume Phenylalanine as a part of healthy and balanced diet. Phenylalanine converts into Tyrosine in the human body, and tyrosine is necessary for dopamine and norepinephrine synthesis.


L- tyrosine is an amino acid, that you can mostly find in fish , dairy, eggs, legumes, nuts , and you can supplement with L-tyrosine as well. It is used for decades in alternative medicine, because it has an impact on levels of dopamine , adrenaline (epinephrine) and even melanin and it is used mostly for improving mental performance and brain activity. It is researched for depression treatment and  ADHD treatment, but results are still unclear.


Taurine is an amino acid that can be found in many foods, but it is also a popular ingredient in many energy drinks and supplements. It is naturally occurring in human brain and muscles. It impacts level of neurotransmitters in the brain and regulates central nervous system. It improves performance and studies are showing that using taurine can serve as prevention against heart diseases and other diseases, such as Alzheimer´s or even alcohol addiction. Taurine also impacts GABA receptors in the brain, that are key to for mental health and relaxation.

Alpha GPC

Alpha GPC is a form of choline, that is a direct precursor to acetylcholine. It is used as a supplement to improve memory, overall performance, it improves learning ability and also it is used as a medicine in Alzheimer´s treatment and dementia. Using Alpha GPC increases Human Growth hormone and Alpha GPC improves mood, motivation and positively impacts mental health.

CDP choline

  CDP Choline is an active form of choline that is used for cognitive enhancement, improves memory and is neuroprotective. It can be found in healthy human´s brain and it is a precursor to acetylcholine. It also support dopamine and norepinephrine creation. Amount of CDP Choline decreases by the age, which causes cognitive decline.  This process can be altered by supplementing CDP Choline.

Choline Bitartrate

Choline Bitartrate is created by combination of choline and tartaric acid. Similar to previous forms , choline bitartrate helps support proper cognitive functions, that can degrade by aging. Choline bitartrate helps fight Alzheimer´s disease as well. It supports acetylcholine creation, improves mood and helps with brain cell regeneration.

Huperzine A

Huperzine A is a compound that that is extracted from a plant Huperzia Serrata. It slows down breaking of Acetylcholine , so the brain can use it to the max. It has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine for cognitive support and treatment of Alzheimer´s disease. Huperzine A acts on mitochondria´s , activates cholinergic system and is strongly neuroprotective. It prevents the brain against oxidative stress and regulates expression of apoptotic proteins.

       Bacopa Monnieri    

Bacopa Monnieri is a plant that is a part of Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years, and it is used for cognitive functions support, memory support, treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and anxiety reduction. Some studies show that bacopa extract may help with some ADHD symptoms. In higher doses it may act as a sedative, and it also has antiepileptic effects and acts as a strong antioxidant.


Studies have shown that noopept positively impacts memory and act as anxiolytic as well. Noopept is neuroprotective, antioxidative and anti-inflammatory. In last years, scientists are researching Noopept´s ability to restore cognitive functions after traumatic brain injury, or after neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer´s disease.

N-acetyl Cysteine

N-acetyl Cysteine is an amino acid that is produced in the human body, and it can also be obtained by food with high amounts of Cysteine ( Dairy) , or it can be supplemented.      NAC is a strong antioxidant. It is important, because it helps maintain optimal level of body´s strongest antioxidant – Glutathione- together with Glutamine and Glycine. N- acetyl Cysteine is used in treatment of psychiatric diseases ( such as OCD , schizophrenia, or bipolar personality disorder), because it regulates the level of glutamate (excitatory neurotransmitter) in the body.


Fasoracetam is a nootropic that helps reduce feelings of anxiety. It improves mood, and positively impacts cognitive functions such as memory and focus. Fasoracetam has also been researched in connection with reducing ADHD symptoms and symptoms of other cognitive diseases. Fasoracetam impacts GABA receptors  in the brain as well as acetylcholine production and usage in the brain. It also mitigate symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases.


Valeriana is a plant that has strong antioxidative potential and it is mostly used as a sedative in people with sleeping problems. Studies are showing that Valeriana is anxiolytic and helps in treatment of anxiety and obsessive- compulsive disorder. Main active compounds are valeric acid and valerenol. These compounds impact secretion and breakdown of neurotransmitters GABA, Serotonin and norepinephrine.


Ashwagandha is a plant , that has been used in ayurvedic medicine for thousands years. It is an adaptogen, that act neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, positively impacts Cental nervous system, has positive impact on testosterone production, improves cognitive functions (mostly memory ), improves focus and works as anxiolytic. It improves physical and mental health and improves performance. Another benefit of Ashwagandha is that it reduces level of cortisol, the stress hormone. People with high level of cortisol in their bodies may have serious health implications. Studies are also showing that Ashwagandha may help people with depression.

You can also find high- quality Ashwagandha in our Zen coffee. Zen coffee is made from bio decaffeinated coffee mixed with ashwagnadha. Me personally, I take it in the evenings to help with calming down my brain and preparing to relax after work.


First of all, depression is a serious ilness. Because of that, it is very very important to consult your problems with a specialist in the first place. There are various degrees of depression. But there can be ways you can try to combat mild or seasonal depression. There are supplements mentioned above that can help you temporary, but once again, you need to address the problem very seriously and consult it with a professional. If you don´t want to go to one, try to talk to your family or best friend. Even if it can be difficult, it will help enormously! We at bonoobo wish you the best luck  🙂

DISCLAIMER: The information included in this article is intended for entertainment and informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Prior to buying anything, check that it is compliant where you live with your current government laws.

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