Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen are folk-remedy experts and home tipsters based in New York City. They have spent decades collecting “cures from the cupboard” and are authors of several books, including Secret Food Cures.
Depression and anxiety are serious medical issues that deserve the attention of medical and mental health professionals. Understandably, many people want to deal with depression and anxiety without resorting to medication. While the advice of medical and mental health professionals should come first there are changes to diet and habits that can reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Things like vitamin deficiency contribute to depression, and common stimulants like caffeine and tobacco are linked to anxiety. Improving dietary nutrition and giving up stimulants will help to improve your health overall and can have an outsized impact on treating depression and anxiety.
In the excerpt below from Secret Food Cures Joan and Lydia Wilen offer their device on everyday foods and common vitamins that can help treat depression and anxiety without medication, or alongside it.
We all go through periods of depression and stress. Maybe it’s because of the weather—you know, a change of season. Or for women, it could be “that time of month.” Of course, pressures at the office don’t help, nor do tense relationships or problems at home. Then there are additives in foods and side effects from medications that can cause chemical imbalances that may lead to depression and stress.
CAUTION: For cases of deep depression, extreme stress and/or chronic fatigue, we suggest you seek professional assistance to help pinpoint the cause and recommend treatment.
Whatever the reason, valid or not, when you’re going through a bad time and you reach the point where you say to yourself, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!”—then you’re on the road to recovery.
If you are really ready to help yourself, you might start by cutting down on your sugar intake. Excessive sugar can help cause depression, nervous anxiety and spurts of energy followed by extreme fatigue.
Caffeine products (such as coffee, non-herbal tea, cola, chocolate, and some medications), cigarettes and alcoholic beverages may also contribute to nervous anxiety, depression and highs and lows of energy. Take them out of your life. They’re taking the life out of you. Be sure to eat a sensible diet of whole grains, steamed green vegetables, lean meat and fish and raw garlic in big salads with onion and lots of celery. Have sunflower seeds, raisins, sauerkraut, whole wheat pasta and beans. What could be bad? Meanwhile, here are some more anxietyrelieving recommendations that may help…
• Have a pizza with lots of oregano. If you don’t have the oregano, forget the pizza. In fact, forget the pizza and just have the oregano. Oregano may ease that depressed, heavyhearted feeling.
• If you have a juicer, whip up half a glass of watercress and half a glass of spinach. Throw in some carrots to make the juice sweeter. Then, bottoms up and spirits up.
• Eat two ripe bananas a day to chase the blues away. Bananas contain the chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine, which are believed to help prevent depression. (See recipe on page 54.)
• While running a warm bath, prepare a cup of chamomile tea. Add the used tea bag to the use a cardboard cutter to carefully make slits in the peel and squeeze it so that the volatile oil seeps out. Then take a whiff hourly.
• Cheer yourself up by wearing rose colors— pinks and scarlets. The orange family of colors are also picker-uppers.
• Making love can help people overcome feelings of depression—unless, of course, they have no one to make love to and that’s why they’re depressed.
• If you’re mildly depressed, simply change your physiology and your emotions will follow suit. In other words, do the physical things you do when you’re happy—and you’ll feel happy. Smile! Laugh! Jump up and down! Sing! Dance! Get dressed up! If you believe it will work, it will. If you’re not willing to go along with this suggestion, then you’re not willing to let go of your depression. There’s nothing wrong with staying in a funk for a brief period…as long as you understand that it is your choice.
• Juices seem to be calming to the nerves. Throughout the day, sip apple, pineapple, prune, grape or cherry juice. Make sure the juice has no added sugar or preservatives, and drink it at room temperature, not chilled.
• Chop a large onion into very small tidbits and add a tablespoon of honey. Eat half the mixture with lunch and the other half with dinner. Onions contain prostaglandin, which is reported to have a stress-relieving effect.
WARNING: Infants, diabetics, and people with honey allergies should not use honey.
• If strawberries are in season, eat a few as a dessert after each meal (without the cream and sugar). You may feel a difference (you won’t be as edgy), and you may see a difference (they’ll make your teeth whiter).
• Acupressure away the pressure of the day by getting a firm grip on your ankle. Using your thumb and third finger, place one just below the inside of the anklebone, and the other finger on the indentation directly below your outer anklebone. Keep steady pressure on the spot as you count down from 100 to one, slowly (taking between one and two minutes in all).
• Peppermint tea has a wonderful way of relaxing the system and relieving moodiness. Drink it warm and strong.
• If you are on edge, high-strung and, generally speaking, a nervous wreck, try to surround yourself with calming colors. Green can have a harmonizing effect, since it’s the color of nature. Earth colors should make you feel better. Wear quiet blues and gentle grays. Color helps more than we realize. • Sage tea can help relieve the jitters. Steep a sage tea bag or one teaspoon of sage in one cup of warm water for five minutes. Strain and drink three cups a day. Bonus: Sage tea also helps sharpen one’s memory and brain power.
• There’s a reason why Epsom salt, an ancient natural healer, is still popular—it works! Pour two cups of Epsom salt into a warm-water bath. Set aside a half-hour for pure relaxation in the tub—no interruptions— just 30 minutes of stress-free fantasizing.
• According to European folklore, celery helps you forget your troubles from a broken heart and soothes your nerves at the same time. It’s probably the phthalide in celery, which is known to have sedative properties.
CAUTION: Be sure to consult with your naturopathic doctor about the correct dosage for you.
A nervous tic may also be your body’s way of telling you that you need more calcium or magnesium—or both. A good supplement can help you get the 1,500 mg of calcium and 750 mg of magnesium you need daily.