Nutritional Magic For Anxiety, Depression, And Stress!

Modern medical science has found that low serotonin levels (the brain chemical influenced by drugs like Prozac®) can lead to a huge variety of symptoms and complaints including anxiety.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to take a powerful, and potentially risky, drug to correct low serotonin levels. There are several very effective—and side-effect free— nutritional approaches to enhance serotonin, including a unique new formulation that utilizes all the most powerful supplements available. Furthermore, we’ll show you solid scientific evidence that these nutritional approaches may actually work as well as (or even better) than Prozac® or similar types of drugs known as SSRI’s, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.

You may recognize the symptoms of low serotonin. They can affect anyone with anything from common, garden-variety malaise to serious emotional disorders. Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Pre-menstrual syndrome
  • Problems in thinking, concentrating, and decision making
  • Low self esteem
  • Needless feelings of unworthiness and guilt
  • Loss of interest and pleasure in usual activities
  • Sleep and appetite disturbances
  • Chronic depressive disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Bulimia
  • Alcoholism
  • Violent temper and poor impulse control
  • Panic/agoraphobia syndrome1

Research indicates that proper nutritional supplementation may also help with aggressive and violent behavior (including suicide), migraine headaches, and even heart disease related to stress and depression.

But you wouldn’t know this if you only followed mainstream information. And here’s why…

The Prozac Landscape

Prozac® has quickly become one of the most widely prescribed medications on the market. About 35 million people worldwide have taken Prozac®. In fact, the drug produced a profit of about $2.5 billion dollars for Eli Lilly in 1999.2 But the news isn’t all good.

“Drug interactions may occur when Prozac® is taken with a number of other medications, with effects including confusion, poor coordination, restlessness, shivering, diarrhea, fever, sweating, trembling or shaking, stomach or intestinal problems, extremely high blood pressure, and severe convulsions. Even without interactions, Prozac® itself can cause side effects including depression of the sex drive, anxiety, trouble sleeping, chills or fever, joint or muscle pain, breast enlargement or pain, overactive reflexes, mood or behavior changes, vomiting, hair loss, trouble in breathing, and convulsions.”3

Prozac® has been implicated in a number of lawsuits—over 200 of them according to one article.4 Prozac® has also been specifically implicated in suicidal behavior. Internal memos from Lilly were obtained that made numerous references to suicide and depression, even urging Lilly scientists to change mentions of suicide attempts to “overdose” and suicidal thoughts to “depression.”5

Other SSRI’s Are Equally Questionable …

Other SSRI’s have been implicated in suicide attempts also.6 And withdrawal symptoms include hallucinations, nervousness, melancholy, flu-like symptoms, nausea, tingling and electric shock sensations, and vivid dreams.7

Unfortunately, these drugs are big, big business —reaping billions a year in profits for the big drug companies. There is an interest in keeping them on the market.

According to one report, Lilly contributed $2.87 million to The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), a nonprofit support and advocacy organization of consumers, families, and friends of people with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorders. The report also states that Jerry Radke, a Lilly executive, is on loan to NAMI, working out of the organization’s headquarters.8

Is it a coincidence that NAMI gives Prozac® a friendly review, saying, “Prozac® is popular because it is effective in relieving symptoms of depression with fewer, milder side effects than other antidepressants”? NAMI also plays down the side effects, saying most of them subside in a few weeks “for some people.” And that “smaller numbers of people may find Prozac® inappropriate because it inhibits orgasm or causes craving for alcohol.”9 However, other reports indicate that loss of sexual desire and/or nausea and vomiting can occur in as much as 30% to 40% of users.10

What the Pharmaceutical Giants Don’t Want You to Know …

Fortunately, there are alternatives to these drugs. Researchers have found that certain powerful supplements work not just on depression and anxiety, but on the broader problem of serotonin deficiency syndrome, which manifests in depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, aggressiveness, agitation, obsessive-compulsive traits, migraines, and other common behavioral disorders—in other words, the host of illnesses that SSRI’s are used to treat.11 Studies have even found some of these supplements to be superior to SSRI’s in treating depression.

And besides being alternatives for the more serious illnesses we’ve discussed, these supplements are blessings for the tens of millions of people who are not clinically depressed or anxious, but who simply—often—don’t feel well emotionally.

(Of course, these nutritional supplements can’t be patented, so they’ll never receive the marketing and press the giant pharmaceuticals invest in their proprietary products.)

Let’s take a look at how some of these alternative therapies work…

The Serotonin Link

First of all, the action of serotonin in the body must be understood.

Serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptomine (5-HT), was first identified some 50 years ago, and ever since then scientists have been finding out more and more about the functions it performs in the body.

Studies have found that serotonin plays an important role in depression, mood, anxiety, sleep, appetite control, memory, learning, temperature regulation, sexual behavior, hallucinations, cardiovascular functions, skeletal muscle contractions, endocrine (hormone) regulation, blood clotting, and GI motility—contractions of the stomach and intestines that move food along and promote digestion.12

Nerve cells synthesize 5-HT by a two-step process that begins with the essential amino acid tryptophan. (Since tryptophan was banned in the U.S. after a contaminated batch was distributed, it must now be obtained from dietary sources.)

Once tryptophan has been taken up into the nerve cell, it is converted into 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) with the help of the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase.

Studies have shown that taking supplements of tryptophan or 5-HTP will increase the amount of serotonin available for use by neurons.13 And the elevation of the available serotonin can have a profound impact on the subject’s emotional condition.

The conclusion that serotonin had a critical role in depression—a conclusion that revolutionized the treatment of depression—was first made in the 1970s. It was observed that many people with depression had low levels of a metabolite of serotonin—5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA)—in the fluid that surrounds their brain and spinal cord. Low 5-HIAA suggests that the brain is not producing, and therefore not metabolizing, a normal amount of serotonin.14

Researchers also found that people who attempted suicide had abnormally low levels 5-HIAA in their brains. This finding suggests that a serotonin deficiency might actually predispose some people to kill themselves.151617

Serotonin has also been found to be a key player in aggressive behavior. One Russian study found that silver foxes selected for tame behavior, and with no defensive reaction to humans, had higher levels of both serotonin and 5-HIAA than wild silver foxes bred in captivity.18

Another study of rhesus monkeys living on a 475-acre sea island found that variations in serotonin levels on a normal diet can cause profound variations in behavior, even making life and death predictions possible. The most aggressive monkeys had the lowest concentrations of 5-HIAA, and were the most likely to die or get injured. Conversely, not a single one of the rhesus monkeys with the highest 5-HIAA levels died or went missing.19

In humans, studies have confirmed that serotonin levels can be linked to both inward and outward directed violence. One study consisted of men convicted of homicide, suicide attempters, and healthy males. The lowest levels of 5-HIAA were found in those who had killed someone or attempted suicide.20 Another study of “self-mutilators” found that not only did they have lower 5-HIAA levels, but also had more severe character pathology and greater lifetime aggression, as well as being more antisocial, with greater impulsivity, chronic anger and somatic anxiety.21

Fortunately, there’s a better way to improve serotonin levels in our system than merely eating a high-tryptophan diet. By combining several nutritional supplements, we can get a powerful mood enhancing effect.

Step #1: A Powerful Supplement For Boosting Serotonin Levels

Although they are closely related amino acids, tryptophan is a precursor of 5-HTP. This means that cells use tryptophan to make 5-HTP, and that 5-HTP is a metabolite of tryptophan. 5-HTP, in turn, is a precursor to serotonin.

Protect Serotonin Photo
Formerly known as Prosera

In other words, nerve cells take some tryptophan, turn it into 5-HTP, and then turn the 5-HTP into serotonin.22

Being that tryptophan is only available from dietary sources, (making availability somewhat limited), and that you can skip a step in the metabolic process, it makes sense to use 5-HTP as a supplement if it enhances serotonin levels. And in fact, 5-HTP appears to have distinct advantages over tryptophan.

  • A given molecule of 5-HTP is more likely to be converted to serotonin than a given molecule of tryptophan, since the body can convert tryptophan to any one of several other substances in addition to 5-HTP. This suggests that a dose of 5-HTP is more likely to be converted into serotonin than a dose of tryptophan, and might also cause fewer unwanted side effects.
  • 5-HTP easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and therefore gets into the brain far more readily than does tryptophan. Tryptophan molecules that do not pass into the brain may increase serotonergic activity in other parts of the body, such as the gastrointestinal tract, which may result in unwanted side effects.
  • 5-HTP is probably a more effective antidepressant than tryptophan.23

Another benefit of 5-HTP is in its superior functioning in the body compared to other SSRI drugs like Prozac®. Whereas 5-HTP provides the raw materials for the body to make new serotonin, Prozac and other SSRI drugs interfere with the normal metabolism of serotonin in the synapse, preventing excess serotonin molecules from being naturally deactivated.

This would all seem to lead to a very simple solution: just take serotonin supplements. Unfortunately, simply ingesting serotonin doesn’t work very well. Serotonin has a harder time getting into the brain than tryptophan, and most of the serotonin found in the brain is produced there.

So the most effective means of enhancing serotonin seems to be through proper supplementation, such as 5-HTP, designed to raise the body’s natural production of serotonin. And there are other supplements that can enhance serotonin levels as well.

Step #2: Enhancing The Body’s SAMe…

Another powerful supplement for emotional well-being is called SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine). It’s been prescribed by doctors in Europe as a treatment for depression, but also for a wide range of other benefits also. It’s been used in the treatment of osteoarthritis, liver disease, schizophrenia, demyelinating diseases like multiple sclerosis, dementia, peripheral neuropathy, ADD, migraines, and cardiovascular disease, among others.

SAMe is manufactured in the body from the amino acid methionine, with the aid of the co-factors Vitamin B12 and folic acid. A deficiency in any of these nutrients can result in decreased SAMe synthesis. As a “methyl donor” SAMe contributes a methyl group (a single carbon unit) to another molecule.

This methylating action is what makes SAMe so essential in the production of nucleic acids (DNA, RNA), proteins, specific vitamins, neurotransmitters, antioxidants, hormones, and phospholipids. SAMe is also involved in the biosynthesis of many sulfur-containing compounds, including the antioxidant glutathione, the amino acids taurine and cysteine, and the sulfur-containing components of connective tissue.24

The emotional benefits of SAMe are probably due to a couple of factors. First of all, SAMe aids in the formation of the pineal hormone melatonin, as well as having a beneficial effect on neuronal membranes. SAMe is also essential for the manufacture of brain neurotransmitters, or chemical messenger molecules, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and serotonin. SAMe facilitates the binding of the neurotransmitters to their receptor sites, enhancing their activity. By methylating certain phospholipids, such as phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine, in the cell membranes, SAMe also enhances cell membrane fluidity and improves cellular communication between neurons.

Over 100 placebo-controlled, double-blind studies provide well-documented evidence for SAMe’s benefit in depression. Many of these show SAMe to be equal or superior to antidepressants, with more rapid onset, most often within a few days, and, unlike the antidepressants, with no side effects. According to one meta-analysis of these studies, 92% of patients responded to SAMe, compared to 85% for the medications.25

SAMe is completely devoid of the side effects that often accompany prescription antidepressants, like constipation, agitation, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction. It is also faster-acting than antidepressant drugs. And it may well be useful in treating the broad range of disorders treated with SSRI drugs, such as panic disorder, agoraphobia, bulimia, chronic pain syndromes, post-traumatic stress disorder, and ADD.

In a healthy young body, all the SAMe needed is manufactured from the amino acids. With age, though, the body appears to be less able to produce enough SAMe. Thus the need for supplementation SAMe precursor.

Step #3: St. John’s Wort Works Like SSRI’s—But Naturally

St. John’s Wort is an herb with oil spots on the leaves that may look like holes or appear to be rust-colored. Pious country people believed these spots to be the mark of the blood of St. John the Baptist. Also, the sap of the plant is reddish colored and has been said to represent the blood of St. John the Baptist.

St. John’s Wort has become popular in recent years as an herbal treatment for depression. One study, consisting of 23 randomized trials including a total of 1757 outpatients with mainly mild or moderately severe depressive disorders, was published in the British Medical Journal.

The study found that St. John’s Wort (Hypericum extracts) were similarly effective as standard antidepressants. Also, there were only two (0.8%) drop outs due to side effects with hypericum and seven (3.0%) with standard antidepressant drugs. And side effects occurred in only 50 (19.8%) patients on hypericum, as opposed to 84 (52.8%) patients on standard antidepressants.26

St. John’s Wort also contains an inhibitor of serotonin reuptake, which is responsible for the recycling of serotonin back into the “sending” cell. By inhibiting serotonin reuptake, more serotonin is left in the synaptic cleft between adjacent nerve cells, which increases the serotonin stimulation of the adjacent (postsynaptic, or “receiving”) cell.

Toward Emotional Wellness

Nobody disputes the fact that SSRI’s and other antidepressants have a place in the world. And we don’t advocate anyone terminating any subscription medication and trying alternative treatments without consulting their physician beforehand.

But we do believe, and studies have proven, that there is a place for nutritionally-based supplements in the fight against depression, anxiety, all the related illnesses, and even just for those of us who often “just don’t feel well.” Supplements that act on serotonin levels have been proven effective in a variety of treatments:

Depression: In a series of studies dating back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, 5-HTP given to seriously depressed people was reported to produce dramatic and sudden improvements.27

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: L-Tryptophan was found to be effective in reducing the symptoms of OCD.28

Anxiety: Ten patients with anxiety were treated with 5-HTP, and significant reduction in anxiety was measured on three different scales designed to measure anxiety.29 And in a study of 20 people with panic disorders, several experienced relief after receiving 5-HTP.30

Preventing Migraine Headaches: One study showed that 5-HTP can reduce the intensity and duration of migraine headaches.31 Another study showed that 5-HTP is even more effective in preventing migraines.32

Enhancing Sleep: The action of 5-HTP and tryptophan in promoting sleep without a drugged feeling or morning hangover are similar to the hormone melatonin, which is well-known for its sleep-regulating function. This is probably due to the fact that some of the serotonin produced in the body is converted directly into melatonin. Serotonin may also promote sleep by helping the brain “tune out” unwanted stimulation. One French study found that administration of 5-HTP to “mildly insomniac” people resulted in significant improvement.33

Suppressing Appetite: According to a British obesity expert, among the most effective and safest candidates for drugs that genuinely suppress appetite are those that increase serotonin in the brain.34 Not surprisingly, one of the most common uses of SSRIs these days has been to suppress appetite with the goal of losing weight. But in one well-controlled study researchers found significant weight loss in a group treated with 5-HTP.35

Fibromyalgia Relief: Two major studies in Italy demonstrated significant improvement in patients according to six different criteria.3637

Preventing Heart Disease: One surprising benefit of minimizing depression, anxiety and stress is a correlation with a reduction in the danger of heart disease. This has been demonstrated by a host of studies, but is far too complex a subject to investigate within the scope of this article. However, the connection is well documented.

If you suffer from any sort of depression, anxiety, mood swings, obsessive behavior, trouble sleeping, migraines, difficulty losing weight, or even any sort of general malaise, you may want to consider trying nutritional supplements. However, do not attempt to replace any prescription medications without consulting your doctor first.

It’s very possible that the right supplementation program will provide you with marked relief from all sorts of emotional malaise, tension, and anxiety.

Related Articles


  1. National Alliance for the Mentally Ill website:
  2. Prozac Defense Hits Home, Boston Globe, 12/30/2000, page B4
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine website:

  4. Prozac: Unsafe At Any Price, Arianna Huffington,
  5. Prozac Revisited, Boston Globe, 5/7/2000
  6. Emergence of Antidepressant Induced Suicidality, David Healy, Primary Care Psychiatry 2000, vol. 6 No. 1
  7. Getting Off Antidepressants,
  8., Mother Jones Magazine, November, 1999
  9. National Alliance for the Mentally Ill website:
  10. 5-HTP: The Natural Alternative To Prozac, by John Morgenthaler & Lane Lenard, PhD
  11. Poldinger W, Calanchini B, Shwarz W. A functional-dimensional approach to depression: serotonin deficiency as a target syndrome in a comparison of 5-hydroxytryptophan and fluvoxamine.Psychopathology. 1991;24:53-81
  12. 5-HTP: The Natural Alternative To Prozac, by John Morgenthaler & Lane Lenard, PhD
  13. Poldinger W, Calanchini B, Shwarz W. A functional-dimensional approach to depression: serotonin deficiency as a target syndrome in a comparison of 5-hydroxytryptophan and fluvoxamine.Psychopathology. 1991;24:53-81
  14. Asberg M, Thoren P, Traskman L, et al. Serotonin depression: a biochemical subgroup within affective disorders. Science. 1976;191:478-480.
  15. Lloyd K, Farley L, Deck J, Hornykiewicz O. Serotonin and 5-hydroxy-indolaeacetic acid in discrete areas of the brainstem of suicide victims and control patients. Adv Biochem Psychopharm. 1974;11:387-398.
  16. Asberg M, Traskman L, Thoren P. 5-HIAA in the cerebrospinal fluid. A biochemical suicide predictor? Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1976;33:1193-1197.
  17. van Praag H. Biological suicide research: outcome and limitations.Biol Psychiatry. 1986;21:1305-1323.
  18. Popova N, Voitenko N, Kulikov A, Avgustinovich D. Evidence for the involvement of central serotonin in mechanism of domestication of silver foxes. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1991;40:751-756.
  19. Higley J, Mehlman P, Higley S, et al. Excessive mortality in young free-ranging male nonhuman primates with low cerebrospinal fluid 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid concentrations. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1996;53:537-543.
  20. Lidberg L, Tuck J, Asberg M, Scalia-Tomba G, Bertilsson L. Homicide, suicide and CSF 5-HIAA. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1985;71:230-236.
  21. Simeon D, Stanley B, Frances A, Mann J, Winchel R, Stanley M. Self-mutilation in personality disorders: psychological and biological correlates. Am J Psychiatry. 1992;149:221-226.
  22. 5-HTP: The Natural Alternative To Prozac, by John Morgenthaler & Lane Lenard, PhD
  23. 5-HTP: The Natural Alternative To Prozac, by John Morgenthaler & Lane Lenard, PhD
  24. SAMe: A Supplement for the 21st Century, by Hyla Cass, MD,Vitamin Products Research Newsletter, June 2000.
  25. SAMe A Supplement for the 21st Century, by Hyla Cass, MD,Vitamin Products Research Newsletter, June 2000.
  26. Linde K, Ramirez G, Mulrow C, Pauls A, Weidenhammer W, Melchart D. St John’s wort for depression – an overview and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials, BMJ No. 7052 Volume 313 Saturday 3 August 1996.
  27. Sano I. L-5-hydroxytryptophan (L-5-HTP) therapie. Folia Psychiat Neurol Jap. 1972;26:7.