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Can a herbal supplement treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? SAD is a type of depression which follows a seasonal pattern. It is thought that reduced sunlight during winter months can leave you low in a chemical called serotonin.

Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter, this means it is a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another. Although serotonin is manufactured in the brain, where it performs its primary functions, some 90% of our serotonin supply is found in the digestive tract and in blood platelets.

How do your serotonin levels affect depression?

There are many researchers who believe that an imbalance in your serotonin levels may influence mood in a way that leads to depression. The causes include low production of serotonin in your brain, a lack of the receptor sites which receive your serotonin, inability of your serotonin to reach the receptor sites, or a shortage in an amino acid called tryptophan (which serotonin is made from). If you have one or more of these problems, researchers believe it can lead to depression, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, panic, and even excess anger.

It is widely believed that depression is linked to the regeneration of brain cells – a process which is controlled by serotonin. According to Princeton neuroscientist Barry Jacobs, PhD, depression may occur when there is a suppression of new brain cells and that stress is the most important precipitator of depression.