Q. I have had many episodes of depression over the past 40 years. I have been on seven antidepressants, only one of which worked without unacceptable side effects. It took two weeks to kick in.

Recently I had another bout. I read that inositol could help depression and started taking it. Within two days I was no longer suicidal and in a week I was back to feeling good.

A. Inositol is a natural compound that is found in numerous foods, especially fruit. It plays a role in several physiologic processes, including modulating the neurochemical serotonin.

Studies of inositol for treating depression have been inconclusive (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, April 19, 2004). We’re glad it helped you so quickly, though we have no idea whether it would help others as effectively.

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  1. Yael

    My main and mostly only problem is insomnia. Where can I purchase L-Tryptophane and Inositol?

  2. lJulian

    Is Inositol ok with SSRI’s?

    • Terry Graedon

      There does not appear to be any benefit to combining them.

  3. CJ

    My mother in law just told me about inositol because I have been suffering from depression for years trying one thing after another. Many of the drugs don’t work at all or just make me where I feel like I don’t care about anything good or bad. Lately I have also been feeling anxious and not sleeping well at all.
    When my mother in law noticed and asked my husband about me out of concern she told him that she has been taking inositol for a while now and that it has helped her a lot. I thought about it when my husband told me what she said and realized that she has been a lot better in the last 8 mnths or so.
    So I did some research and decided to try it. I have only been taking it for 3 days but I have already noticed a difference. Hopefully it will continue to work for me. I am so tired of trying drug after drug and nothing really making a good difference. And I am so tired of being depressed and feeling so alone, hopeless, and worthless. Hopefully along with prayer I have found something that will work.

  4. C Horner

    It isn’t actually tasteless…it’s a natural sweetener, about half as strong as sugar.

  5. daughterofbadger

    Through trial and error I found that my depression and anxiety respond to treatments targeted at insulin resistance, dopamine production and uptake inhibition, and reduction of cortisol. Treatments targeted at serotonin don’t seem to have any effect on my mood, and conventional antidepressants and anxiolytics are too sedating for me anyway. Here is the combination I’m on now and it seems to work well:
    – L-theanine, 200mg in the morning, plus 200-400mg more, if needed, during the day (anxiolytic)
    – Fish oil, 600mg in the morning
    – High dosage vitamin B complex, that works out to about 70 mg each of B1, B2, B3, B6, choline, inositol, PABA, and pantothenic acid, 260mcg folate, 160mcg B12, 70mcg biotin (I take two of the recommended three-pill dosage, one pill in the morning and one at night)
    – Vitamin C, about 3500mg per day (one 1500mg tablet in the morning and one at night, plus some C in other supplements) for cortisol control and slight anxiolytic effect
    – Magnesium oxide, 400mg in the morning (mood control)
    – Inositol powder, about 12 grams in morning mug of tea (mood and insulin control)
    – PRESCRIPTION: Metformin extended release, 1000mg in morning and 500mg at night (insulin resistance)
    This is too much, folks. I haven’t been eating properly because I had got the bad idea that fasting would keep my blood sugar down (it doesn’t; it stimulates the liver to produce more glucose). Once my diet and blood sugars are stable, I’m going to eliminate all but the metformin, the vitamin C, the B complex, and the L-theanine as needed, and see how I do.
    Incidentally inositol is a carbohydrate but it is not only safe for diabetics, it can enhance insulin sensitivity if that’s what you need. Some of the other sugar alcohols (xylitol, erythritol, tagatose) are also safe for diabetics, usable as sweeteners, and improve insulin resistance, but inositol is the one that is present in the brain. Hope this is all useful to someone!

  6. Shelly

    I have had major depression for about a year now and insomnia. I have been on meds from the Dr. antidepressant that haven’t helped me and meds for insomnia that haven’t helped. I just started taking the 5htp and rhodiola. I was thinking of trying the inositol and calcium and magnesium for sleep and depression. Does anyone have a better idea? Or do you know the doses of all this that I should take and do you take the inositol once a day? In the morning or at night? Any help would be appreciated any advise for depression and insomnia.. Thank you so much

  7. Bill

    Have you tried niacin? It works amazingly!!! Helps my depression, anxiety and energy

  8. deborah r.

    can u take inositol with the contreceptive coil or the pill?

  9. KD

    I discovered inositol through PCOS support website. How wonderful!!! It works for me! I thought NO WAY but WAY it works and it’s inexpensive! Discuss with your doc be prepared for them to poopoo it but make sure it wont interfere with any other meds and do it! I have been on paxil, prozac, wellbutrin, cymbalta, zoloft… pristiq UGH you name it…
    I’m glad for the people they help but they only made me worse… feeling crazy, sleeping non stop and gaining 50+ lbs… although doctors say OH NO it’s not the anti-depressant! For me I feel that I am nutrient/vitamin deficient and with all of the freaking GMOs (fake food) no wonder we’re all depressed!

  10. Ambrosia

    Inositol is fantastic! I have had bouts of anxiety and depression over the last few years. Was on Effexor for a little over a year – which did help at first but seemed to be wearing off. I did not want to up my dosage and the side effects were pretty bad, especially if I missed a dose! Also, I could not sleep through the night, I would wake up every hour until my alarm would go off and then would have to start my day exhausted! From the first day I tried Inositol I slept straight through the night for the first in years!!! And I have continued to sleep through the night ever since! My energy level is through the roof and I feel great! I am also off the Effexor after painfully weaning myself off. I will never go back to artificial anti-depressants again. I highly recommend a teaspoon of Inositol powder a day!

  11. TC

    Did you take the 5htp while still on an antidepressant?

  12. John Doe

    Inositol is found in a large amount in citrus fruits and melons, particularly in cantaloupes and oranges (about 500mg per serving).
    Other supplements that help with anxiety and depression (especially Seasonal Affective Disorder) include:
    Vitamin D (which is also beneficial for Multiple Sclerosis sufferers as well, and many other health problems including Diabetes and Heart Disease). Depending on how far north you live you don’t get enough from the sun alone, the UV index has to be 3 or higher outside for you to get Vitamin D and you can’t get it through windows or clothes.
    Theanine, which is found in green tea is also helpful for relaxation and depression too. Green tea itself is also beneficial for many conditions because it also contains catechins such as EGCG, which are very powerful antioxidants.

  13. Philipp

    I swear by taking TRYPTOPHAN. 4 pills right before bedtime and 1 pill between breakfast and lunch and 1 pill between lunch and dinner. Taken with juice. I have tried everything else. Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro helped for a bit but I didn’t like the side effect and don’t like the idea of putting chemicals in my body that do weird things in my brain.
    Sam-e didn’t work for me. 5 htp didn’t do anything at all. But Tryptophan is great. Try it! It made a huge difference for me. I’ve only taken it for a month but the difference is huge. This book helped me a lot: Depression Free Naturally by Joan Mathews Larson. Talks about all the supplements and vitamins you need. I highly recommend it. This one also: Natural Prozac by Joel C. Robertson. Good luck and feel better soon!

  14. L.M.C.

    I am in my thirteenth week of intense grief. I have had a couple of depressive episodes in the past, and traditional antidepressants never helped. Have been taking Inositol for a couple of weeks, and it does help.
    If I skip it a day, I weep uncontrollably and have panic attacks. A teaspoon of inositol reduces or reverses the symptoms – though, I’m afraid the issues will always remain.

  15. BA

    I would also like to know where you got the inositol, what brand is it, is it just inositol or is it combined with something else, what strength is it and how many do you take each day?
    Thank you very, very much!

  16. j.c

    where can I purchase inositol?

  17. ebm

    Hi Frank, here’s another helper. You can get Inositol in powder form (it’s tasteless) or
    in pills. A combo of Inositol and choline is usually the way people buy it for brain/memory health. Make sure you scroll down to the comment section for people experience with inositol. There’s probably info in some of my books also.

  18. K.M.

    After reading Dr. Michael Murray’s book on the amino acid 5-HTP, I upped my dosage to three 200-mg. capsules of 5-HTP per day (NOW brand, 60 capsules per bottle @ approximately $30), for intractable depression. (I’ve been on every antidepressant used within the last 35 years, and spent time hospitalized years ago – I have both major depression and seasonal affective disorder. Nothing worked very well.) Within two weeks I noticed I felt better, and during this winter in Seattle I’ve been completely fine. No drug has worked this well for me, ever. I’ve had no side-effects, although some people may experience nausea – in which case, take the capsule with meals. I hope this helps others.

  19. LA

    In my experience, the only way to fight depression is to get to the cause, as much as possible. This is very difficult, since mostly it starts early in life. With empathic and knowledgeable treatment, it eases a great deal. I do not believe in a pill cure.

  20. AR

    Where can you buy inositol?
    I have been on anti-depressants for about 20 years or more for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and have now been diagnosed with MS which also causes depression. I would love to take something more natural for the depression instead of anti-depressants and have tried St John’s Wort, but that is not strong enough for me, so I’ve had to revert back to the anti-depressants.
    Can you help please?

    • Caroline
      North Carolina

      Not true. Depression can be brought on by stress alone. And there is a difference between anxiety and depression. One can lead to the other and vice versa, but there are a lot of people who have a low threshold for stress – are very sensitive to stimuli (sound, color, smell, lighting) and over a prolonged period of time, being overly stressed will deplete the body and cause depression. The root cause of depression may not be some deep seated reason, but a natural physical response to prolonged stress. Searching for deep reasons can often prove futile and make the sufferer focus even more on themselves – which is the last thing any of us needs. Read the great books by Dr. Claire Weekes. Go to Amazon and read the hundreds of reviews. Her method has literally saved peoples lives. Mine included.

  21. Carol H.

    I was glad to see another person had a positive experience with inositol for depression, my physician knew nothing about it, but didn’t think it would hurt to try it, so I did and also found some relief that I couldn’t attach to anything else different in my life at the time.
    My bouts come and go, so I saw no need to stay on the product more than the week I tried it, and have been doing okay since, so am not continuing to use any. But should I have another bout in the future, I will try it again.

  22. WRS

    Does anyone else know of a good natural anti-depressant? I have tried several prescribed anti-depressants but the side effects were unbearable. They were prescribed by my Neurologist for nerve pain (Peripheral neuropathy) and Fibromyalgia. I don’t know why but I suspect the prescribed anti-depressants do not work as well for men.
    Male 54

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