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Depression & Anxiety – What is Better Than Placebo?


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Prolent™What if there were natural substances that showed results at least as good (if not superior) to standard antidepressants and anxiolytics?

And if those substances had less side effects and were better tolerated, should we not at least give them a trial first – before using more expensive and more dangerous options?

Thorough literature reviews reveal that, except in the more severely depressed patients, patients on antidepressants get no better results than those using placebo.[1]

Neurotransmitters in Anxiety and Depression

We now understand that certain neurotransmitters are involved in the depressed and anxious mood states. But how did the theory of serotoninergic or dopaminergic models of depression come about in the first place?

Much of it began in the late 1960s and early 1970s with studies of precursor molecules such as L-tryptophan, 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP), L-tyrosine, and DL-phenylalanine.

Then came a number of studies looking at removing key amino acids from the diet (tryptophan and tyrosine depletion studies) and watching their effects on mood. Tryptophan depletion diets were shown to decrease levels of serotonin and have a negative effect on mood, for example.[2]

It was at this point that the pharmaceutical industry said a collective, “Yes! We have a winner!” and Prozac® came to market in 1987 followed by its cousin Wellbutrin® in 1989. The medication of the American mind was well underway.

By 2010, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, there were 254 million prescriptions written in the U.S. for antidepressants alone![3] The costs were nearly 10 billion dollars!

SSRIs vs. Natural Treatments for Anxiety and Depression

Let’s get back to natural substances – what can we use to actually address the problem at a root cause?

If indeed depression and anxiety are associated with low levels of serotonin, dopamine and/or GABA, then it makes sense to replete the stores of those neurotransmitters.

There are scientific studies to back up the efficacy of this type of intervention. For example, 5-HTP, sourced from an African plant, is a direct precursor to serotonin.

In addition to depression, the therapeutic administration of 5-HTP has been shown to be effective in treating a wide variety of conditions, including:

  • fibromyalgia
  • insomnia
  • binge eating
  • associated with obesity
  • cerebellar ataxiachronic headaches

5-HTP easily crosses the blood–brain barrier and effectively increases central nervous system (CNS) synthesis of serotonin. Clinical experience has shown that when 5-HTP is used in a formula like Sanesco’s Prolent® which contains added constituents like cofactors and enzymes, it is even more effective at raising serotonin and improving mood more quickly.

What GABA Activity Looks Like in Anxiety and Depression

Numerous studies have shown that inadequate GABA activity or low levels of GABA have been associated with:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • insomnia
  • panic disorder
  • migraine headaches
  • and epilepsy.[4]

Historically, it has been assumed that GABA is neither well absorbed from the GI tract, nor does it cross the blood-brain barrier with much gusto. So we have typically used precursor and cofactor substances to raise levels of GABA.

Lentra™ is Sanesco’s GABA formula. Lentra™ is so effective due to its combination of L-theanine, Lactium® and Taurine.

L-theanine has extensive studies showing anxiolytic properties and GABA support.

Lactium®, a French Canadian nutraceutical and a key ingredient in Lentra™, is a GABAA agonist, thus increasing GABA function. It has also been shown to prevent the rise in Cortisol seen after rigorous athletic training.

Taurine, a sulfur-bearing amino, serves as a minor inhibitory neuromodulator in its own right, supporting GABAA function.

Safe, Natural Methods of Treating Anxiety and Depression

There are many other nutraceuticals, such as SAMe, St. John’s Wort, inositol, methylfolate and the omega-3 oils in fish, that have positive studies in ameliorating depression and anxiety. In using nutraceuticals to intervene in depression and anxiety, we can achieve wonderful clinical results in raising mood and reducing anxiety, without the side effects seen with pharmaceutical use. Why not give these safer methods a try?



To learn more about imbalances and treatments for Depression & Anxiety, read more from this Managing Depression and Anxiety monograph from our Chief Medical Officer.




[1] Kirsch I, Deacon BJ, Huedo-Medina TB, et al. (2008). Initial severity and antidepressant benefits: a meta-analysis of data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration.

PLoS Med. Feb;5(2):e45.

[2] Leyton M, Ghadirian AM, Young SN, et al. (2000). Depressive relapse following acute tryptophan depletion in patients with major depressive disorder. J Psychopharmacol. 14(3):284-7.

[3]Insel, Thomas. (2011). Director’s Blog: Antidepressants: A Complicated Picture. Retrieved from

[4] GABA Monograph, Alternative Medicine Review. Volume 12, Number 3, Sept 2007.

Clinical Contributor

[starbox id = “Ramona Richard NC MS”]

Ramona Richard, MS, NC

Ramona Richard, MS, NC

Ramona Richard graduated with honors from the University of California with a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology and graduated summa cum laude with a Master’s Degree in Health and Nutrition Education. She also holds a Standard Designated Teaching Credential from the State of California, is a California state-certified Nutrition Consultant and a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.

Ramona has participated in nutrition education in both public and private venues, including high school and college presentations, radio and public speaking for the past 20 years. She is the owner of Radiance, a nutrition consulting company, the Director of Education for Sanesco International, and a medical technical writer.

Disclaimer: The information provided is only intended to be general educational information to the public. It does not constitute medical advice. If you have specific questions about any medical matter or if you are suffering from any medical condition, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.

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