Foods For Depression: Garlic, Ginger, and Juice

Wednesday, November 01, 2017 by Meg   •   Filed under Physical Health and Emotion

At the risk of sounding all hippy dippy, there are lots of foods out there that have healing properties. Some are brain cell protectant due to high levels of antioxidants. Some interfere with the regulation of neurotransmitters which has the potential to boost mood in a totally chemistry related way. 

And some foods do both of those things. 

So without further ado, let’s check out two very common, and very spicy, friends that may work to boost brain health. And I even have a sweet recipe for you guys to try. 

It’s a three-for-one today, people.

Ginger, Anxiety, Depression and Serotonin

Aside from the more commonly known antiemetic (read anti-puke) properties of ginger, research shows that it is also an anti-convalescent and serves to reduce anxiety symptoms in twitchy-ass mice1.  And, when paired with Magnolia bark, ginger rhizome addresses abnormalities in the systems involved in the production and regulation of noradrenaline and serotonin2, a brain protectant happy chemical. Research shows that the magnolia/ginger treatment increases serotonin and noradrenaline levels in the prefrontal cortex2, an area heavily involved—and known to be damaged—in those with depression. So this supplement combo essentially helps the brain to overcome maladaptive brain changes through altering serotonin and noradrenaline, particularly in the areas involved in depression and stress. 

But why would this be? How can a food alter serotonin? 

Turns out that ginger possesses nine compounds that interact with the receptors for serotonin in the human brain and intestines3

Uh…the intestines? 

Yep. Besides the brain, you have receptors for serotonin in other places, specifically concentrated in the gut. So what you eat can alter your brain in pretty immediate ways. Neat. O.

Some researchers even suggest ginger as a treatment for PMS after finding that it reduced the severity of mood disturbances and physical symptoms4. Sign me the fuck up. 

But I did promise you a recipe, yes? So what shall we add to the ginger? 

Garlic and Depression: Dopamine, Serotonin and GABA

Garlic extract shows significant antidepressant-like activity in mice, on par with Tofronil and Prozac5. Researchers believe less depression in garlicky mice is probably due to its interaction with adrenergic, dopaminergic, serotonergic and GABAergic systems5.

What the who? Adreno, GABA what now? 

Adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin are all neurotransmitters heavily involved in emotional responses. And gamma-aminobutyric acid (or GABA) is a neurotransmitter that helps the nervous system to control itself by telling nerves when to calm the fuck down, like naturally occurring valium. And though you can’t take straight GABA in pill form, is seems that some foods, such as garlic, can interact with the system and help calm things down instead. So garlic works with the happy chemicals in our brains and with the ones that mellow us out.

For the magnolia bark, ginger and garlic, what they tested were extracts of these foods. Extracts are essentially boiled down and concentrated versions, like how if you boil balsamic vinegar you end up with a less watery, more syrupy mixture. If you want the concentrated versions of magnolia bark, ginger or garlic, click on the word links and order your way into a supplement. 

But if you’re open to taking your garlic and ginger in a less concentrated way, keep reading, though you’d have to eat a hell of a lot to get near the above effects of the extracts. Either way, eating garlic and ginger, both with known antioxidant properties, certainly isn’t going to do anything negative for you, particularly since antioxidants may be able to prevent cell death, a major issue in depression. (Find out more about that process here, in The Link Between Depressive Symptoms and Brain Changes.

So how about that recipe? I know I don’t usually do those, but whatever. 

Surprise, people! Keepin’ it fresh in here (in more ways than one). 

Garlic and Ginger Juice

  • 2 limes
  • 2-3 small green apples
  • 1 large handful of kale or other leafy greens
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 large garlic clove (or less to start if you want to make sure you can handle it)
  • 1/2 of an inch to 1 inch peeled fresh ginger root (I use up to 3 inches, but THIS IS NOT for the faint of heart. It’s spicy as hell. I say start small.)

Yield: one large glass of green, sweet and spicy goodness. If it’s early enough I sometimes add some green tea to it. Because caffeine. Two birds and all that. However, I do recommend drinking this juice after eating because raw garlic can cause stomach ache on an empty stomach.

*Garlic and ginger should not be used as stand alone treatments for depression. If you are suffering from major depression, please seek the assistance of a clinician. 

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Topic-Relevant Resources

Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia
An additional piece to the puzzle for those suffering from allergies and certain types of neurological issues. Food matters for mental health. This helps to explain some of those processes.

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats
Great book on nutrition that includes old world recipes to get back to basics

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
An in depth look at how the food industry alters physical and emotional health through advertising and addictive substances.

Against Depression
Detailed explanations of the systems involved in depression along with personal stories of success from psychiatrist Peter Kramer.

Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease
A look at the effects of processed food on the brain.