Natural Remedies: Antidepressants and How They Work

The Natural Remedies column discusses the different classes of antidepressants and how they work.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Editors
April/May 2000
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Antidepressants and depression.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/LISTERCZ


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The Natural Remedies column shares information on antipressants and how they work.

Learn about antidepressants and how they work. Antidepressants are drugs designed to block or reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Most all affect the levels of one or more neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, in the brain-including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Low levels of these chemicals have been linked to depressive disorders.

Among the more commonly used antidepressants are monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Neurotransmitters relay messages from one nerve cell to the next; their job complete, they are either reabsorbed by nerve cells or broken down by an enzyme called monoamine oxidase. MAOIs, as their name suggests, block the action of monoamine oxidase, thereby boosting the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain.

Another newer and increasingly prescribed class of antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). SSRIs (including Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac) work by blocking the reuptake by nerve cells of serotonin released in the brain.








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