Autumn. After summery easiness, autumn is playing the blues – days are becoming shorter, leaves are dropping. For some, melancholy is knocking at their door. But there are also people for whom it’s more than sheer melancholy that is spreading through the darker months – they suffer from a so called winter depression.
A real winter depression? Or just the “blues”?
When the days are becoming shorter and the weather is growing more and more cold, an increase in the so called “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD) – also known as winter depression – can be observed. In addition to depressive symptoms such as depressed mood, listlessness and sadness, also symptoms that are atypical for depression arise, for example more sleep, increased appetite and weight gain. However, the majority of depressive disorders during autumn and winter is no real seasonal affective disorder, but a more harmless – because much weaker – variant: the autumn-winter blues.
How do these seasonal mood disorders develop?
The trigger of winter blues or depression are parameters that are part of the natural course of nature: With autumn, day light and light intensity decrease and temperatures fall.
In the development of seasonal mood disorders (even depression), the neurotransmitter serotonin, known as „happy hormone“, probably plays a key role. Certain antidepressants (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, in short SSRI) that increase the effect of serotonin in the brain often support patients in their recovery. This also explains, why chocolate (at least for the mild form of depression) often works “miracles”. The sugar it contains, the amino acid L-tryptophan and several more ingredients help our brain cells “catch” more serotonin.
By now, we are also able to explain the connection between day light and mood. On short and dark days, the day light on the retina is not enough, leading to an increased release of the sleep hormone melatonin. This hormone is responsible for our inner clock. The strong melatonin concentration disrupts our inner clock – people become tired, feel listless and their mood deteriorates.
What can you do if autumn plays the blues for you?
„Light therapy“ has proven effective for lifting moods. Those affected expose themselves for two weeks daily before sunrise and after sunset to a light device with about 2500 lux (unit of illuminance and luminous emittance). Outdoor exercise that exposes the body to a maximum of natural day light as well as music that brightens your mood have positive effects on those affected.
In addition to medication (e.g. SSRI) for raising low serotonin levels, there are also natural substances such as Griffonia simplicifolia – especially for mild cases. Griffonia simplicifolia, an African black bean is rich in 5- hydroxyl tryptophan (5-HTP) can be transformed into serotonin in our organism. A sufficiently high serotonin level is key for good moods, a feeling of satisfaction and a decrease in fears. Vice versa, low serotonin levels is connected to depressive disorders and anxiety states. However, does the natural mood-lifter Griffonia simplicifolia show measurable effects?
The Biogena Griffonia study
We at Biogena wanted to know the details and examined in a scientific study directed by Dr. med. Walter Wührer, whether the dietary food Griffonia50 Serolution® (5-HTP from Griffonia plus B-vitamins) has effects in the case of depressive disorders, mild anxiety states and stress. For this study, 69 persons showing signs of depression, anxiety or heavy stress could be recruited as participants and they were divided into two groups. One group used Biogena Griffonia50 Serolution® (2 capsules a day) over a period of three weeks, the other group (placebo group) used cellulose capsules that contained no active substance. At the beginning and at the end of the study, the probands were tested for depression, anxiety and stress by means of the DASS-Scale (Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scales) that is used internationally.
The result: In the case of depression, the total score improved by 45% by means of Biogena Griffonia50 Serolution®, in the placebo group by 22%. The total score for anxiety reduced by 63% in the Griffonia group, contrary to 34% in the placebo group. The result is quite similar for the stress score: Here, the Griffonia group improved by 50%, the placebo group by 39%. , the improvements for moods and anxiety are considered scientifically significant, which means that the effect of Griffonia is more than just a coincidence.
Conclusion: Light therapy, exercise outdoors, mood-lifting music and the natural mood lifter Griffonia simplicifolia can help reduce winter depression – and in the course of spring, bad mood improves anyway.
Wührer, W., Viebahn, I., Fäth-Neubauer, B. 2015. Biogena-Griffonia-Studie. Die Wirkung von 5-HTP aus Griffonia simplicifolia, L-Phenylalanin und B-Vitaminen auf Depression, Angst und Stress. Salzburg, unveröffentlichte Studie.