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Lexapro Alternatives

Lexapro Alternatives

This entry was posted in Antidepressant and tagged on by .

Last Updated on December 29, 2020 by Carol Gillette

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Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Written by Lyle Murphy
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Little, if any, consideration is given to the potential superior efficacy of natural Lexapro alternatives. Antidepressants such as Lexapro, are commonly administered prior to any substantial medical or lifestyle interventions.6

There are many possible causes of depression. These may include impaired hormonal states, deficiency of vitamin D or other nutrients, substandard diet, neurochemistry imbalance, lack of sleep, and failed life aspirations.7.8,9

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Why Natural Lexapro Alternatives Can Help

lexapro depression alternativesUsers of Lexapro (generic escitalopram) commonly seek out Lexapro alternatives to help eliminate the many associated problems with this antidepressant medication. This medication belongs to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and is prescribed to treat depression (major depression or clinical depression) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).10 Natural Lexapro alternatives are often sought after when drug side effects become too bothersome or if the medication is not adequately controlling the symptoms it is being used to treat.11 Among the alternatives to Lexapro are many alternative therapies and alternative treatment modalities. Other medications that may be recommended as traditional Lexapro antidepressant alternatives such as other antidepressants or antipsychotic medications are very likely to cause any or all of the same problems as Lexapro.12

Natural (non-drug-based) Lexapro alternative treatments do not bring on the same adverse reactions, nor are they addictive. Effective relief can be found without resorting to drugs alone.9

Psychotherapy as a Lexapro Alternative

alternatives to lexaproCounseling, psychotherapy, talk therapy, life coaching, and other forms of therapy greatly help people with depression or GAD who are seeking natural Lexapro alternatives.13 Therapy can be all that it takes to alleviate depression for some people, especially acute treatment of mild to moderate depression. Various forms of psychotherapy including short term therapy (10-20 weeks) allows patients to gain insight and resolve their depression through a verbal exchange. The therapist will often assign homework to work on between sessions. Behavioral therapists focus on helping patients to learn how they can obtain more satisfaction from their own actions and how they can unlearn behavioral patterns that are contributing to or resulting from their depression.

Several different types of therapy have proven to be effective in confronting and overcoming severe depressive and anxious symptoms as antidepressant alternatives. Out of all the different therapies, cognitive-behavioral therapy,13 interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy14 have been found effective and helpful. Each type of these therapies focuses on addressing different expressions of depressive problems. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is aimed at helping the patient to develop skills and coping mechanisms, as well as become aware of and rid of destructive and negative thoughts and behavior patterns. Interpersonal therapy focuses on maintaining healthy relationships and establishing a system of support. Psychodynamic therapy looks at the real underlying cause(s) of anxiety or depression, such as traumatizing events, repressed emotions, or social problems.

Lexapro Alternatives Therapies

lexapro natural alternativesCreating successful Lexapro alternatives in a treatment plan may consist of more than one therapy. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy in combination with another therapy could be even more effective. Eliminating things that contribute to depression is also a good place to start, getting ample sleep every night is important, and eating a healthy and balanced diet, being physically active, and avoiding drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, and other toxins. Drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, and certain food can contribute to depression and other mental disorders. Nutritional deficiencies3 can also contribute to depression. Other Lexapro substitutes include holistic and alternative medicine. There are some powerful natural remedies for depression that may be used effectively in place of pharmaceutical prescription medications.

Natural Alternatives for Lexapro Include:

  • St John’s Wort16
  • Omega-3 fatty acids16
  • Amino acids15
  • Vitamin B632
  • Tryptophan29
  • 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan)31
  • SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine)16
  • Valerian30

*Studies done (Kofler et al.) show evidence that amino acids play an important role in treating and preventing depression.

acupuncture lexapro alternativeAcupuncture is another commonly used — and considered effective — alternative for depression.4 Medical acupuncture relieves pain, physically17 and emotionally.18 A weekly acupuncture treatment could be helpful to relieve stress, tension, and depression. Acupuncture and acupressure use direct pressure points that are believed to tap into the inner workings of your body. The acupuncturist uses the outside surface of the body to heal deep within. Massage therapy is a complementary alternative worth trying; where many people get a weekly massage to reduce stress, tension, and depression.19 Meditation and yoga are two healing therapies that can be practiced at home and meditation can be practiced anywhere, anytime and these Lexapro alternatives can provide relief for depression and other symptoms.20,21 Antidepressants do not cure depression, they manage the symptoms.22 We at Alternative to Meds believe that holistic and psychotherapeutic interventions have the potential to get more at what is causing the symptoms and alleviating those factors, which is likely why the alternative methods discussed here have efficacy. Counseling and other alternatives to Lexapro can allow constant growth and progress towards the desired level of mental health until it is reached.

Uncovering the Causes of Depression

uncovering depression causesIndividuals are often given Lexapro and other antidepressants prior to any investigation into why they are suffering from depression.6 For example, is the individual really only low on serotonin,23, and were any other factors contributing to depression checked? What about looking for environmental neurotoxins that destroy energy metabolism? 5 What about food allergies in which internal swelling causes a slow metabolism? 24 Were these tested? Low thyroid can also be a factor.25 And so on. Even in the common instance of an individual not ever being low-serotonin in the first place, the medication itself can cause downregulation to develop.26 The SSRI meds block the reuptake of serotonin, and serotonin is supposed for reuptake to be used again by the nerve cell. When serotonin is forced into the synapse it can cause receptors like the presynaptic 5-HT1a serotonergic receptors and the postsynaptic 5-HT2 serotonergic receptors to become less sensitive to the effects of serotonin.26

Integrative Lexapro Alternatives Approach

integrative treatmentWhen a person stops taking the drug they may encounter Lexapro withdrawal and may suffer symptoms of anxiousness, sleeplessness, brain zaps, overstimulation, or even Tourette’s-like and OCD symptoms.28 This may occur because the body could be trying to readapt to neuroplasticity that may have occurred in response to the drug.27 Treatment at Alternative to Meds Center aims to discover any medical reasons why an individual may be depressed. Our rehab program also includes lab testing, stabilization of neurochemistry through use of natural substances, use of supplements that actually help create serotonin,29 careful Lexapro tapering and withdrawal techniques, targeted nutritional treatments such as amino therapy, yoga, massage, peer support, personal training, elimination of environmentally accumulated toxins, and many other therapies for combating depression. We invite you to give us a call and talk, so you can get an understanding of the resources for Lexapro alternatives that are the backbone of our programs for natural mental health.


1. Dinsmore, Reuben BScH, ND, “The Top 5 Medications You Shouldn’t Take Without Trying a Natural Alternative First,” British Columbia Naturopathic Association [Internet] 2016 Jul [cited 2020 Dec 28]

2. Harvard Publishing, Harvard School of Medicine, “What Causes Depression?” [Internet] 2009 Jun, updated 2019 Jun [cited 2020 Dec 28]

3. Kofler et al., “A reduced concentration of brain interstitial amino acids is associated with depression in subarachnoid hemmorhage patients.” Sci Rep 9, 2811 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-39569-5 [cited 2020 Dec 28]

4. Sniezek, D. P., & Siddiqui, I. J. (2013). Acupuncture for Treating Anxiety and Depression in Women: A Clinical Systematic Review. Medical acupuncture, 25(3), 164–172. https://doi.org/10.1089/acu.2012.0900 [cited 2020 Dec 28]

5. Bakke MJ, Horsberg TE. “Effects of algal-produced neurotoxins on metabolic activity in telencephalon, optic tectum and cerebellum of Atlantic salmon.” (Salmo salar). Aquat Toxicol. 2007 Nov 30;85(2):96-103. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2007.08.003. Epub 2007 Aug 14. PMID: 17870190.[cited 2020 Dec 28]

6. NHS Health Letter, “Clinical depression – Causes – NHS.” National Health Services UK [2019 Dec 10] [cited 2020 Dec 28]

7. When depression starts in the neck Harvard Mental Health Letter Updated: 2019 Jun 5, Published: 2011 Jul [cited 2020 Dec 28]

8. Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine? Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2010 Jun; 31(6): 385–393. Sue Penckofer, PhD, RN, Joanne Kouba, PhD, RD, Mary Byrn, BSN, RN, and Carol Estwing Ferrans, PhD, RN, FAAN [cited 2020 Dec 28]

9. Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses Indian J Psychiatry. 2008 Apr-Jun; 50(2): 77–82. T. S. Sathyanarayana Rao, M. R. Asha, B. N. Ramesh, and K. S. Jagannatha Rao [cited 2020 Dec 28]

10. Lexapro (escitalopram oxalate) FDA Drug Label [cited 2020 Dec 28

11.The drugs don’t work? antidepressants and the current and future pharmacological management of depression Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2012 Oct; 2(5): 179–188. Elizabeth Penn corresponding author and Derek K. Tracy [cited 2020 Dec 28]

12. A Guide to Common Antidepressant Side Effects Healthline Written by Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN (Ice) on 2018 Dec 4 [cited 2020 Dec 28

13. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Mood Disorders: Efficacy, Moderators and Mediators Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2010 Sep; 33(3): 537–555. Ellen Driessen, M.Sc. and Steven D. Hollon, Ph.D. [cited 2020 Dec 28]

14. Psychodynamic treatment of depression Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2012 Mar;35(1):111-29. Patrick Luyten, Sidney Blatt [cited 2020 Dec 28]

15. Kofler, M., Schiefecker, A.J., Gaasch, M. et al. A reduced concentration of brain interstitial amino acids is associated with depression in subarachnoid hemorrhage patients. Sci Rep 9, 2811 (2019). [cited 2020 Dec 28]

16. Update and Critique of Natural Remedies as Antidepressant Treatments Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 Dec 1. Published in final edited form as: Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2009 Dec; 36(4): 789–807. David Mischoulon, MD, PhD [cited 2020 Dec 28]

17. The Immediate Analgesic Effect of Acupuncture for Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017; 2017: 3837194. Published online 2017 Oct 25. doi: 10.1155/2017/3837194 Anfeng Xiang, Ke Cheng, Xueyong Shen, Ping Xu, and Sheng Liu [cited 2020 Dec 28]

18. Is acupuncture beneficial in depression: A meta-analysis of 8 randomized controlled trials? Journal of Affective Disorders Volume 111, Issues 2–3, 2008 Dec, Pages 125-134 Hao Wang, Hong Qi, Bai-song Wang, Yong-yao Cui, Liang Zhu, Zheng-xing Rong, Hong-zhuan Chen [cited 2020 Dec 28]

19. Treatment effects of massage therapy in depressed people: a meta-analysis J Clin Psychiatry 2010 Jul;71(7):894-901. Epub 2010 Mar 23. Wen-Hsuan Hou, Pai-Tsung Chiang, Tun-Yen Hsu, Su-Ying Chiu, Yung-Chieh Yen [cited 2020 Dec 28]

20. When science meets mindfulness The Harvard Gazette By Alvin Powell Harvard Staff Writer DATE 2018 Apr 9 [cited 2020 Dec 28]

21. The Efficacy of Yoga as a Form of Treatment for Depression J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Oct; 22(4): 1017–1028.Published online 2017 Jun 30, Ledetra Bridges, LMSW and Manoj Sharma, MBBS, MCHES, PhD [cited 2020 Dec 28]

22. Antidepressants: Selecting one that’s right for you MAYO Clinic Website 2019 Dec 31 [cited 2020 Dec 28]

23. What has serotonin to do with depression? World Psychiatry. 2015 Jun; 14(2): 158–160. Published online 2015 Jun 4. Philip J Cowen and Michael Browning [cited 2020 Dec 28]

24. Is There a Connection Between Food Allergies and Mental Health? Integrative Psychiatry 2012 Sep 6 [cited 2020 Dec 28]

25. When depression starts in the neck Harvard Mental Health Letter Updated: June 5, 2019Published: July, 2011 [cited 2020 Dec 28]

26. How antidepressant drugs act: A primer on neuroplasticity as the eventual mediator of antidepressant efficacy Indian J Psychiatry. 2010 Oct-Dec; 52(4): 378–386. Chittaranjan Andrade and N. Sanjay Kumar Rao [cited 2020 Dec 28]

27. Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome,Am Fam Physician. 2006 Aug 1;74(3):449-456. [cited 2020 Dec 28]

28. Antidepressant Discontinuation Reactions . 1998 Apr 11; 316(7138): 1105–1106. [cited 2020 Dec 28]

29. The Effects of Dietary Tryptophan on Affective Disorders Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 2015 Apr; 29(2): 102–107. Published online 2014 Dec 9. Glenda Lindseth, Brian Helland, and Julie Caspers [cited 2020 Dec 28]

30. Sateia MJ, Buysse DJ, Krystal AD, Neubauer DN, Heald JL. “Clinical Practice Guideline for the Pharmacologic Treatment of Chronic Insomnia in Adults:” An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Clinical Practice Guideline. J Clin Sleep Med. 2017 Feb 15;13(2):307-349. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.6470. PMID: 27998379; PMCID: PMC5263087.[cited 2020 Dec 28]

31. Sharma A, Castellani RJ, Smith MA, Muresanu DF, Dey PK, Sharma HS. “5-Hydroxytryptophan: A precursor of serotonin influences regional blood-brain barrier breakdown, cerebral blood flow, brain edema formation, and neuropathology.” Int Rev Neurobiol. 2019;146:1-44. doi: 10.1016/bs.irn.2019.06.005. Epub 2019 Jul 18. PMID: 31349924.[cited 2020 Dec 28]

32. Hvas AM, Juul S, Bech P, Nexø E. “Vitamin B6 level is associated with symptoms of depression.” Psychother Psychosom. 2004 Nov-Dec;73(6):340-3. doi: 10.1159/000080386. PMID: 15479988.[cited 2020 Dec 28]



This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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