Can herbs boost your mood and lift depression?


Even though herbs have been used for centuries to help boost mood, lift depression, and contribute to overall happiness, approximately one in six Americans take some sort of anti-depressant medication.  While these medications are enormously beneficial, they also come with side effects, that herbs generally do not cause. 

Serious psychological issues require proper diagnosis and treatment, and no one should stop taking a prescribed medication without guidance, but when you are consulting with your doctor about depression, anxiety and mood issues, consider reaching out to an herbalist, too.  Relief just might be a cup of tea away.

1. Turmeric, Curcuma longa

Research shows that turmeric is a powerful weapon against depression and anxiety.

Curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, influences many factors involved in anxiety and depression. Curcumin can help balance serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and noradrenaline. It can enhance the production of glutathione, an essential antioxidant for brain health. It also appears to enhance the microbiome; which studies show is directly linked to anxiety and depression.

In fact, one randomized controlled trial study found that 1,000 mg of curcumin alone was as effective as 20 mg Prozac.

2. Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis

Best known for its anti-anxiety and uplifting properties, lemon balm has been shown to improve mood, relieve anxiety, help with insomnia, enhance cognitive function, improve memory and help with hyperactivity.

As little as one dose has been shown to improve mental performance and decrease anxiety in just an hour.  Studies also find it relieves agitation in people with dementia and helps children with ADHD.

People who respond to stress with anger, or wakefulness also find that lemon balm improves their mood and allows for a more restful night’s sleep. 

3. Holy Basil, Ocimum sanctum

Holy basil calms and energizes by balancing cortisol and blood sugar levels and is used to relieve anxiety and grief.  By enhancing cerebral circulation, it also can help improve memory and alleviate “brain fog”. 

In a clinical study of patients with generalized anxiety disorder, holy basil extract taken twice a day significantly decreased anxiety and the stress and depression that accompany it.

On an emotional level, holy basil helps us feel less hopeless.  Patients with situational depression who report feeling “stuck”;  or who have a hard time moving forward through a difficult situation benefit from holy basil.

4. Motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca

It is often said that motherwort is for “mothers and people who need a little mothering” because it is grounding and helps diffuse emotional rampages and panic attacks. Its Latin name translates to “lion hearted” because it can bring strength during emotional rollercoasters.

Traditionally used as a female tonic to help with premenstrual, menstrual and menopausal issues, motherwort’s relaxing action also is helpful for people feeling overwhelmed, stressed, frazzled, emotional, and anxious. 

For heart palpitations, racing heart or the onset of a panic attack take one to two droppers for immediate relief.  A more consistent regimen will help with regular symptoms.

5. Fresh Milky Oat, Avena sativa

Fresh milky oat seed is like nourishment for the nervous system, helping to relax, without sedating.  It helps calm nerves and relieves emotional instability. 

Chronically upset people and those who are oversensitive, cry easily, are hyperactive when stressed, have emotional outbursts, or have trouble dealing with small issues find that fresh milky oat provides relief and restores a sense of peace.

It also is used to help with premenstrual syndrome, menopausal anxiety, mood swings, stress, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity.

Fresh milky oat also is effective for people who are withdrawing from cigarettes, coffee, or amphetamines (methamphetamine, ecstasy). 

This is a slow acting herb that takes time to build and take effect. 

6. Mimosa bark, Albizia julibrissin

The Chinese call the mimosa  “The Tree of Happiness”, for its ability to almost instantly relieve anxiety, stress and depression by lifting and calming mood.  It is fast acting, alleviating symptoms without sedating and is helpful for people suffering from insomnia, grief, and emotional tension.  It has been used for centuries to treat broken hearts, grief and deep sadness.

While few studies have been conducted, mimosa bark is thought to enhance all aspects of neurotransmitter secretion and regulation as well as stimulate digestive and liver function.  

Pulling it all Together

No two situations are exactly alike. To incorporate healing herbs into your health care regimen, consult with an herbalist for personalized recommendations and dosages.

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