I pop herbal supplements like Tic-Tacs, such is my belief in the power of vitex, echinacea, licorice, ginseng, and more natural tonics to do everything from balance hormone levels to support immune function. One of the reasons I’m such an advocate is Daniela Turley, a New York-based medicinal herbalist who has been dishing advice – and herbs – my way for almost a year. With her advice, I’ve managed to clear-up my skin, noticeably reduce the symptoms of PMS, and went from catching almost every virus traveling going to magically surviving almost seven months without much more than a sniffle. Turley really knows her stuff.
There’s another area that she swears can be addressed naturally, and that’s your mood. Of course, on-going symptoms of depression, anxiety, and mental health issues should be urgently treated by your doctor, however if you’re simply lacking focus, feeling fatigued, or stuck in a bad mood, these natural remedies could be the answer.
St John’s Wort
Some call it the “sunshine herb,” because for years St John’s Wort has been used to treat a medley of different health purposes, but primarily depression. The supporting evidence isn’t exactly definitive here, however many experts, including Turley, agree that the herb can help your mood by boosting serotonin levels.
“The way this works is by suppressing the breakdown of this happy hormone, serotonin. St John’s Wort also has other active ingredients that help it reduce anxiety,” she explained.
Regardless of its efficacy, this might not be the herb for you if you’re taking other medication already as it also “speeds up the liver’s removal of certain meds like blood thinners” and, if taken with certain antidepressants, can even lead to a potentially life-threatening increase of serotonin. So, see your health care pro before adding any of this herb to your morning smoothie.
Also known as arctic or golden root, rhodiola is an adaptogen, which means that when you’re crazy-stressed, this herb can help you deal. Rhodiola thrives under harsh desert conditions, which it’s able to survive due to a particular chemical compound. When eaten, the herb also helps to regulate your immune, physiological, and neurological responses to stress – and not just the environmental kind that comes with living in a desert.
“This herb boosts levels of certain neurotransmitters including serotonin and cyclic ATP,” Turley explained, referring to a messenger important to many of your body’s biological processes. For that reason it has application for the treatment of low mood in combination with “low focus, drive, and energy.” Due to its ability to energize your body, rhodiola isn’t recommended for people who suffer from anxiety.
If concentration is your biggest issue at the moment, try avena sativa, also dubbed oat straw and wild-green oat. Perhaps you’ve heard this herb is used most commonly to treat men with hormonal issues, but don’t be fooled – oat straw is commonly taken by women for a host of reasons. Specifically, studies have shown it can help people focus and improve cognitive function, and natural health insiders also use it traditionally to alleviate stress by “strengthening the nervous system,” Turley said.
Lemon balm (aka Melissa officinalis) has been used for centuries as a mood-lifting and calming herb. Several studies show that when combined with other calming herbs like valerian, hops, and chamomile, lemon balm helps reduce anxiety and promote sleep. It recently has been considered in the field of Alzheimer’s research due to its ability to reduce anxiety while improving cognitive function.
Unlike some of the other herbs on this list, you shouldn’t taken Melissa in a pill. “Lemon balm is an aromatic herb with volatile components, so its benefit is seen with fresh herb tinctures rather than pills or teas,” Turley suggested.
To find out exactly how much you should be taking and whether these supplements are right for you (it’s different for everyone), chat to your herbalist, naturopath, or doctor.