Exercise, getting more sleep, and meditation are all known to help zap stress and boost your mood, but there’s another trick that can have you feeling positive: Herbs. Simply adding some of these natural ingredients to your next salad or cup of tea could help improve your state of mind.
Certified holistic nutritionist Michelle Pellizzon agrees that herbs are powerful when taken regularly—particularly if they’re adaptogens, a type of substance uniquely designed to help the body handle all types of stress. “Any adaptogen you pick and take regularly is going to help with your anxiety, stress, and mood. The key is to take them daily in small doses over an extended period of time.” Of course, any symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues should be urgently treated by your doctor—but simply incorporating these natural remedies into your diet could help to naturally alleviate stress, improve the quality of your sleep, and even help you to feel more focused and productive.
Keep scrolling for more expert-backed herbs that can help to help lift your mood.
You might know Rhodiola by its other names; arctic or golden root. This herb is an adaptogen, which means it’s an amazing stress-buster. “These magical little guys bring your body back to its ideal state of homeostasis. For example, if you’re stressed, adaptogens can curb your cortisol levels and help you chill out. But if you feel lethargic, taking the same adaptogen can make you feel energized. Again, they help your body ‘adapt’ to whatever is happening in your life,” Pellizzon explained. Basically, if you’re feeling particularly strung-out or exhausted right now, this ingredient can help you handle life.
St John’s Wort
Dubbed “the sunshine herb,” by holistic health gurus, St John’s Wort is often used to combat symptoms of depression. And while it’s important to note that the supporting science isn’t exactly robust, many holistic experts see the herb making a positive impact on their clients’ lives. St John’s Wort works by suppressing the breakdown of serotonin and consequently improves mood. It’s also composed of other active ingredients that can help you deal with anxiety.
Before you order St John’s Wort supplements, it’s important to know that this herb doesn’t play well with some other medications, including antidepressants. If you are taking any medication, be sure to speak to your doctor before adding herbs like St John’s Wort to your daily routine.
Pellizzon takes mucuna pruriens herself, and swears by it. “Mucuna pruriens actually contains l-dopa, a precursor to dopamine production in the brain. I find that when I take it, I’m more positive and in a better mood. It’s like a happy pill!” She added that the herb is also excellent for brain function and reducing stress.
Medicinal herbalist, Daniela Turley, says holy basil supports the nervous system, which in turn can help you approach stressful situations with more calm. “This adaptogenic herb has also been shown to reduce blood sugar and lipids and has been shown to be hepatoprotective (protects the liver),” Turley told Studio Pilates. Of course, it needs to be taken regularly to get the full effects.
In natural medicine, licorice is used for adrenal support, which can help manage stress. Turley suggests drinking tea with licorice root, explaining that it has “an amazing super-sweet taste that is additionally great for keeping sugar cravings at bay. It’s a perfect afternoon-pick me up or after-dinner beverage.” Either use tea bags or a infuse a knob of liquorice root in hot water.
Ginseng is an ancient cool climate herb found mainly in North America and Eastern Asia. It’s been used in Chinese traditional medicine for centuries and is a well-known adaptogen. Lee Holmes, blogger and holistic nutritionist, told us more: “This wonder herb contains an active component called ginsenoside, which has been proven to hold anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. Research has demonstrated that it may improve the immune and psychological function when the body is overrun with infectious foreign bacteria by increasing the amount of antibodies produced.” So, get your hands on some ginseng tea, asap.
When life gives you lemons, take lemon balm. Holistic insiders consider this member of the mint family to be rejuvenating, and it was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce mood-killers such as stress, poor appetite, and insomnia. Several studies back up this belief. Researchers found that lemon balm, partnered with other calming herbs such as valerian, hops, and chamomile, can help treat anxiety and promote sleep.