By Adriana Ayales
Herbal remedies have been used for mood enhancement, depression, anxiety and for an overall boost for centuries around the globe. Recent history and western societies, in particular, have moved away from traditional herbs to prescription medications. What’s amazing is that Nature’s specialty is on herbs that make us feel plain and simple GOOD. There's a widespread amount of herbal powerhouses that have the chemical ability to elevate us, relax us, or set us in a blissful mood.
Long before pharmaceutical corporations starting making and marketing prescription anti-depressants in the 1940s, tribal cultures had already found countless solutions for mental health problems, growing right out of the ground. Humans have consumed plant-based medicinals like St. Johns Wort, Albizzia, and Mucuna Pruriens for depression symptoms for centuries.
Because of the obvious problems involved with denial and self-deception, "clinical depression remains the most under-diagnosed condition." A list of characteristic symptoms of depression outlined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) may be a veritable collection of vague symptoms that are frequently kept hidden under a guilt ridden cloak of denial. These include:
- Persistent sad or “empty mood”
- Loss of pleasure in ordinary activities, including sex
- Sleep disturbances (insomnia, early-morning wakening, or oversleeping)
- Eating disturbances (loss of appetite and weight, or weight gain)
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Excessive crying
- Chronic aches and pains that don’t respond to treatment
The key here is that while one or more of these symptoms are regularly a part of the normal “ups” and “downs” of daily life, a diagnosis of clinical depression must be based on the sum total of conditions, intensity, duration and frequency. The NIH recommends a diagnosis based on four or more of the symptoms of depression persisting for more than two weeks and seriously interfere with work or family life.
I wonder if this is why at least 25% of the population in the US is on psychiatric medications? What if a lot of these feelings are a result of 1. eating unhealthy and GMO foods, 2. toxic environments, 3. an impersonal life bombarded with technology, where we are all lacking a sense of community, 4. a lack of self nurturing, no TLC. Before we continue jumping into the possibilities, lets see how our plant friends can help.
Lets start out with our popular seratonin-rich friend,
St Johns Wort.
"Backed by extensive scientific research especially from Germany where some 3 million prescriptions for hypericum and almost 66 million doses of hypericum preparations are consumed annually, this ancient botanical, the favorite of herbalists of present and centuries past, is beginning to catch on in North America as a treatment for this all to common disorder as well as other forms of nervous anxiety, and sleep disorders."
"To date, there have been numerous case reports and drug monitoring studies with more than 5000 patients on the efficacy and safety of standardized St Johns Wort preparations. Twenty three controlled double-blind studies have been conducted on more than 1757 patients. Sixteen of these compared hypericum with placebo (sugar-pills) and 9 with standard reference treatments including Imipramine-2, Amitryptilin-2, Maprotiline-1, Desipramine-1, Diazepam-2 and Light therapy. In most of these studies, both depressive symptoms (depressed mood, anxiety, loss of interest, feelings of low worth, decreased activity) together with secondary symptoms (sleep disturbance, lack of concentration, bodily complaints such as fatigue) showed a general clinical improvement ranging from 50 to 80% when compared to that of low to medium dose treatment with “classic” synthetic antidepressants."
"In another German study on 3,250 patients (76% women and 24% men), recorded by 663 private practitioners, the proportion of improvement in depressive and secondary physical symptoms (ranging from fatigue, cardiac, digestive and sleep disorders, to generalized pains) is similar to the previous studies with about 80% of all patients feeling better and only 15% unchanged or worse when asked an overall judgment. In these studies hypericum extracts were significantly superior to placebo and similarly effective as standard antidepressants (about 80%) with significantly fewer side effects than standard antidepressant drugs."
"Antidepressants are generally among the safest of prescription medications, the most common side effects however, include decreased sexual desire or function, dry mouth, nausea, tiredness, restlessness, and negative interactions with alcohol or other drugs. Of all of these, the most experientially disturbing is the lessening of sexual desire. For those seeking relief from their depression without becoming an unwillingly celibate, St. John’s Wort offers a pleasurable and welcome natural alternative. Its not hard to understand why in Germany, a highly developed country that requires its medically trained doctors to study and practice herbal medicine as phytotherapy, hypericum is being used as the treatment of choice for more than 50% of depression cases compared to only 2% who are given Prozac?"
"With its long revered status as one of the most benign yet highly effective of all botanicals, it would be a great loss if the public were to recognize St. John’s Wort only as an antidepressant. As an anti-inflammatory, the aromatic polycycline compounds hypericin or pseudohypericin derived from St. John’s Wort have been found to markedly suppress the spread of murine retrovirus both in vivo and in vitro possibly making it of therapeutic value for the treatment of HIV and AIDS as well as other viral diseases."
"If one were to believe in a world where divine providence has doggedly placed at our feet a common wayside herb to assuage our every affliction, St. John’s Wort would be among the elect handful. We identify St. John’s Wort as a short, yellow-flowering herb of the Hypericaceae family mentioned and used by Hippocrates some 2500 years ago. Throughout history, it has had an honored use both externally and internally for the relief of cuts, burns, neuralgia and depression. Just as it is effective for depression, a disorder of the central nervous system, St. John’s Wort is specifically indicated for all nerve related injuries and diseases."
Balacing your mood with Mucuna.
Taking Mucuna Pruriens for depression is a natural solution that may help to restore balance to your mood.This all natural plant extract may be able to do what prescription anti-depressants like Prozac and Wellbutrin do for emotional stability and mood enhancement, but without the harsh chemical side effects. By releasing bioavailable L-Dopa into the bloodstream, taking Mucuna for depression boosts overall levels of dopamine, serotonin, and other vital hormones. It can also improve sexual health and support improved energy levels (this one is my one of my personal favorites to add into aphrodisiac drinks to elevate the spirits!) Now, scientists have learned why extracts of the plant have such incredible medicinal value – it is loaded with L-Dopa, the amino acid found in our bodies which is a pre-cursor to dopamine, and a host of other neurochemicals such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
The Tree of Eternal Happiness, Albizzia.
“The flowers and bark of the mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) are among the most valued of Chinese botanicals for relieving anxiety, stress and depression. Recently some Chinese herbalists and acupuncturists have even called it ‘herbal Prozac. Its use was first documented in the Shen Nong Ben Cao (Divine Husbandman’s Classic of the Materia Medica) during the 2nd century for its mood supportive and calming properties as well as a tonic. , ,  ,) Chinese people traditionally recommend its use for anyone who is suffering from grief as a result of a severe loss or trauma.” Michael Tierra
“Both the bark and the flowers of albizia are used as a calming sedative in Oriental traditional medicine. Categorized in the Chinese Materia Medica as a calming spirit herb, the bark is thought to ‘anchor’ the spirit, while the flowers lighten it. The flowers have also been used for the treatment of insomnia, amnesia, sore throat, and confusion in Oriental traditional medicine (Kang, et al) as well as depression, melancholy and anxiety.” Michael Tierra
The strength of a stallion, Ashwagandha.
“Taken daily, ashwagandha can significantly lower cortisol levels, stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms. It's better than standard anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs as it stabilizes mood, relieves insomnia, and revitalizes the body without any side effects or withdrawal symptoms. Moreover, it can manage weight and food cravings in chronic stress patients. Have 3–6 gm ashwagandha root powder daily for best results, but first consult with an Ayurvedic doctor.” 1
"Clinical studies on animals and humans have found that ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng, is an adaptogen – it makes the body adapt to stress. It is indispensable in treating various central nervous system (CNS) disorders, particularly epilepsy, stress, and neurodegenerative diseases.2 It has also been studied for its mood stabilizing effects, supporting hormone regulation, as well as preventing insomnia, and the blues." 2
“Ashwagandha can help you cope with stress. In a study on people suffering from chronic stress, it was found that ashwagandha roots could bring down the cortisol levels by 28% in just 2 months. It could improve the symptoms of stress, and in some cases, even prevented stress. 3
Considering the proliferation of antidepressant drugs throughout the Western world with their increasingly recognized adverse effects, it’s wonderful that nature has, in abundance, a safer and better alternative probably growing in close proximity to one’s doorstep.
Actually... Happiness can come in a bottle!
Our happiness tonic is a user friendly formula that can be added to virtually anything. It's extracted in vegetable glycerin, which provides a sweetness tone to it, as well as in cane spirits to extract the potency of certain herbs.