Herbs to Support Mental Health

Hint: many of these can be wild foraged or easily found at your local health food store or apothecary!


Dandelion


Our hope is to make natural medicine feasible to all. One of the greatest things about wild foraging is that wild foods have the highest nutrient content for the lowest price… free! Dandelion flowers actually work to support a positive mood and happiness in people. They are bright yellow like the sunshine! They are the only part of the dandelion that you can’t preserve well by drying.

We recommend preserving them in honey. The local, raw honey works to extract the medicinal constituents from the flower, turns the honey bright yellow, and tastes delicious when added to honey or eaten by itself. The honey makes the flowers and whole mixture shelf stable and a medicine that can be made in the spring to prepare for a cold winter without as much access to wild foods in nature.


Valerian


Valerian is one of our favorite herbs for the kind of anxiety that comes on quickly (and rather intensely) and sits in the lungs. It can feel like anger or heat sitting below your skin. The kind of worry that makes you feel slightly out of body. We like alcohol based valerian tincture because we think it would be best to quickly take the body out of a fight or flight response and into a calmer state where more rational thinking occurs.


Valerian can be very helpful for someone who’s worries keep them from falling asleep or staying asleep at night. Although the root doesn’t necessarily help to promote sleep, it does help to reduce anxiety that keeps someone from having a successful night's sleep.


Hops


According to Grow Forage Cook Ferment, ”the most common ways to take hops medicinally is as a tea, tincture, extract, or in capsules. For aromatherapy you can try hops essential oil.The most common ways to take hops medicinally is as a tea, tincture, extract, or in capsules. For aromatherapy you can try hops essential oil.


Probably the best medicinal use for hops is as a sleep aid. It is a relaxing sedative herb and is particularly effective when combined with valerian. Hop tea, tincture, or capsules can be taken before bed to help with sleep. You can also make a sachet using dried hops and other calming herbs like lavender and chamomile to hang by your bedside. You can even make an herb pillow using hops flowers to help you sleep. If you don’t want to make it yourself you can buy a hops pillow here. Beyond helping with sleep, hops are also very beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety. According to this study on the effectiveness of hops for anxiety and stress. “In otherwise healthy young adults reporting at least mild depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms, daily supplementation with a hops dry extract can significantly improve all these symptoms over a 4-week period.”


Chamomile


Many of you have probably had chamomile tea, but for medicinal effects you might be drinking it incorrectly. According to Karetnick, in order for chamomile tea to be medicinal it must be made very strong to the point where it is bitter. This means using twice as much tea whether it's loose leaf or you use two tea bags. With herbals, our primary focus is not for it to taste good, but for you to feel better. Aside from making people sleepy, chamomile has many other mental health benefits.

Chamomile contains apigenin, a flavonoid that attaches to the GABA receptors in the brain. Flavonoids are high in antioxidants and give plants their color. GABA receptors are the same receptors that prescription anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines) are made to target. Like these drugs, chamomile can be sedative.


Additionally, it’s possible that chamomile can help with anxiety. The herb is able to do this by reducing blood pressure, calming muscles and allowing someone to sleep which allows them to experience less insomnia and irritability which often go together.


Lavender


For temporary anxiety, mild social anxiety and a flower induced ‘deep breath’ try a lavender oil. We like buying a rollerball that’s part lavender oil and part lavender essential oil. We also buy lavender oil in water that’s like a hydrosol. Simply take a whiff of the oil, put some on your wrists, or spray the aerosol on your face to take away mild anxiety. This is something really nice to do before meeting up with friends.


One of our clients loves lavender products from Joyful Garden Lavender Farm in La Jara, New Mexico. She explains that it smells the most fresh and clean than any lavender she’s gotten at the health food store. She always has some on hand for times when she needs a mental reset and to be in the present moment.


Lemon Balm, a teaching herb


Lemon balm loves to lift spirits. For some people it can make them sleepy, wake them up, keep them focused or pull them out of a depressive ‘slump.’ For some people it can do all of these things or only one or two of them. What it teaches us is that we must understand our own bodies and in a place where we’re able to recognize how something we are putting into it (in this case, an herb) affects us. Every person had their own personalized and unique psychological, emotional, spiritual makeup.

At Nutritest we are able to honor this notion through Nutrition Response Testing. Through a form of applied kinesiology, we can test individual organs in your body which let Abigail, our Nutrition Response Test practitioner know exactly what remedies you need to feel your best self. The testing results can also let us know which parts of the body should be healed first to best help you out as a whole. Too often as a society we are just focused on a quick fix but we recognize that healing starts from within and is a journey that we are here to help you on!


St John’s Wort


St John’s Wort can be a wonderful herb to seek to relieve mental health issues. It’s been traditionally as a medicine to balance health through supporting the nervous system. According to @theherbalacademy, it’s been, “used by herbalists to help ease anxiety, tension, neuralgias, seasonal affective disorder, and indeed, mild to moderate depression.” Additionally, the herb is antiviral and has been used when there is a virus in the nerves. It’s antispasmodic properties help the plant to relax muscle spasms. It also helps to soothe pain associated with menstrual cramps and when “muscles are sore from over-exertion easing shoulder, neck, and back pain,” according to The Herbal Academy.


**Please extremely mindful of pharmaceutical drug interactions if taking SJW**


If you are taking pharmaceutical drugs St. John’s Wort may have a negative interaction. You should stay away from the herb if you are taking birth control (of any kind), protease inhibitors (drugs to treat HIV infection), cyclosporine (which prevents the rejection of transplanted tissue) and some medications for heart disease. The reason is that St. John’s Wort can make these drugs either ineffective, or not work the way they are supposed to. SJW would also not be mixed with SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) because this can cause serotonin syndrome which is characterized by a racing heart, sweating, high fever and high blood pressure according to Harvard Health.



Sources:


https://www.growforagecookferment.com/medicinal-benefits-of-hops/


https://theherbalacademy.com/st-johns-wort-not-just-depression/


https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/some-natural-therapies-may-be-safe-effective-for-mental-health-201106202878


https://www.insider.com/chamomile-tea-benefits


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