The blues happen to the best of us. Recently, for no particular reason, I found myself spiraling into feelings of isolation and unworthiness. I tried to meditate it away, but the sadness was overwhelming. I knew this wasn’t serious enough to need anti-depressants, but I needed a boost. My energy was so low that I could barely fake a smile, so I looked into herbal helpers to regain mental clarity and lift my energy to get over the hump and back to my cheery baseline.
Lavender: Used to soothe the nervous system, a whiff of lavender can relieve depression, headaches, insomnia and stress. Keep a lavender sachet under your pillow, and a spritzer around the house to lift your spirits as needed.
Ylang-Ylang: This potent flowery scent is used to treat depression and anxiety. Blend a few drops into your favorite body lotion, or just keep a small bottle around to smell throughout the day.
Rose: As they say, stop and smell the roses. The aromatherapeutic qualities of rose oil will enhance your mood and relieve mental fatigue. Plus the aphrodisiac qualities can give you a nice boost, since much of our energy (Chi or Prana) is based in our sexual centers.
St. John’s Wort: A well-known mood enhancer, it can be taken as a tea or a tincture and has been proven to relieve sadness and melancholy. St. John’s Wort can help you sleep better too, which dramatically affects mood. St. John’s Wort is not without some side effects, but it’s safe for most people. Taking it with SAMe (see below) can improve effectiveness as it’s a synergistic herb.
Milk Thistle: Taken as a tea or in capsules, milk thistle has long been used as a remedy for depression. Bonus quality: it’s great for cleansing the liver, and toxins in your body can definitely affect your mood. Especially important if you drink alcohol. (Alcohol is not only hard on the liver, it can interfere with dopamine production and regulation.)
Gingko Biloba: Although gingko is not traditionally thought of as a remedy for depression, it is commonly used to bring about mental energy and clarity. When you find yourself wrapped up in a mental fog, this stuff can help you see out of it.
Valerian: If you’ve got insomnia and anxiety, valerian’s sedative qualities can help. It’s absolutely necessary to sleep well if you want to maintain a better mood. I enjoy it as a tea, but some are put off by its potent scent.
Rhodiola Rosea: Traditionally used in Siberia to help deal with the harsh life and climate, rhodiola may be helpful to you too. This herb increases mental sharpness and reduces physical and mental fatigue, while reducing depression and anxiety.
SAMe: Short for S-adenosylmethionine, SAMe is not really an herb, but a naturally occurring molecule in all living things. As a supplement, it’s been well-proven to lift the mood and even create mildly euphoric feelings. It’s also used as a treatment for arthritis. SAMe has no side effects, even at high doses, and has a large clinical body of evidence supporting its use as a depression treatment. It’s actually been used as a "natural Prozac" for decades around the world, but it’s just now catching on in America. (You can boost SAMe naturally, as well, by consuming protein-rich foods. Take care to also get plenty of B vitamins, because without them SAMe can convert to homocysteine, which is toxic and linked to both heart disease and depression.)
Remember, beating the blues requires more than consuming pills or herbs; you may need to make some general lifestyle changes as well. Exercise, rest, nutrition, a supportive group of friends and family, and attitude play a big part. And although herbs are generally safer than pharmaceuticals, it’s always recommended that you do more research, especially if you are pregnant or already taking other medicines.