Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Herbs have been a treatment for a variety of mental health-related subjects for a very long time. Even dating back to mid-evil times! St. John’s Wort for example has documentation dating back hundreds of years in Germany. According to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the rate of antidepressant use in this country among teens and adults (people ages 12 and older) increased by almost 400% between 1988–1994 and 2005–2008. The federal government’s health statisticians figure that about one in every 10 Americans takes an antidepressant. And by their reckoning, antidepressants were the third most common prescription medication taken by Americans in 2005–2008, the latest period during which the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) collected data on prescription drug use. So what can herbs do to help these numbers? Quite a bit actually! Read on below. If you’re interested in living a healthier lifestyle through the usage of herbs schedule an herbal consultation today to get started!
1. St. John’s Wort Probably the best-known herb used to treat both anxiety and depression is St. John’s Wort. It is used first-line in Germany for mild to moderate depression and is well-established as an effective antidepressant—equivalent in effectiveness to prescription antidepressants—with fewer side effects. Like the SSRIs, St. John’s Wort also has an anti-anxiety effect. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), St. John’s Wort may help milder forms of depression, although its effects haven’t been conclusively proven either way. A 2008 review of 29 studies on St. John’s wort found that the plant was just as effective for treating mild to moderate depression as antidepressants, yet resulted in fewer side effects. On the other hand, the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health sponsored two separate studies that found it wasn’t better than a placebo for treating depression. I want to emphasize that St. John’s Wort decreases the potency of birth control pills. It can also decrease the potency of hormone-replacement therapy. It’s important to note that St. John’s wort is known for interacting with lots of medications. This is especially true for blood thinners, birth control pills, and chemotherapy medications. Always check with your doctor before taking this herb. 2. SAM-e SAM-e is short for S-adenosylmethionine. This supplement is designed to act as a synthetic form of the body’s natural mood-boosting chemicals. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAM-e is regarded as a supplement in the United States — the FDA doesn’t consider it a medication. SAMe isn’t approved by the FDA to treat depression in the U.S., but it’s used in Europe as a prescription drug to treat depression. It is not recommended that you take SAM-e along with antidepressants. You should also be aware that SAM-e can cause health effects such as upset stomach and constipation if you take too much.
3. Lavender oil Lavender oil has been used as an inhalant—in sachets, sprays, oils, and lotions—for centuries. The smell induces calm and sleep. Lavender oil is now available in an oral form, collected into microscopic bubbles, and placed in a capsule that allows it to cross the intestinal barrier. Once it does, it induces calm and reduces anxiety. It is marketed as Lavela. It’s not addictive or dangerous. Lavender is an anxiety treatment that doesn’t make you tired. It can be used as needed—when anxiety arises, or regularly, depending on your needs.
4. Ginkgo Biloba Ginkgo extract is widely used in Europe where it’s available by prescription or as an approved over-the-counter medication. In one year alone, West German doctors wrote 5.24 million prescriptions for ginkgo leaf extract. Here in the US, ginkgo is sold as a nutritional supplement, usually as a standardized Ginkgo biloba extract made from dried ginkgo leaves. Standardized extracts are currently used for treating a wide range of conditions including memory loss, concentration problems, mental confusion, depression, anxiety, dizziness, tinnitus, and headache. Ginkgo is believed to work by increasing blood supply, reducing blood viscosity, boosting neurotransmitters, and reducing harmful free radicals. It can help to treat depression by increasing uptake of both serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters often low in those with depression. Ginkgo extract can also reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress by lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Ginkgo leaves contain long-chain alkylphenols which are highly allergenic. These are similar to the irritating compounds found in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. If you have a known allergy to any of these plants, it’s best to avoid taking ginkgo. A typical ginkgo dose is 40 mg three times a day for a total of 120 mg. It’s usually advised to start at a low dose and take with meals to avoid gastrointestinal distress. Doses of up to 240 mg per day are often recommended for therapeutic purposes. Those are just a few of the amazing herbs that can help aid a variety of mental health situations. While they may help it’s always recommended to consult a professional fist and foremost before proceeding. If you want to harness the power of herbs to empower your life schedule an herbal consultation today to get started!