Herbal Antidepressants: For anxiety

  Herbal Antidepressants: For anxiety

Anxiety Herbs

There are a range of herbs that have been traditionally used to combat the effects of anxiety in various cultures. If you suffer from a nevous condition browse through these remedies from the world's herbal medicine traditions. Read our blog article on Herbal Anti-depressants here.



(Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha Benefits

Known as a powerful adaptogen, Ashwagandha has several different phytochemicals which work on the body simultaneously to combat anxiety and stress. Active components of this healing plant include "withanolides" - plant flavonoids that help to counter the negative effects of stress by lowering blood levels of the stress hormone "cortisol". Lowering cortisol in turn lowers stress, improves mood and decreases anxiety and depression. 

Good for... Anxiety, Energy

Avena sativa

(Avena sativa)
Avena sativa benefits

Avena Sativa has been used since the Middle Ages to support mental health, especially to combat anxiety and balance mood. Sicilic acid, arginine and triterpenoid saponins called avenocosides have been identified by modern science as the active compounds responsible for this herb's nootropic effects.

The German government has commissioned the use of Oat Straw as an effective remedy for anxiety and stress, it's soothing effect on the nervous system is thought to be due to the powerful B Complex vitamins it contains. A number of cognitive enhancement effects have also been observed such as an increase in attention span, improved mental performance and a reduction in anxiety.

Finally, Avena Sativa has been found to inhibit the production of "monoamine oxidase-B" (MAO-B), an enzyme which regulates the exact amount of dopamine we need in the brain. As we age MOA-B levels increase causing dopamine levels to fall. Research has shown that inhibition of this enzyme preserves brain function by protecting dopamine. Thus Avena Sativa can work as an anti-depressant, reduce anxiety and help with stress levels. 

Good for... Anxiety, Mood


(Bacopa monniera)
Brahmi Benefits

Brahmi is well known for reducing the stress hormone cortisol and for counteracting the effects of stress by regulating the hormones involved with the stress response. It can also decrease anxiety by improving the production of serotonin - the hormone that calms the mind. 

Native to India, Brahmi is an important ayurvedic herb that has been used for centuries as a "nervine" - a herb that calms the nervous system.

Good for... Anxiety, Hormones


(Theobroma cacao)
Cacao Benefits

Why do we reach for the chocolate when we're feeling down? Well it turns out that Cacao is more than capable of producing feelings of well-being, contentment and bliss! Organic, untreated or Raw Cacao is an unbeatable mood enhancer due to the abundance of feel good phytonutrients it contains. Theobromine exerts a positive influence on mood and the presence of the neurochemical "phenylethylamine" enhances feelings of contentment. Cacao also contains the recently discovered messenger molecule, "anandamide" - also known as the "bliss molecule" and named for the Sanskrit word for bliss and joy. 

The combination of mood boosting vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in Cacao is able to trigger the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Not only that, Cacao is one of the highest known sources of the miracle mineral magnesium - the original "chill pill". Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include depression, irritability and anxiety - all reversible with magnesium repletion. 

Good for... Anxiety, Mood, Hormones


(Nepeta cataria)
Catnip Benefits

Used by herbalists for centuries to treat anxiety and other nervous disorders, Catnip is so safe it is a long standing remedy for irritability and restless sleep in toddlers and babies. The sedative nature of this wonderfully calming herb helps to induce a fitful and restful sleep, making Catnip the go to remedy for insomnia or other sleep related problems. 

The active components of Catnip are "iridoid glycosides", which are thought to contribute to this herb's anxiolytic and sedative effects. 

Good for... Anxiety, Sleep


(Matricaria Chamomilla )
Chamomile Benefits

As a relaxant, Chamomile depresses the central nervous system, reducing anxiety whilst not disrupting normal performance or function. This is due to the active principles of Chamomile including flavonoids, glycosides and essential oils.

In a 2011 study published in the journal, “European Neuropsychopharmacology”, it was found that the phytochemicals in Chamomile have 3 effects on the central nervous system that contribute to the herb’s anxiolytic and sedative properties. It binds to the GABA receptors which in turn reduces the activity of the cells in the sleep centre of the brain.

Chamomile was considered one of the nine sacred herbs of the Anglo-Saxons and was used ritually to ward off diseases and to promote health.

Good for... Anxiety, Sleep


(Cocos nucifera)
Coconut Benefits

There is incontrovertible evidence that the brain needs healthy fats to function properly, with this important organ itself consisting of at least 60 percent fat. Organic Raw Virgin Coconut Oil is the miracle food for the brain, rich in antioxidants with incredible anti-stress properties. This effect is due to Coconut Oil naturally lowering cortisol levels (the stress hormone), by relaxing the adrenal glands which are responsible for producing cortisol. 

Coconut Oil uniquely feeds the brain with medium-chain triglycerides, these are necessary to the development of babie's brains and are also found abundantly in breast milk. MCT's are rapidly metabolised into ketones by the liver, these are an alternative source of fuel that easily cross the blood/brain barrier, recharging malfunctioning cells and improving cognitive function. Coconut oil is also powerfully antioxidant, especially to the brain.

Symptoms of Candida overgrowth can include anxiety, mood swings, irritability and depression. Raw Virgin Coconut Oil is also powerfully anti-fungal. It contains "caprylic acid" that works by penetrating the cell walls of the Candida yeast and causing it to rupture. This inhibits the growth of the yeast cell, eventually causing it to die. Other anti-fungal compounds present in this oil are "capric acid" and "lauric acid", with the 3 fatty acids working together to mount a multi-faceted, highly effective attack against Candida albicans. 

Good for... Anxiety, Energy, Candida


(Turnera diffusa)
Damiana Benefits

One of the active constituents of this herb is thymol, and it is this compound that is responsible for Damiana’s life enhancing and stimulating effect on the mind and body. Many herbalists prescribe Damiana for mild to moderate depression, anxiety and nervous exhaustion. Its stimulating and restorative properties make it a valuable herb for anxiety and depression occurring together – as can often happen as a result of long term stress.

Damiana has an ancient reputation, particularly amongst Mexican Indians, where Damiana leaves were prescribed as a tonic for overall health. 

Good for... Anxiety, Mood

Ginkgo Biloba

(Ginkgo biloba, Salisburia adiantifolia, Salisburia macrophylla)
Ginkgo Biloba Benefits

Ginkgo Biloba is an excellent herb when taken for both the physical and emotional effects of depression and anxiety. It's primary effects are improved blood flow to the brain, increased oxygen and glucose metabolism. Poor blood flow to the brain is linked with depression, anxiety, poor focus and low energy levels, and a condition known as "cerebrovascular insufficiency". Research indicates that Ginkgo Biloba can improve symptoms linked to cerebrovascular insufficiency, supporting healthy circulation to the brain thus reducing feelings of depression and anxiety.

The active compounds in Ginkgo have been identified as; Kaempferol, Quercetin and Sorhamnetin. Kaempferol has been shown to be a "monoamine oxidase" inhibitor (MOA). This enzyme regulates the exact amount of dopamine we need in the brain. As we age MOA levels increase causing dopamine levels to fall. Research has shown that inhibition of this enzyme preserves brain function by protecting dopamine.

Good for... Anxiety, Mood

Gotu kola

(Hydrocotyle asiatica)
Gotu Kola Benefits

Gotu Kola is a well known super-antioxidant for the brain, helping to protect brain cells from free radical induced cell death. Used for centuries in TCM to treat anxiety and depression, science has now isolated the active compounds responsible for the remarkable antidepressant effects of this herb. Two of these compounds - brahmoside and brahminoside - have sedative effects, whilst Gotu Kola reduces anxiety by around 50% in human studies. 

Another study has found that Gotu Kola reduces the "startle response" caused by sudden noises within 30 - 60 minutes after ingestion. The acoustic startle response is a reliable way to measure anxiety, a greater general startle reflex being associated with higher anxiety levels. 

Good for... Anxiety, Energy


(Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender Benefits

Lavender has been used for centuries as a natural sedative and remedy for anxiety and depression. It has a complex mix of active components including "terpenes" - small molecules that are absorbed into the bloodstream via the nose or lungs. They are so small that they easily cross the blood/brain barrier and have an impact on neurological processes. 

Lavender has been proven as effective at treating anxiety as its pharmaceutical counterparts. In a study published in the journal "Phytomedicine", it was shown that lavender helps with restless, nervousness, anxiety and insomnia.

Good for... Anxiety, Sleep

Lemon Balm

(Melissa officinalis)
Lemon Balm Benefits

Lemon Balm is an anti-anxiety nootropic (a herb used to enhance cognitive function). Used since the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, science has caught up with recent studies verifying these effects.

One of the active compounds of this soothing herb is "rosmarinic acid" - an enzyme which effectively increases GABA (gamma amino-butyric acid) in the brain. GABA is one of the inhibitory neurotransmitters, used by the brain to prevent over-excitement and attain balance. It is responsible for ensuring that we are not overly stressed and plays a role in sleep cycles. Increasing stimulation of GABA receptors will produce a sedative or calming effect and explains why Lemon Balm works well as an anti-anxiety herb.

Good for... Anxiety, Mood, Sleep

Lime Flowers

(Tilia cordata)
Lime Flowers Benefits

Lime Flowers are classed as a nervine and have a long history of use as a folk remedy for improving mental function, moods and sleep. One of the active ingredients in Linden is an essential oil called farnesol, a sedative which helps relax the cardiovascular system, which in turn helps to curb stress.

Good for... Anxiety, Mood, Sleep


(Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Liquorice Benefits

Liquorice is known to have 8 different anti-depressant compounds, known as MOA (monoamine oxidase) inhibitors. These inhibitors are capable of potent anti-depressant activity and show significant improvement for all types of depression. Another compound, "glycyrrhizin", breaks down cortisol, the stress hormone, enabling the body to deal with stress. It also contains "Isoflavan" and "Isoflavene" that have been shown to have anti-depressant properties.

Liquorice Root is also very nourishing for burned out adrenals and is best used during times of chronic fatigue and tiredness that usually results in frequent illness

Good for... Anxiety, Mood


(Viscum alba loranthaceae)

Mistletoe is a powerful nervine - a herb that strengthens and feeds the nervous system. For anxiety, Mistletoe acts to lower the stress hormone cortisol, bringing the nerves down to a more manageable level. 

Containing chemical compounds that directly impact the release of calming neurotransmitters, Mistletoe is an excellent tea to drink before bedtime if suffering from insomnia or restless sleep. 

Good for... Anxiety, Mood, Hormones


(Leonurus cardiaca)
Motherwort Benefits

When depression, anxiety and panic attacks are the result of grief and/or heartbreak, Motherwort is the herb to heal your heart. Used as far back as the Ancient Greeks to reduce anxiety and calm the heart, Motherwort soothes the nervous system and acts as a powerful vasodilator, regulating heart rhythm and minimising palpitations. 

It has a profound effect on the nervous system, with active compounds such as "leonine" relaxing the nervous system, resulting in elevated mood and relief from nervous debility. In higher doses, Motherwort can also act as a sedative, greatly aiding restfulness and sleep quality. 

Good for... Anxiety, Mood, Sleep

Mucuna / Kapikachhu

(Mucuna pruriens)
Mucuna Pruriens Benefits

Mucuna Pruriens is especially beneficial to brain health, its primary compound “levadopa (L-dopa)” is a precursor to dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline. L-Dopa is able to directly affect the central nervous system by boosting the output of dopamine, the chemical responsible for sensory stimulation, physical pleasure, and bursts of euphoria.

Serotonin, a famous mood regulator, is also released, along with adrenaline. The combination of these elements makes Mucuna Pruriens wonderful natural remedy for depression. 

Good for... Anxiety, Mood

Muira Puama

Muira Puama Benefits

Muira Puama has been consumed by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon for centuries for its effect on the central nervous system, especially when nervous system disorders are a result of stress. Studies have shown that this herb possesses several nervous system activiites - including anxiogenic (decreases anxiety), and adaptogen like properties. 

A recent study, published in "Psychotherapy Research" indicated that Muira Puama may impact levels of dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin in the brain, producing antidepressant effects. These combined effects make Muira Puama an excellent alternative remedy for stress induced depression.

Good for... Anxiety, Mood


(Morinda citrifolia)
Noni Benefits

Neurons in the brain need GABA to induce calmness when over-excitement occurs. GABA also works to produce endorphins which fight depression and anxiety. Research shows that Noni acts as a natural sedative and anti-anxiety superfruit that supports GABA production and activity in the brain. A recent study found that Noni supports GABA mechanisms in the nervous system, naturally allowing it to calm down and thereby reducing anxiety.

Good for... Anxiety, Nutrition, Sleep

Passion Flower

(Passiflora incarnate)
Passion Flower Benefits

If depression is related to the menopause then Passion Flower could be the most effective herb. As well as alleviating symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats (which are in themselves depressing enough), the alkaloids "chrysin" and "benzoflavone" present in this herb have been found to increase GABA (gamma amino-butyric acid) in the brain. GABA is one of the inhibitory neurotransmitters, used by the brain to prevent over-excitement and attain balance. It also helps to decrease the activity of depression inducing brain cells.

If depression, anxiety and menopause symptoms are causing sleep disruption and insomnia, Passion Flower's tranquilising effect can induce a restful and fitful sleep. 

Good for... Anxiety, Mood, Hormones, Sleep

Rhodiola Rosea

(Rhodiola rosea)
Rhodiola Rosea Benefits

Rhodiola Rosea has been used successfully for thousands of years for people looking to reduce both physical and mental stress, as well as increase their stamina. Rhodiola reduces the stress hormone cortisol significantly, inducing feelings of relaxation and decreasing anxiety. It also stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin – the body’s “happy” or “feel good” neurotransmitters.

In a 2007 study published in the "Nordic Journal of Psychiatry", Rhodiola Rosea was found to significantly reduce depression in patients with mild to moderate depression. In addition to mood elevation, the research showed that this herb can enhance cognitive function and both mental and physical performance under stress. 

Good for... Anxiety, Mood, Hormones


(Scutellaria lateriflora)
Skullcap Benefits

Before the advent of pharmaceutical tranquilisers, Skullcap was the go to herb for the relief of anxiety and nervous tension. Studies have since shown it exhibits “anxiolytic activity” in animals and humans – meaning it inhibits anxiety. Herbalist Richard Whelan has noticed in his own clinical use of Skullcap that in strong doses (especially with the tea), it has quite a strikingly calming effect on agitated individuals.

If anxiety is leaving you unable to sleep, Skullcap is and extremely beneficial herb for insomnia and sleep disorders. While many remedies, both traditional and herbal, can lull you to sleep like Skullcap, most leave you groggy in the morning. Skullcap promotes sound sleep without the unwanted side effects, leaving you feeling refreshed and revitalised in the morning.

Good for... Anxiety, Sleep

St John's Wort

(Hypericum perforatum)
St John's Wort Benefits

St John's Wort contains the active phytonutrient hypericin, which together with hyperforin, is one of the principal active constituents found in this herb. Many studies have found the herb to be equally as effective as traditional antidepressants, but with fewer side effects in mild to moderately depressed patients. Whilst researchers aren’t exactly sure how St John’s Wort actually works its magic, some have postulated that it acts in a similar way to SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), because it makes serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine available to the brain. 

Preliminary research suggests that St. John's Wort also lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol and enhances the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a naturally occurring tranquilizer in the brain. It is a very mild, clinically insignificant monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor. MAO is responsible for the breakdown of two brain chemicals - serotonin and norepinephrine. By inhibiting MAO and increasing norepinephrine, St. John's Wort may exert a mild antidepressive action. The antidepressant or mood elevating effects of St. John's Wort were originally thought to be due solely to hypericin, but hypericin does not act alone. St. John's Wort relies on the complex interplay of many constituents such as xanthones and flavonoids for its antidepressant actions. St. John's Wort may also block the receptors that bind serotonin.

Good for... Anxiety, Mood


(Verbena officinalis)
Vervain Benefits

Used by herbalists for millennia to combat depression and mood swings, Vervain is a deeply penetrating nervine that soothes and sedates the nervous system. It is a relaxing and uplifting herb that can stimulate the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, enhancing mood and well being. 

Vervain is also effective in promoting a good night's sleep without rendering the user groggy in the morning. 

Good for... Anxiety, Mood, Sleep

Wild Lettuce

(Lactuca virosa)
Wild Lettuce Benefits

A powerful nervine and sedative, Wild Lettuce is a wonderfully soothing herb. It secretes a milky white fluid, "lactucarium" which contains the active compounds lactupicrinlactucin and lactucopicrin. These compounds have been found to possess analgesic activity, along with sedative activity. This makes it very useful in the treatment of insomnia and anxiety - it is also called a feeble opium because it does not upset the digestive system. However, it is said to produce a euphoric, dreamy state making it much easier to drop off to sleep.

This sedative effect make it especially beneficial to an overactive nervous system and it’s particularly good for hyperactive children.

Good for... Anxiety, Sleep

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