Herbal Antidepressants: For lifting the mood

  Herbal Antidepressants: For lifting the mood

Mood Enhancers

Listed below are the herbs that are known to improve mood and are the classic herbal anti-depressants. Read our blog article on Herbal Anti-depressants here.


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


(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


(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


Jasmine Benefits

The uplifting scent of Jasmine essential oil has been proven to improve mood, de-stress and bring anxiety down to a more manageable level. A study published in the “Journal of Health Research” looked at the effect of Jasmine oil inhalation on the central nervous system and the mood. They found that the oil did indeed affect the mood and brain activity, with participants reporting that they felt more positive, energetic and even romantic.

Jasmine Tea is fantastic for lifting the mood; it's flowery scent and taste has the power to elevate and brighten any moment. Used in a blend with other herbs it can bring calm and relaxation to the nerves.

Good for... Anxiety, Mood

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


(Cymbopogon flexuosus)
Lemongrass Benefits

Lemongrass is a “nervine” – a herb that specifically supports the nervous system to combat symptoms of stress and anxiety. It lowers levels of stress hormones and acts as a tonic for frazzled nerves, making it beneficial in the treatment of various nervous disorders such as vertigo and uncontrollable shaking.

The calming properties of Lemongrass make it very helpful in promoting a good night’s sleep, especially where stress and anxiety are the cause of sleepless nights. It helps to soothe the mind and body by inducing the release of serotonin, the pre-cursor to the sleep hormone melatonin. 

A cup of Lemongrass tea or diffusing the essential oil in your bedroom can help you to relax and wind down in readiness for sleep.

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


(Origanum marjorana )
Marjoram Benefits

Marjoram has an extremely calming effect on the body and can actually promote feelings of happiness – this is why it is a great herb to use for grief, shock and PTSD.

With strong sedative qualities, Marjoram essential oil can be diffused in the bedroom to create a warming, nurturing atmosphere that is conducive to a good night’s sleep. If muscular soreness and tension is preventing you from sleeping, a night time massage or bath using the essential oil can soothe away aches and pains whilst promoting a relaxed state of mind.

Good for... Anxiety, Mood, Sleep


(Viscum album)

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

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 sleep. 

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


(Pogostemon cablin )
Patchouli Benefits

Of the many active constituents in Patchouli, A-Patchoulene specifically acts as a sedative and can greatly help to improve sleep quality. Inhalation, massage or a warm night time bath using Patchouli essential oil can calm down a hyperactive nervous system, gently relaxing the mind and body in preparation for a restful night’s sleep. It is an especially beneficial oil for insomnia and an inability to drop off to sleep due to an overactive mind.

Inhaling Patchouli essential oil stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine, the feel good hormones which help to eliminate feelings of anxiety and anger. The release of these hormones reduces stress and tension which leads to a sense of overall well-being and can bring about a more positive outlook on life.

Good for... Anxiety, Mood, 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


(Rosa centifolia)
Rose Benefits

Naturally uplifting, Roses have been found to contain certain plant flavonoids that are exhibit antidepressant properties. The delicate, calming aroma of Rose essential oil is perfect to lift the spirits, helping to overcome stress, anxiety and depression. Promoting emotional balance, it can help to stabilise mood swings, ease nervous tension and relax the body and mind for a restful night’s sleep. 

A 2009 study on Rose essential oil took 40 volunteers and administered either Rose essential oil or a placebo through the skin. The ones who received the Rose experienced a greater increase in feelings of calm and relaxation, as well as a greater decrease in breathing rate and blood pressure, compared to those who received the placebo.

Good for... Anxiety, Mood, Hormones


(Schisandra chinensis)
Schisandra Benefits

Research surrounding Schizandra is fairly conclusive in the fact that it is a powerful anti-anxiety herb, in addition to its ability to boost ones mood through lowering stress levels and enhancing mental performance. Its adaptogenic qualities mean that it specifically reduces both mental and physical stress, exerting a normalising effect on the whole body. 

It has been found that Schizandra reduces cortisol levels in the body (the stress hormone) and is effective in controlling changes in serotonin and adrenaline caused by stress. This adaptogenic berry also fights the adrenal fatigue that is linked to stress. 

Good for... Mood, Energy

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


(Thymus vulgaris)
Thyme Benefits

Among the powerful compounds in Thyme, carvacrol has been found to exert a positive effect on mood. It increases levels of dopamine and serotonin – the neurotransmitters that regulate motivation, drive and overall mood. Consuming this herb regularly or diffusing the essential oil in an aromatherapy burner can promote feelings of relaxation and well-being.

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