Herbal Medicine for Mood
Nervines are herbs that help support the nervous system and can have an antidepressant effect. Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD or depressive or low mood states can benefit from nervines.
Nervous trophorestoratives are herbs that nourish the nervous system and have few adverse reactions. Nervines, are tonics taken before meals and success are noticed with long term usage as opposed to short term usage. Nervines can help restore sleep, elevate the mood, balance mood swings, and reduce anxiety. They may also be used for headaches and premenstrual syndrome, and to support cognitive function.
Albizia julibrissin, commonly known as mimosa, is a weedy tree native to Asia that is in the Fabaceae family. Mimosa has been naturalized for many years in the United States and is now considered an invasive plant species.
Mimosa is referred to as ‘the happy tree.’ In TCM, this herbal preparation is used to mend broken hearts and promote happiness. The plant can help elevate the mood and relax the nervous system. Herbalist use the flower essence, an energetic preparation of the plant with filtered water and preserved with brandy, to bring in joy, happiness, and to support the life force. The extract is also an antioxidant activity, can have an antidepressant effect. Modern research and studies help to support the folk usage of this plant for mood elevation.
Hypericum perforatum, known as Saint John’s wort, is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. In the United States, where it is naturalized, it has become an invasive species. This shrubby plant belongs to the Hypericaceae family.
This plant is used for depressive conditions, especially if the patients feel like a black cloud is around them and the diet may be poor quality. The flower essence is used as well in people who tend towards melancholia. The essence can support bringing in light where one feels darkness. In most cases, practitioners prefer to use the flowering tops of the plant, fresh in a whole plant-based preparation, like an alcohol extract.
Saint John’s wort has been studied for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) along with the usage to treat mild to moderate depression. It has anti-inflammatory effects can exert an effect related to the brain, like the inhibition of neuronal reuptake of serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate, along with increasing neurotransmitter binding.
While Saint John’s wort may be the right choice for depression, especially SAD or situational depression, one needs to consider the acceleration of liver clearing for which the herb is known. It should be used with care for anyone on medication and with a qualified practitioner.
Melissa officinalis, or lemon balm, is a perennial plant in the Lamiaceae family. Lemon balm is an easily grown hardy aromatic plant. It is one of the easiest beginner plants to grow and learn to use as herbal medicine. It is often used by aromatherapists for relaxation, sleep, and mood elevation.
The flower essence is also used to support the energetic body in releasing stress, bringing balance, and supporting mood issues. Herbalists usage of the aerial parts of this plant includes anxiety, stress relief, digestive support, palpitations, and insomnia.
Lemon balm can be combined with mimosa and Saint Johns’ wort for the support of emotional issues including depression. It can help to strengthen and relax the nervous system and even aid in reducing heart palpitations when combined with heart trophorestoratives. Mellissa extract has been shown to prevented depression through serotonergic antidepressant activity in rats. Rat models can give researchers an indicator of how the plants can be used on the human context because much of the physiological systems are similar.
Because Lemon balm has a nice flavor, it has a high compliance rate as herbal medicine. It can also be used in capsules for compliance, although the act of tea brewing in itself can be supportive in relaxation. Lemon balm may have serotonergic activity; it may decrease corticosterone levels and increase GABA receptors activity to increase GABA in the brain.
Herbal medicine in the form of tea, tincture, or even standardized extract can be supportive in relaxing the system, improving sleep, and elevating the mood. Mimosa, lemon balm and Saint John’s wort all have nervous system support properties.
It is necessary to consult a skilled herbalist to understand the full scope of herbal medicine and to prevent cross-reactivity with pharmaceuticals. Common lifestyle modifications with depression herbalists use with clients who need support are supplementation, nature therapy, gastrointestinal support through fermented foods, self-care, exercise, and sleep modifications.
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