Winter and Spring can be a difficult time for staying positive and inspired. Thankfully, we can call on herbs for a natural lift. We tapped botanical medicine expert Dr. Justin Pollack, N.D. from the team at Backcountry Herbal Apothecary in Frisco, Colorado, on easy-to-access herbs for improved mental health.
“Keep in mind that it takes more than an herb, nutrient or drug of any kind to relieve depression,” says Dr. Pollack. “Community and friends, a sense of purpose, counseling and brain training techniques, adequate exercise, sleep, water and nutritious food, among other things that are personal to each individual, are necessary to feel well.”
This beautiful flower is a calming herb used as an anti-depressant and relaxant. Mild enough for children and the elderly, it mixes well with other flavors as a tea to reduce nervous tension, restlessness and anxiety.
Western medicine has used this flower in tea and tincture form for centuries to reduce anxiety, muscular tension, restlessness and insomnia. The approachable herb can be used short or long term and is known to calm the nervous system and relieve spasms and inflammation.
St. John’s Wort
One of the world’s longest used botanical remedies, St. John’s Wort is a good nerve tonic and antidepressant used in tea, tincture or capsule form. Seek out a high-quality brand and do not combine with antidepressant drugs — there’s a possibility of inducing excessive serotonin.
Lavender and Rose
Lavandula angustifolia and Rosa species
These essential oils have been used for centuries to treat depression and anxiety. They bypass the thalamus switchboard of the brain and go straight into the emotional and memory centers, calming and lifting spirits. Rub a drop on your temples or sprinkle into a diffuser or on a pillow before bed.
With the help of the probiotic microbes living in our intestines, the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin is made directly from the amino acid 5-HTP (not an herb, but we had to include it). An extra boost of serotonin has been known to help people who are depressed, negative, moody, obsessive, irritable or fearful. Consult your doctor if you’re on antidepressants — excess serotonin is unsafe.
Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2020-21 issue of CO YOGA + Life® Magazine.
Lisa Blake is a freelance writer living in Breckenridge, specializing in dining, outdoors, ski resorts and wellness. She is happiest on her mountain bike, yoga mat or in a raft with her husband, son and pug. Her work has been featured in Aspen Modern Luxury, Purist, 5280.com and GoBreck.com. Find her at lisablakecreative.com.