Mental health took centre stage during the pandemic, and rightly so. If we aren’t mentally well, life becomes difficult and we don’t operate at peak performance. Over 42% of people surveyed by the US Census Bureau in December 2020 reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, an increase from 11% the previous year. Negative emotions can also manifest into physical illnesses.
In this blog, we’ll discuss five herbs that you can use for mental and emotional wellness so you can reach your highest potential for ideal health, and prevent future illnesses.
Also known as Gingko biloba or maidenhair, gingko is the only surviving member of an ancient family of plants native to China. Its leaves and seeds are used often in traditional Chinese medicine, while modern medicine focuses on ginkgo extract made from the leaves. Besides being a powerful antioxidant (the reason for many of its health claims), ginkgo may enhance brain function and increase mental performance and perceived well-being in healthy individuals.
A multi-centre study showed significantly less decline in cognitive function among patients with dementia receiving gingko. A review of over 40 controlled trials of gingko showed that most found clinically significant improvement in symptoms such as memory loss, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
No, mint chocolate bars don’t count here! Mint is an essential aromatherapy herb. Its strong, refreshing smell relieves stress and rejuvenates the mind. Breathing in mint aroma brings a mental calmness almost instantly. You can consume mint in tea, use mint extract in a diffuser, or take a mint bath to relieve stress or symptoms of depression.
Among other benefits, it may increase alertness and improve memory and cognitive functions. Mint is antispasmodic (relaxes muscles and relieves tension) and anxiolytic (relaxing, anti-anxiety), making it ideal for mental health.
Part of the mint family, lemon balm was used as early as the 14th century and was believed to treat digestive disorders, the nervous system, and the liver. It contains geraniol, which gives it a sweet, citrus-like aroma and calming properties. According to a small study published in the journal Nutrients, a sweetened water-based drink containing 0.3 grams of lemon balm extract reduced stress and improved mood in a group of healthy young adults, compared to a placebo.
Lemon balm contains a compound called rosmarinic acid that has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, and increases the levels and activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter in the brain. Low levels of GABA in the brain are associated with anxiety and other mood disorders. Lemon balm is also both antispasmodic and anxiolytic.
Linden (Lime flower)
Also called lime flower, linden is a tree plant found in woods on most fertile soils, especially limestone. Studies support claims that steeped lime flowers promote relaxation and relieve symptoms of anxiety. Linden also has a minor effect on hormone levels. Researchers found linden extract promotes physical and mental relaxation by mimicking GABA activity, though we need more research to learn exactly how this happens.
Tiliroside, rutoside, and chlorogenic acid, some of the plant components in linden tea, are thought to lower blood pressure, though this effect is not fully understood and needs further scientific research. Its plant compounds have strong sedative properties, which may encourage relaxation that leads to sleep. Linden also has antispasmodic and anxiolytic qualities.
A cup of linden tea could bring relief from mood swings or unexplained chronic stress.
A brightly colored spice, saffron contains antioxidant compounds, including crocin and crocetin. It also contains dopamine and norepinephrine and has anxiolytic effects. Studies have observed saffron increases levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter in the brain that boosts mood. It’s thought that saffron inhibits serotonin reuptake and keeps it in the brain longer.
Some studies cite saffron as a safe and effective measure for controlling symptoms of depression. It’s potentially as effective at reducing depressive symptoms as antidepressant medication. More research would help to explore potential adverse effects and confirm the benefits of saffron for people with depression.
Other powerful herbs we’ve discussed in previous posts that aid mental health include ashwagandha, chamomile, ginseng, holy basil, and rhodiola. You’ll find more depending on your specific condition.Rhodiola Relief contains Rhodiola Rosea to provide relief from symptoms of stress, including mental fatigue.