Mood Altering with Herbs
There are many herbs that alter our state or mood. They can be used by themselves as singles in either a tea or extract or in a group as a formula. Because every one of us is unique physically and mentally and emotionally, It takes a bit of trial and error sometimes to find the herbs that are our allies, tried and true.
Also, the most harmonizing and balancing herbs for each of us or that will work for a particular purpose like sleep, or soothing anxiety or to generate more physical energy or to brighten our spirit. So, what works best for me may or may not be one that works for that purpose for you. But there are guidelines or common effects that herbs have for us. And they are easy to play with, to try, to experiment with until you find your best friends, your herbal tribe for balancing your mood states. Then they will be there for you when you need them, consistently and reliably.
Below are a few of my favorite herbal mood changers. I have relied on them for many years and they have always helped me navigate my journey.
Chamomile, Skullcap, Kava Kava, Passionflower, Hops, Valerian, St. Johnswort, Damiana
Chamomile - Matricaria recutita Chamomile, though gentle is a reliable and strong calming herb that is soothing for the stomach and the whole digestive system. In some people it could make them relaxed enough to feel a bit sleepy but for me it is just calming and soothing and helps me relax my mind and body. I haven’t found any contraindications for using it. It is easy to grow in the garden or even a pot and will come again and again after clipping the leaf and flowers and even reseed itself easily. Can be used well with children for calming and for sensitive tummy.
Skullcap - Scutellaria laterifolia Skullcap is a great friend for someone with a very busy mind from overwork or excess responsibility or just have a very active mind. Skullcap is a nerve tonic with a specific affinity to the mind. If one cant sleep due to overactivity of the mind Skullcap can be helpful. Its use is cumulative and may help one shift their habit of over thinking. It is best used recently harvested or an extract made from only fresh plant material. The compounds that are therapeutic breakdown somewhat quickly when the plant is dried. This also is a wonderful semi shade garden plant that will come back on its own by spreading its roots.
Kava Kava - Piper Methysticum Kava is an effective sedative even with a numbing effect on the mouth and lips. It is a traditional plant from the south Sea Islands. It doesn't taste good to me so I reserve it for its use as a muscle relaxant especially with skeletal muscles of our backs. It also can relax smooth muscle both in our limbs and organs. So handy for a bladder infection or an exercise injury.
It is a bit dulling to the mind though some say the different cultivars may have more or less of this quality. It does temporarily relax anxiety so it can be used in a pinch, especially mixed with St. Johnswort because its energy is bright and sunny so it balancing the dulling effect of Kava. This is definitely one to try out and see if its for you and can be used mixed with other plants to broaden its profile of effects. It does shift mood but has a temporary effect rather than creating long lasting change in habitual moods. There are many pharmaceuticals that may conflict so check if applicable.
Passionflower - Passiflora incarnata Passion Flower is like a good friend that supports, and calms us in stressful situations. It is a broad acting herb that is not sleep inducing but takes away the edginess nervousness that naturally can arise. It is pleasant and relaxing without being heavy or sedating. Can be used freely. The flower of Passionflower is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Just seeing it lifts the spirit.
Hops - Humulus lupulus Hops is a strongly sedative herb and can be used to encourage sleep, so not the best for daytime use. It is a wonderful bitter that supports relaxation, and lowers nervousness.
Valerian - Valeriana officinalis Valerian is for the high energy person that needs to settle down and get grounded in the body and in the earth. Valerian is a very earthy plant. It certainly supports sleep for some but not everyone. I can use it all day long without becoming sleepy, it just gives me a wonderful feeling of embodiment and relaxing my energy both in my muscular body and my nervous system and well as quieting my mind. Also, easy to grow and will self seed and always be there for you in the garden.
St. Johnswort - Hypericum perforatum Over many years St. Johnswort has been one of my favorite nerve tonics. It is an example of an herb that perfectly suits me, so I always have it around. It is sunny and bright and vibrant while also being soothing to nerves. St. Johnswort truly lifts the spirit as well as calming rather than stimulating. It enhances the reuptake of serotonin so it can lift mood. We take only the top few inches of the flowering plant for the highest concentrations of active chemistry but any part of the aerial parts are effective to varying degrees. It will happily live in your garden year to year. It is a delicious tea similar to black tea in taste (due maybe to tannins) and as an extract more like wine.
Damiana - Turnera diffusa Damiana is a southwestern plant, often coming from Mexico, so not a garden plant for the Northeast. It has a very expansive and relaxing effect. It lessens mental tension and loosens things up. It had been known as an aphrodisiac but that isn’t accurate for this herb more than the others that lift our spirits and relax us. Those qualities enhance libido in themselves rather than being chemically arousing. I think of Damiana as giving me more space, for my thoughts, and for my energy. It's great at the end of the day when finishing work and transitioning to relaxation. It's wonderful to drink with a friend.. It has a very mild version of the kind of expansiveness that Cannabis can produce.
Blue Crow Botanicals has all of these herbs as singles for you to play with as well as some formulas that contain some of them often mixed with other plants. A few of those formulas are People Calmer, Calm Focus, Belly Soothe, Nerve Tonic, and Sweet Dreams.
We can formulate a formula just for you once you find which herbs best support you or of course help you figure that out.
Be Well and Be Happy.
*The information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, treat or cure illness or to be used to replace professional medical attention. Because some herbs may interact with certain medications, please consult a qualified herbalist or medical professional before using.
My name is Bonnie Bloom and I am a clinical herbalist. Plants give us clothing, shelter, food and medicine. They are an intrinsic part of our earth ecology, diverse and essential. They breathe our carbon dioxide and generously give us oxygen. Where would we be without them.