These are some things I have dealt with on and off since I was little. Mostly the depression and anxiety. Realizing that I was also suffering from IBS, anemia, and dehydration on and off throughout most of my life up until my mid-20s, I can understand why. It’s hard to break the habits we acquire and engage in growing up, but if those bad habits can be replaced by better ones, ones that will benefit our overall health and wellness; in-turn our body will start to function better.
Some telltale signs are when we can manage our emotions and life’s ups and downs with more ease. Below I will discuss how herbs have been shown to benefit those who incorporate them, daily, into their lives for depression, anxiety, insomnia, and panic attacks. It’s tricky to figure out the right combination that will help each individual person, since we are so varying in how our bodies work & what we do, day to day, and how it alters how we each feel. Luckily, there are guidelines that can at least get us started on the path to healing. I’ll begin with depression since that is something close to home both with myself, my mother, my sister, and many of my other friends and family members.
Everyone experiences depression differently from another. For me it is on and off and definitely is triggered more by hormone imbalances and lack of healthy eating/exercise. My usual signs and symptoms are: the tendency to get sluggish and just want to stay in bed while negative thoughts run through my head, & feeling hopeless. Then there is usually crying or just despondency. Yet these emotions are usually fleeting and don’t last more than a day.
The difficult thing about herbal remedies is that they take awhile to kick in and when someone is really feeling horrible, this can seem like a waste of time. Why do something now, that won’t help and give expeditious relief? I do believe that even the process of making a cup of tea, holding the warm cup in your hands, curling up on the couch or somewhere upright, and sipping it can take me from a fetal position in bed; to at least a slightly better place. A piece of mind that allows for more rational thinking. I would recommend some green, white, or herbal tea with mint, lavender, lemon balm, or chai spices 🍵. These seem to really fill the senses and center the mind.
When thinking of a starting point for diet change, that can help curb depression, it is important to focus on finding foods that are anti-inflammatory and balance blood sugar. Make sure there are super critical omega 3s in your diet (local eggs, chia seeds, hemp, flax, wild-caught fatty fish like salmon; trout; herring/kippers; mackerel or sardines) because these are what the brain needs to build healthy cell membranes, reduce inflammation, form important brain chemicals, improve nerve transmission, and promote new cell formation.
The animal sources of omega 3s (click the link to view 17 benefits to adding omega 3s to your diet for brain, heart, and other body issues) are the ones that will provide DHA & EPA while the plant sources will supply ALA; which is much less beneficial than the other two for overall health. ALA fatty acids are not converted into the active EPA & DHA forms by the body very effectively, and in the common US diet, we get enough of the ALA fatty acids but are, very commonly, deficient in the highly important other two: EPA and DHA.
While writing this post I actually started to research Omega 3s (this link will bring you to a video explaining the importance of Omega 3s by Moses Goldberg, a Naturopathic Doctor) more and realized my family and I need much more DHA & EPA in our diets. This happens to me a lot where the more research I do, the more the information sinks in and sometimes it takes 8-10 times of reading about a topic for it to make an impact.
Developing and aging brains in western culture tend to really lack these essential fatty acids that our bodies do not make on our own, and since wild caught fish are not a regular part of our family meals, and fish supplements are not something I can foresee my children, or honestly myself, consuming so I decided to order some Coromega Omega-3 Fish Oil Squeeze Packets online because the ones at a local health food store I go to are probably twice as much as the ones on Amazon.
Another area of the body that needs to be nourished properly for mental health is the nervous system. This can be done with a good regular dose of things like turmeric– remember to pair it with black pepper for bioavailability–adaptogen infused broths (my husband is now a master at making bone broth which I add Astragulus, Nettle, and Ashwagandha to), oatmeal (oats are really a great way to gently calm the nervous system because their special alkaloids relax and nourish the nerves while suppressing agitation), green tea, and vitamin B complex foods/supplements (nutritional yeast can be added to food/broths as an easy way to incorporate B vitamins).
As always, regular exercise, healthy sleep habits, and stress reduction through things like yoga and meditation are also essential components of mental health. Sleep is one that I do have to say has always been one of my specialties. I adore it and my body just starts to literally shut down at the end of the day. I’m one whose eyes will just start to close and sometimes cause me to fall asleep sitting up while trying to read a book on the couch at night. Realizing this is not how everyone is, and some have the exact opposite experience, my husband included, I will give some suggestions on how to get your body and mind to start relaxing and “in the mood for sleep” at the end of the day.
Good, regular habits are key. This is something that really hit home once I had kids. My daughter, looking back at her toddler years, always struggled with bedtime. I now know this is because we were attempting to put her to bed too late in the day. First and foremost; a regular, set time both at night and waking up in the morning is critical for success. It can fluctuate time to time, but it should really stay the same as much as possible. Be sure, in order to switch on those sleep chemicals and signals in the brain, that certain rituals are introduced into the nighttime routine. Things like caffeine and alcohol will mess with your brains’ ability to fall and asleep and sleep soundly, so do your very best to limit them or cut them out, especially caffeine, later in the day.
Stop eating at least 4 hours before bed because without stopping, your body will kick into digestion mode when you need to be sleeping. Unplug before bed🔌. This is difficult, and I am pretty sure the main reason my husband can’t get a good nights rest and has been suffering from headaches lately. It is so easy and convenient to be on a screen late at night, but it messes, highly, with our circadian rhythms which is what regulates when you’re asleep and when you’re awake.
Recently I read that each cell in our body has a clock that is unique to each of one of us and messing with this wreaks havoc on our health! Turning the screen off an hour before bedtime, reducing the blue “stimulating” light on our phones and tablets or at least dimming them, is essential for restful sleep🛏️, and having something calming like a warm cup of relaxing tea (lavender, lemon balm, chamomile) or milk with honey a few hours before bed can help the mind and body unwind properly and help induce sleep. To quote an article on the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website about sleep:
Quality sleep – and getting enough of it at the right times — is as essential to survival as food and water. Without sleep you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly.
Try incorporating Lemon Balm, Rose, or Yarrow into your bedtime routine since all are known to help induce sleep and calm the system.
For anxiety and panic attacks there are several herbs and natural remedies that can help. Personally, it seems the tinctures, Motherwort & Lemon Balm, have greatly helped reduce my anxiety. It didn’t work instantaneously, but over time there is a definite difference in my ability to stay calm in tense, stressful situation; especially during PMS.
Again, an anti-inflammatory diet is key. This link gives an overall review of why inflammation is the culprit to MANY health issues and also goes through foods to avoid (processed foods, sugar, etc.) and foods to reduce inflammation (oats, red/blue fruits🍒, green veggies, etc.). The recommended foods are critical for well-being because they do things like balance blood sugar, nourish the nerves, and reduce free radical levels. Other vital things to do regularly are: exercise, cut back on stimulants, and learn how to breath through tension and stress. This is something I do with my 3 year old ever since learning, as an adult, to take deep breaths to relax. It allows him, and I, a safe & calm way to take ourselves down and few notches, relax more, and center ourselves into a calm state. I only wish things like yoga and meditation had been initiated in schools and community engagements when I was younger!
Here are some herbs and their categories to help you begin research into what may help you if you are suffering from anxiety and panic attacks:
Relaxing Sedatives: Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), Rose (Rosa), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium L.) Kava (Piper methysticum), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), & Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata).
Stronger Sedatives: (especially for insomnia): Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) & California Popppy (Eschscholzia californica).
Nervines: Catmint (Nepeta cataria), Milky Oat Seed (avena sativa), St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), & Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin).
This is researched information that I hope will sum up some things for those concerned about their mental health and are seeking wellness, health & lifestyle advice for feeling better. Always consult your doctor if you’re on medications because there are definite side effects that herbal remedies can have when paired with certain ones. Also research further anything that sounds promising so you can be sure it is right for your unique body and mind. YOU know YOU better than anyone and things should be catered to your needs, symptoms, and desired affects.
Our bodies are machines that run on the food we eat, the amount of water we drink, & the type of sleep we get. Without finding the balance of our needed/necessary nourishment for things like fueling the brain and a healthy/maintained plumbing system as well as, hydration, nutrients/minerals, building blocks, exercise, and relaxation/rejuvenation; the whole thing starts to malfunction like a robot’s springs & bolts coming undone💥; as its pieces fly everywhere & it starts to smoke. The right amount of lubrication, maintenance, and care will keep that machine running much smoother and allow life to be less stressful, less emotional, & all around; more enjoyable & predictable!
This past year, honestly, like the longest winter/”spring” I’ve experienced since childhood, but I hung in there better than years where the sun was much more prevalent and the temperatures milder. I credit regular exercise, wholesome/balanced diet, yoga, and herbal teas/tinctures. This was the perfect year to start incorporating these wellness remedies because I would have been in a pretty bad place without them!
Hope you learned something! I know I have! Thanks for taking the time to read, like, and comment when impelled=)!