Top 50 Herbs for Mental Health
Medically reviewed by Michel Fritzson, MPH, M.D. – Updated on April 26, 2021. 2nd update on August 20, 2022.
Today we’re going to take a look around the world in search of botanicals that support mental health: healing herbs, spices, fungi, and seeds.
All these natural remedies and herbal remedies have healing properties against anxiety, stress, depression, panic attacks, or insomnia. We will trace the origin of all the herbs, spices, fungi, and seeds, explain the healing properties and explain the use.
The top 10 herbs for anxiety, stress, depression, panic attacks or insomnia will be discussed in more detail.
Complete List of Herbs That Support Positive Mental Health
Top 41-50 Herbs for Mental Health
- Licorice Root: Licorice root is native to Southern Europe and Asia. Licorice root has a regulating effect on the production of cortisol and adrenaline, making it effective against stress and anxiety. You can consume licorice root as a tea or add licorice root extract to drinks. . However, consuming more than 2 mg/kg per day of pure glycyrrhetinic acid, which is a component of licorice, can lead to side effects, such as hypertension, muscle weakness, hypokalemia, and even death. To avoid toxicity, it is recommended that a healthy person consume 10 mg of GZA per day.
- Catnip: Catnip is found all over the world, it is best known for its effect on cats. But it also has many benefits for humans, catnip tea has a calming effect and is effective against stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
- Gotu Kola: Gotu Kola is mainly found in Asia and the South Sea. It is effective against stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Gotu Kola can be eaten and drunk.
- Kava Kava Root: Kava Kava is native to New Guinea and Vanuatu. Drinking Kava improves mood and counteracts stress and anxiety. The World Health Organization recognizes that moderate consumption of aqueous suspension of kava roots presents an acceptable low risk to health. However, the Kava Kava root is banned in Germany because it can harm the liver.
- Chia Seeds: Chia seeds come from Central America. They contain a healthy dose of tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes the production of serotonin (happiness hormone). This makes chia seeds suitable as a remedy for stress and anxiety.
- Green Tea: Green tea is originally from China and contains a high content of L-theanine, an amino acid that counteracts stress and anxiety.
- Hyssop: Hyssop is native to southern Europe. Hyssop essential oil is used in aromatherapy to improve mood and combat anxiety.
- Tulsi: Tulsi or Holy Basil is native to India. It has a strong effect on stress, anxiety, and depression. You can make tea with the leaves of the Tulsi shrub.
- Saffron: Saffron is a spice that originates from Greece and has a positive effect on depression. You can add saffron to your food or drink it as tea.
- False Unicorn: False Unicorn is an herb found in the United States and Canada. False unicorn root is used as a tincture and prevents the mood swings and depression associated with menopause.
Top 31-40 Herbs for Mental Health
- Brahmi: Brahmi or Bacopa is an herb used in Indian medicine. Bacopa syrup helps against stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
- Mullein: Mullein is found all over the world. Mullein leaves are used to make tea or tincture, which helps relieve stress and anxiety.
- Kratom: Kratom originated in Southeast Asia. The leaves of the Kratom tree are used to make a powerful tea that is used as a remedy for depression and panic attacks. Because of the known side effects and because kratom can be addictive, it is illegal in several countries of the European Union and Australia.
- Damiana: Damiana is a shrub native to Mexico, Central, and South America. The thymol and apigenin that damiana contains make damiana tea an effective remedy for stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Hops: Hops originates from Germany and the Benelux. Hops have calming properties that help against insomnia, stress, and anxiety, among other things. Although hops tea and hops essential oil exist, hops are most commonly used to make beer.
- Peppermint: Peppermint is a spice native to Europe and the Middle East. Peppermint leaves are effective against anxiety and depression. Peppermint can be used in both food and tea. Peppermint essential oil is also easy to obtain.
- Cowslip Primrose: Cowslip primrose or the cowslip is most common in Northern Europe and Western Asia. Cowslip primrose herbal tea has a calming effect, which makes it suitable for stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
- Yarrow: Yarrow is found mainly in the northern hemisphere. Yarrow tea contains alkaloids and flavonoids, which makes yarrow tea effective against anxiety and depression.
- Golden Thryallis: Golden Thryallis is an herb native to Mexico and Central America. Golden Thryallis extract is used in traditional Mexican medicine to treat anxiety disorders.
- Red Clover: Red clover is found all over the world. It is often used as an extract or as a tea. The flavonoid contained in the red clover makes it suitable for anxiety and depression.
Top 21-30 Herbs for Mental Health
- Thyme: Thyme is a herb native to Europe and Asia. For centuries, thyme has been praised for its relaxing effect. Thyme contains vitamin B6 that helps the body produce serotonin (the happiness hormone), which helps to combat stress, depression, and anxiety. You can use fresh thyme in the kitchen. You can also drink thyme tea. Thyme essential oil can be used in aromatherapy.
- Maca Root: Maca, also called Peruvian ginseng, comes from the Andes Mountains. The flavonoids in the maca root help maintain our hormonal balance. This helps to combat anxiety, stress, depression, and insomnia. Maca root powder can be added to meals or drinks.
- Ashwagandha: The Indian ginseng lowers the cortisol (stress hormone) level and increases the serotonin (happiness hormone) level. This makes Ashwagandha effective against stress, anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Ashwagandha powder is often mixed with water, honey, or ghee.
- Chamomile: You can find chamomile all over the world. The apigenin contained in chamomile is effective against anxiety and insomnia. Chamomile tea and chamomile essential oil are used worldwide in aromatherapy.
- Golden Root: Golden Root, also called Arctic root or roseroot, comes from arctic regions and was already used by Vikings for its medicinal properties. Golden root relieves anxiety, stress, and depression. You can find roseroot as a tea, tincture, or powder.
- Salvia (Danshen) Root: Salvia root, also known as danshen root, red sage root, or Chinese sage root, is used in traditional medicine to combat insomnia and anxiety due to its sedative properties. Danshen, the dried salvia root, is often consumed as a powder or tea.
- Rosemary: Rosemary originates from the Mediterranean coastal areas. The essential oil of rosemary reduces the level of cortisol so that stress and anxiety are subdued.
- Spirulina: These algae originate from Mexico and are now mainly cultivated in Lake Chad. Spirulina contains a high content of proteins, omega-3, B1, and B2 vitamins, antioxidants, copper, and iron. Spirulina also contains the eight essential amino acids that the body does not produce naturally. Consuming this superfood counteracts stress, anxiety, and depression. Spirulina is often available in powder form.
- Turmeric: Turmeric or Indian saffron is a powerful antioxidant that raises the serotonin (happiness hormone) level and lowers the cortisol level (stress hormone). Therefore, turmeric is effective against stress, anxiety, and depression. Turmeric can be obtained in powder form for use in our food, as a tea, or as an essential oil.
- Monk’s Pepper: Monk’s pepper is a plant that originated in the Mediterranean region. Monk’s pepper or chasteberry tea is drunk to combat anxiety and depression.
Top 11-20 Herbs for Mental Health
- Bergamot: Although bergamot originally comes from Southeast Asia, nowadays bergamot usually comes from southern Italy. The pleasant citrus scent of bergamot oil is used in aromatherapy to combat anxiety and depression.
- Lemon Balm: Lemon balm is native to Central and Southern Europe. The calming effect of lemon balm tea is effective against stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
- Mead Wort: Mead wort or meadowsweet is native to Europe and West Asia. Mead wort contains salicin, a natural pain reliever. Meadowsweet tea helps to fight panic attacks, anxiety, and stress.
- Clary Sage: Clary sage is an herb from the Mediterranean region. Clary sage essential oil is effective against stress, anxiety, and depression.
- American Skullcap: American skullcap is a plant native to North America and has been used by Amerindians for centuries in their traditional medicine. American skullcap tea boosts the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the organism. This has a calming effect on our nervous system, making it suitable as a remedy for anxiety, insomnia, and bad mood.
- Lingzhi Mushroom: The Lingzhi mushroom is also known under the name Reishi. This mushroom, which is found in Asia, Europe, and North America, is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Lingzhi mushroom extract is effective against stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and moodiness. Fresh or dried Lingzhi mushroom is placed in boiling water to obtain a soup or tea.
- Lavender: Lavender is a plant found in India, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. Lavender essential oil is used in aromatherapy to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
- Motherwort: Originally this herb comes from Eastern Europe and Asia. Motherwort decreases heart tension, regulates fast heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, and blood pressure. The Motherwort tea and tincture are effective remedies for anxiety, stress, insomnia, and depression.
- Asian Ginseng: Asian ginseng is common in traditional Chinese medicine. This root is an effective remedy for stress-related anxiety and depression. Asian ginseng can be consumed raw or steamed.
- California poppy: This plant is native to the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. The California poppy or golden poppy is renowned for its calming effect. The part that grows above the ground is used to make tea and tincture. California poppy is a remedy for insomnia, anxiety, and stress.
Top 10 Herbs for Mental Health
- St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum): This herb is a plant with yellow flowers that is native to Northern Europe but has spread all over the world over time. St. John’s wort is also often seen as a weed as this plant is an invasive plant species. In Europe, St. John’s wort is strongly linked to the folk culture of the Germanic peoples. St. John’s wort is world-famous in traditional medicine and is widely used in Germany and the Netherlands. The use of this herbal remedy was already described in ancient times by Hippocrates of Kos, among others. This herb has a scientifically proven positive effect on mild depression. St. John’s Wort is thus a true antidepressant, slowing down the nervous system’s reuptake of serotonin (happiness hormone), dopamine (pleasure hormone), noradrenaline (also known as norepinephrine), gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and glutamic acid (one of twenty naturally occurring amino acids). St. John’s wort is also often used as a natural remedy for insomnia and stress. Since hyperforin (one of the phytochemicals that act as an antioxidant) is one of the basic constituents of St. John’s wort, this herb can also be used as an aid to treat alcoholism.
Never use St. John’s wort with other medicines as St. John’s wort can reduce and even affect the effectiveness of a very long list of medicines. It is strongly discouraged if you are taking the contraceptive pill, are taking HIV inhibitors or anti-epileptic drugs. St. John’s wort can be consumed as a tea, used as an essential oil for aromatherapy, or swallowed in the form of pills.
- Fairy Candle (Black Cohosh): This is an herb with flowers found in the forests of North America. Black cohosh flowers bloom by late spring. The root of this plant has long been used by Amerindian tribes as a dietary supplement to treat gynecological illnesses. In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, the chemical components of black cohosh have functions that perform similar functions as the neurotransmitter serotonin. That is why black cohosh is used as a natural medicine against anxiety disorders, mood swings, and depression, among other things. An important note about black cohosh is that around a hundred liver damage cases worldwide have been associated with this herb, so if you already have liver problems, the use of Black cohosh is not recommended. Fairy candle is mainly used as a tea or in the form of capsules or herbal tinctures for internal use.
- Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo Biloba): This tree, which is native to China, is the last survivor of an ancient genus. The Maidenhair tree is no longer found in the wild but has been planted as a temple tree in China and Japan for hundreds of years. In the meantime, the Maidenhair tree has also been exported in large numbers too, among others, to Europe and the United States. In Asia, the seeds of the Maidenhair tree have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Recently we’ve seen that Germany, France, and the Netherlands have also started to use leaf extract in modern medicine. In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, the Maidenhair tree is best known for stimulating circulation and improving the activity of neurotransmitters in our brains. Japan, in turn, uses these seeds to make all kinds of cosmetics for hair and skin. Germany has even included Ginkgo Biloba as a remedy for depression after studies showed its effectiveness. Other studies have shown that Ginkgo Biloba reduced stress and insomnia. A study has also recently been conducted that has proven the link between the intake of Ginkgo Biloba supplements and the reduction of anxiety disorders in patients suffering from a generalized anxiety disorder. Keep in mind that the use of Ginkgo Biloba can induce allergic reactions, diarrhea, and high blood pressure in certain individuals. Ginkgo Biloba extract is used as a food supplement in the form of capsules and dried Ginkgo Biloba leaves are drunk as tea.
- Valerian Root: This herb is originally from Europe and Asia but it is now also found in other parts of the world such as the United States. The flowers of this plant have been used to make perfume for thousands of years and to date. But for its medical properties, one must turn his attention to the roots of the Valerian. The chemicals in valerian root have been shown to slow down the breakdown of gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain. This positively affects anxiety, stress, and insomnia as it makes us feel calm and serene. Valerian root is mainly used as capsules.
- Sage: There are several varieties of sage, but for our specific purposes we will only study two types: the white sage and the common sage. (See numbers 14 and 26 [red sage] for a third and fourth type of sage). White sage or sacred sage is mainly found in California. The Amerindian peoples of the Pacific coast have been using the seeds and roots of this herb for their healing properties for centuries. Furthermore, the dried leaves are burned for ritual cleansing. Common sage is mainly found in the Mediterranean regions. Greeks and Romans already used it for its healing properties and during the Middle Ages, it was cultivated in many monasteries. Common sage essential oil helps balance your hormones and is thus a remedy for anxiety and depression. In aromatherapy, common sage is used to lower the cortisol level (the stress hormone) and increase the serotonin (the happiness hormone) level. The difference between the two plants is that one plant has white leaves and the other plant gray leaves. Both have white-purple flowers during their flowering period. White sage is mainly burned in bundles or as incense, but it can also be made into an infusion. However, this infusion is for external use as the leaves of the white sage are poisonous. That’s why if you come across sage in tea bags at your local herbalist, it will always be common sage. The dried leaves are used to make (common) sage tea. Both types are said to have a positive effect on the body through internal and external use respectively. The positive effects on the brain are said to help reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. Since several chemical components of sage act similar to the hormone estrogen, the use of sage during menopause is strongly recommended to compensate for the decrease in estrogen and thus alleviate the symptoms of menopause.
- Vetiver: This is originally a wild grass from India. Today, Vetiver is grown in multiple tropical regions around the world. Cosmetically, Vetiver is used to make perfumes, soaps, and creams for acne and eczema. These take advantage of their antiseptic properties. There are also known cases of Vetiver being used in traditional medicine all over the tropical region of the Asian continent. The essential vetiver oil is used in aromatherapy but is also applied directly to the skin. Attention, essential oils are diluted in a base oil before applying it to the skin. A few drops are enough. It helps with insomnia, stress, and anxiety as it rebalances hormonal imbalances. The chemical component of vetiver that exerts this positive, calming effect is Bornyl acetate. Contrary to popular belief, the essential oil is extracted by the distillation of the vetiver roots and not from the grass itself. The use of vetiver is only not recommended if you are pregnant.
- Linden: The Linden tree can be found in the temperate climate zone of Europe, the United States, and Asia. The dried flower and leaves of the linden tree make a delicious tea that has been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years. Thanks to the sedative effect of linden tea, it can be used to combat stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Some of the herbal ingredients of linden such as tiliroside, rutoside, and chlorogenic acid also lower blood pressure. However, it is not recommended to drink more than three cups of linden tea per day. It is strongly discouraged for persons taking any medications containing lithium, pregnant women, children, and heart patients to drink linden tea.
- Ylang Ylang: Ylang Ylang means “flower of flowers” in Tagalog, the language of the Philippines. The Ylang Ylang essential oil is made from the flowers of the Cananga tree. Several studies have shown that the essential oil of Ylang Ylang is good for high blood pressure, as well as against stress, anxiety, and depression. Ylang Ylang is applied to the skin or inhaled. Ylang Ylang is often also recommended against asthma. Ylang Ylang must always be diluted before use. In water for inhalation or in a base oil for cutaneous use.
- Passiflora: The passion vine or passionflower is native to Latin America and has been used for centuries in Europe to combat anxiety. The dried purple passionflowers are used to make tea. This tea boosts the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA in the brain, which lowers brain activity and induces a feeling of relaxation. That is why passionflower tea is used to combat anxiety and insomnia.
- Vervain: Vervain or verbena is a plant native to Europe. Vervain tea has a calming effect on the nervous system and has been used since the 17th century to combat stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Vervain is a popular and safe drug used in traditional medicine. The positive effect of Vervain on mental health has been scientifically proven.
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