Herbal and Natural Remedies for Mood Disorders

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St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort is an herb native to Europe that has been used in natural and herbal medicine practices for hundreds of years. In ancient Greece, herbal healers used it to treat symptoms of hysteria and nervous disorders. In recent years, this herb has gained in popularity as one of the most beneficial natural remedies for mood disorders. St John’s Wort has been shown to be particularly effective for depression, but it may also help to alleviate the symptoms of other mood disorders. Some studies show that St. John’s Wort may be as effective as certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, typically prescribed to help depression.The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that St. John’s Wort has shown promise alleviating some of the symptoms of mood disorders such as seasonal affective disorder and the mood swings associated with premenstrual syndrome and menopause.


Aromatherapists and other natural and herbal healers commonly use lavender in both its herb and essential oil form to treat a variety of mental disorders. Inhaling the aroma of lavender essential oil slows the nervous sytem, making it a potentially beneficial natural remedy for nervous conditions such as anxiety and insomnia-related mood deficits. Additionally, lavender has been used for centuries to create a more positive, relaxed mood and has been shown to be effective in raising the mood of people suffering from depression. Plus, the effects of antidepressants may be enhanced by combining them with lavender. A 2003 study published in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry studied the effects of a lavender tincture on depression. In this study, participants were split into three groups. One group received a placebo plus the lavender tincture, one group took the antidepressant imipramine combined with the lavender tincture and the last group took only the lavender tincture. The study showed that participants who received a lavender supplement combined with the antidepressant imipramine exhibited less depressive symptoms that participants who only took the antidepressant or lavender alone.


Kava is another herbal supplement that has been used throughout history for its relaxing, sedating properties. In traditional medicine practices, kava is used to reduce stress and anxiety, relax the body and mind, promote a feeling of contentment and raise the mood. Although Western herbal healers have generally used kava for its anxiety-reducing properties, one study shows that it is also one of the more beneficial natural remedies for mood disorders like depression. The study, published in the May 2009 edition of the journal Psychopharmacology, proved that kava diminishes anxiety levels and also has a positive impact on reducing depression.


Ayurveda is a traditional Indian healing art that has been used for thousands of years to promote health and well being. In Ayurvedic medicine, mood disorders are treated a variety of ways, including a combination of herbs and lifestyle changes. One of the most promising Ayurvedic herbs for alleviating mood disorders is the herb Brahmi. Alakananda Devi, an Ayurvedic practitioner and director of the Alandi Ayurvedic Clinic in Boulder, Colorado, suggests that Brahmi can help to significantly improve the symptoms of depression and other affective mood disorders due to its relaxing, mood-enhancing properties.


University of Maryland Medical Center: St. John’s Wort

Ayurveda Review: Affective Mood Disorder

Bastyr Center: Lavender as Therapy for Depression

“The Kava Anxiety Spectrum Disorder Study”; Psychopharmacology Volume 205, Number 3; J. Sarris et al; May 2009