5 Herbs to Uplift Your Mood & Relieve Stress
Updated: Feb 24, 2022
We've all had a moment where we need a mood booster due to stress and overwhelm, particularly during the darker months of winter. Let's look at some herbs that may help us feel better.
Stress... You know that thing your body feels when it is in a state of mental or emotional strain or tension usually resulting from something in your life that was quite demanding.
It is our bodies' way of adapting and dealing with new situations and it can be a positive thing. It can keep us alert, give us motivation to complete a task and even help us to avoid danger. However, it becomes bad when we are constantly in this state, and have no moments of relief and relaxation. This can be particularly difficult during the darker months of winter, where we may sometimes feel overwhelmed or depressed for most of the day... because of the dark and dreary weather... HELP!! 😟
Exposure to sunlight is a great way to melt the stress away, due to it increasing our brain's serotonin levels. If you didn't know, serotonin is referred to as one of the happy hormones, because it helps to uplift your mood and keep you calm and focused. As a result, it has coined the terms, 'the mood stabiliser' or 'the will power hormone'.
So when we feel overwhelmed, stressed or in need of a pick me up, we want to ensure that we have enough serotonin in our bodies and give our minds a rest from the stress. Meditating, exercising, sun exposure are great ways to help with that, and I encourage everyone to incorporate some form of these regularly. But during the winter it can be difficult to get out of that slump and sometimes our personalities are just wired in a way where we have to work hard to not worry ourselves sick.
Herbal allies may be just what we need to supplement our lifestyles. Bear in mind that we need to be leading healthy lifestyles with healthy habits, and herbs should not be depended on but rather treat them as an ally. Sometimes you need a friend to fight in your corner with you but for the most part, we are strong and capable of doing it ourselves! 💪
Read on to learn more about these wonderful herbal allies for soothing and calming a stressed out mind, whilst helping to uplift ones mood.
#1 lemon balm - Melissa officinalis
A member fo the mint family, this lemon-scented herb does wonders at easing stress and anxiety. The leaves are the most valuable part when it comes to this - most traditionally used to make a tea with, but if anxiety levels are quite high, a tincture may be your best bet.
Lemon balm works by naturally increasing our levels of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) in the brain. What exactly does GABA do you ask? Well, it helps to regulate our mood by preventing our neurons from being too stressed. Rosmarinic acid, as well as other compounds found in Lemon balm, work synergistically to go into our system and inhibit an enzyme known as GABA transaminase - which is responsible for the breakdown of GABA. With this enzyme being halted, GABA can increase in our brains and we can start to feel better and less anxious. Damn!! Can someone get me a cup of lemon balm tea?!
Lemon balm can also help to regulate inflammation, check out this post on: Period Cramps: What's the Deal? And How to Relieve them Naturally!, to see how you can incorporate lemon balm to deal with the stress that can be menstruation.
#2 cannabidiol - Cannabis sativa L.
Yes, you heard right... Cannabis, dope, pot, weed, mary jane... whatever you call it. This whacky backy can really have you feeling high, this is due to the presence of THC which can have the undesired psychoactive effects and not to mention is still very illegal in many places.
In this example, I am specifically talking about the more legal cannabidiol (CBD) component found in the cannabis plant, the part of the plant that doesn't leave you high but gives you all the other benefits. CBD can be found on the market in various forms, but be careful, quality is the key with this component. Take the time to research and do your due diligence so that you source the best form you can afford and also ensure it is actually legal where you live!
With the growing interest in CBD, active research has found that CBD works wonders at reducing stress by NOT increasing serotonin in our bodies but by affecting how our brain responds to serotonin levels already in our system. It has been found to have positive effects on anxiety, depression and stress (asking for a friend, where can I cop some?).
#3 passionflower - Passiflora incarnata
With its antispasmodic properties, this other-worldly looking plant is super useful for soothing and calming stress, panic and even restlessness.
The beauty of herbs and plants is that they are packed full of thousands and thousands of phytochemicals (plant chemicals) - which can make it challenging at times to pinpoint exactly the mechanism at play that leads to the benefits. The plus side to having all these phytochemicals is that generally there are fewer side effects presented, as these phytochemicals tend to work synergistically with each other to provide the desired benefit but counter any adverse effects. With passionflower, the exact mechansim of how this plant works is not quite known, however some studies have suggested that the use of passionflower for treating anxiety is as effective at eliminating symptoms as anxiety medication, with the added bonus of little to no impairment on performance. I mean... yes please, sign me up!
#4 ashwagandha - Withania somnifera
This ancient remedy has become quite popular in recent years due to its adaptogenic properties. Ashwagandha, probably the most popular of the adaptogens, is a great herb to have in your arsenal to rejuvenate the body and mind after periods of stress.
Cortisol, which is released by the adrenals, is a stress hormone. A little is needed during the day to help mobilise the body, but too much and we become stressed out - and all the associated symptoms that come with that! Ashwagandha works by promoting healthy levels of cortisol, therefore supporting the adrenal glands. It also works on naturally supporting the GABA pathway, the neurotransmitter which is responsible for inducing calmness and boosting our moods.
FUN FACT: Ashwagandha's botanical name of "somnifera", indicates the relaxing qualities of the herb; in Latin, it translates to 'sleep-inducing'.
#5 holy basil / tulsi - Ocimum tenuiflorum
Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is the adaptogenic herb that seems to fly under the radar. Oh, I might have mentioned this amazing, underrated herb last, but trust me, it certainly is not to be slept on.
Holy basil, like all adaptogens, helps to bring balance and better equips the body with dealing with stress. However, each adaptogen does have its own individual benefits. Holy basil, is great for stabilising blood sugar levels and helping with insulin sensitivity. When your blood glucose levels are steady, your mood will be too and when your mood is steady, you can deal with stress much better - see how it is all linked?!
Blood sugar levels are also important for good sleep, I mention this herb in the following article as well: Why Can't I Sleep? And Ways to Drift Off Naturally. It's definitely worth incorporating holy basil in your routine if stress is also affecting your sleep and you are mindful of your blood sugar levels.
NOTE: Do not confuse holy basil with the culinary basil, the one used abundantly in Italian food - it has its own benefits but they are not interchangeable.
Stress is something that is hard to avoid in the modern world. We all strive for that zen-life, being care-free and living stress-free, right? Maybe if we incorporate some of these herbs, and practice healthy habits - we may just be able to achieve that! Wow! Let's say bye bye 👋to seasonal blues and stressed out minds, amirite?
If this article helped you in anyway, then please do share and leave a lovely comment below - will you try any of these herbs or have you used them before?! Lemme know 🙂
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