fbpx Skip to main content

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental health is a topic dear to our hearts here at Happy Herb Co. Many of our customers contact us looking for herbs that can help them manage the stress of everyday life that is contributing to their anxiety, low moods, insomnia, anger outbursts or addictions. I praise anyone who is seeking better mental health, as for our whole being to be healthy, we cannot ignore this important facet. The pace of life in today’s society demands we shine a spotlight on our mental health and consciously ‘do the work’ to stay mentally healthy. I love this quote by Herbalist David Hoffman in ‘The New Holistic Herbal’: 

“Many neuroses we meet in today’s western society are normal responses to an abnormal environment, sane reactions of the psyche to the insanities of a diseased society”.

While I wholeheartedly agree with this, I think it’s important to understand that even our ancient ancestors living far more ‘primitive’ lives still believed in the importance of dedicating time and effort to one’s mental health. The concepts of meditation, yoga, folk lore, dreaming, chanting and song have long served as tools to ground and centre our mental state and give us purpose, hope and a feeling of belonging. It is wonderful to see humanity come full circle and begin to integrate these ancient practises into our modern lives. 

Herbs have also been used by ancient cultures to treat neurological conditions  and can be traced back to 6000BC, where Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) and the brahmi species were used for the management of seizures and convulsions. The Eclectics centred their management of the nervous system to an herbal class known as nervines. Modern herbalism has built on this traditional knowledge and thus has so much to offer when it comes to managing imbalances in the nervous system.

To contribute to Mental Health Awareness Month, I have broken down into sections below some common mental health issues and herbs that may offer assistance. Please understand that if you are suffering with any sort of mental health condition, I urge to speak with your primary health care advisor and always check for cautions or contraindications if you are taking medications and would like to include herbs  in you regime.

By Tamara Welsh, Happy Herbalist


We have all experienced anxiety at some point in our lives and normally the uncomfortable feeling lasts for a short time and then subsides. The way we experience anxiety, and if it becomes habitual for us, can be due to our genes, experiences, environment, diet and lifestyle. Both adaptogens and nervine sedative herbs are indicated for anxiety among others depending on the individual. Here are a few of my favourites:


Damiana is considered a tonic to the nervous system and thus it can be helpful for positive mood, stress relief, improving libido and more. Tonic herbs refer to herbal allies with substantially supportive reputations. It has traditionally been used to relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression and to support normal sexual function. It can improve libido due is testosteromimetic actions (its ability to mimic testosterone) so it is a great herb when anxiety is contributing to low sex drive or erectile dysfunction.


Ashwagandha is a wonderful building and nourishing tonic for all stages of life. It is an adaptogen and thus it can help support the body during time of stress and associated anxiety. Ashwagandha has become increasingly popular as more studies show its ability to reduce both psychological and physiological markers of stress, improve mental well-being and reduce serum cortisol levels and food cravings.


Passionflower contains compounds that have sedative actions including passiforine, which is chemically similar to morphine. It also has substances that are potentially stimulating. Despite the complex activity on the central nervous system of Passionflower, the herb has an overall mild sedative effect. Passionflower is a wonderfully useful herb for anxiety because it has been shown to be fast acting and can be used prophylactically before a known upcoming stressful event such as public speaking or surgery.

Oat Straw

The humble oat is another wonderfully nutritive herb for the nervous system. Oat straw combines nicely with Passionflower to help calm and nourish the nervous system. Oats are particularly good for nervous exhaustion. They can help to rebuild and strengthen the nervous system in a calming and grounding way.

passionflower for anxiety and stress relief

Low Mood

Low mood and depression can lead to a state of inaction and thus a downward spiral to a more chronic condition. Motivation is often very low so starting with small, achievable steps is a must. An honest look at the underlying cause of low moods is necessary and often lifestyle changes are required. Herbs can help in these initial stages by lifting the fog and allowing for action. Here are a few herbs to consider for low mood:

St John’s Wort

St John’s Wort has been used for more than 2,000 years as an herbal medicine. The herb is gathered during the flowering and contains hypericin and hyperforin which have both been shown to have anti-depressant effects. St John’s Wort also has analgesic effects, particularly for nerve related pain, so it is a useful herb where nerve pain is present. 


Saffron is a mighty herb despite its delicacy. Its small stringy stigmas are picked by hand, their high carotenoid content giving them their distinct yellowy orange colour. Saffron stigma contain over 150 volatile and non-volatile constituents. Several small studies have shown it to be effective as an antidepressant with improvements also to anxiety and insomnia.


Mucuna, also known as the Velvet Bean, is a legume often sold as a powder. A lot of research has been done on Mucuna is recent years due to its neuroprotective activity in the treatment and management of Parkinson’s disease. The seed of Mucuna pruriens is well known as having dopaminergic action and thus antidepressant effects. This may explain why traditionally, Mucuna has been widely used as a potent aphrodisiac, stimulant and mood enhancer and is a popular powder to add to smoothies and foods for a stimulating lift.

Poor Sleep & Insomnia

While most of us have experienced a night or two of restless sleep, continual poor sleep, as is experienced with insomnia is a major health concern. I have found herbs to be particularly useful for insomnia sufferers as they can help to break the vicious cycle of poor sleep by creating a new sleep rhythm and eventually the herbs can be phased out. Poor sleep is often a result of many different diet and lifestyle factors and thus it is important to take a holistic approach. If insomnia is an issue for you consider trying one of the herbal sedatives below:


Kava is a remarkable herb and works well when used for short periods of time for insomnia due to anxiety. If you are anxious or under acute stress and this is affecting your sleep, Kava may be able to assist.  Kava has repeatably shown to be as effective as some anxiolytic drugs (buspirone and opipramol) and have a significant effect on reduction in anxiety. 


Valerian is a well-known herbal sedative with antispasmodic and carminative actions. The essential oil, valepotriates and valerenic acid and derivatives all contribute to the sedative activity. It is thought that these constituents, particularly valeranic acid, modulate GABA(A) receptors which results in a calming and inhibitory effect.


Another well-known sedative herb is Hops. Its specific indication is restlessness associated with nervous tension, headache and/or indigestion and thus it is a very useful herb to ease all sorts of body tension and anxiety that stop us from falling asleep. Hops is bitter and astringent so it combines nicely with herbs such as Chamomile to help with an upset stomach that is keeping you up at night.

sleepy time insomnia

Mood Swings, Irritability & Anger

Mood swings, irritability and anger can often result when the nervous system is under strain. Insomnia in particular can be a large contributor to irritability and an unsteady mind. You may also need to consider other systems in the body that can contribute to trapped internal heat such as the liver or sex hormone imbalances. For these heated emotional states, we turn to uplifting and cooling herbs: 

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a nervine tonic and a wonderful herb to help lift the mood. It has been shown to bring about a sense of calm without impairing cognitive performance. Lemon balm is a delicious tasting herb and makes a very enjoyable tea. The simple of action of brewing an herbal tea can also be mood lifting and calming helping to combat stress and anxiety and soothe an angry mind.


Similarly, Tulsi lifts the spirit. It is an adaptogen and its pharmacological actions have been shown to help the body and mind cope with a wide range of stressors. It has a calming effect allowing for relaxation and clarity of thought. Tulsi is best taken long term and is delicious as a tea.

Rose & Lavender

The aromatic flowers of Rose and Lavender have an uplifting and cooling effect that can instantly help to soften the heart and mind when internal anger is looming. These herbs work well sprinkled on the tops of warm drinks and foods to allow their aroma to lift. Both herbs are also helpful in lessening the symptoms of tension headaches and migraines that often accompany inner irritability and anger.

I hope you have found this series on herbs to support mental health helpful! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or suggestions on what you’d like me to cover.


Rana DG, Galani VJ. Dopamine mediated antidepressant effect of Mucuna pruriens seeds in various experimental models of depression. Ayu. 2014 Jan;35(1):90-7. doi: 10.4103/0974-8520.141949. PMID: 25364207; PMCID: PMC4213977.

Boerner RJ, Sommer H, Berger W et al. Kava-Kava extract LI 150 is as effective as Opipramol and Buspirone in Generalised Anxiety Disorder–an 8-week randomized, double blind multi-centre clinical trial in 129 out-patients. Phytomedicine. 2003; 10 Suppl 4: 38-49. PMID: 12807341

Trauner G, Khom S, Baburin I, Benedek B, Hering S, Kopp B. Modulation of GABAA receptors by valerian extracts is related to the content of valerenic acid. Planta Med. 2008 Jan;74(1):19-24. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-993761. Epub 2007 Dec 19. PMID: 18095218.

Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, Tildesley NTJ, Perry EK, Wesnes KA. Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm). Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2002 Jul;72(4):953-964. DOI: 0.1016/s0091- 3057(02)00777-3 1

Boerner RJ, Sommer H, Berger W et al. Kava-Kava extract LI 150 is as effective as Opipramol and Buspirone in Generalised Anxiety Disorder–an 8-week randomized, double blind multi-centre clinical trial in 129 out-patients. Phytomedicine. 2003; 10 Suppl 4: 38-49. PMID: 12807341

Also by The Happy Herbalist

herbs for mental health
Herbal Verbals

Herbs for Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month Mental health is a topic dear to our hearts here at Happy Herb Co. Many of our customers contact…
mothers day
Herbal Verbals

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas: Natural Gifts for Her!

Mother's Day is on Sunday, May 14th, and we have a full range of herbal goodies to shower the special women in your life with…
Herbal Verbals

Mother’s Day Giveaway

✨Win a Herbal Gift Set for Mother's Day ✨ Treat a special woman in your life to a beautifully curated gift set of our favourite women's…
home compostable bags
Herbal Verbals

Get to Know Our Home Compostable Packaging

As part of our commitment to being an environmentally sustainable business, and being about more than just profit, we made the shift to home compostable…

Join our community!

Subscribe now to stay up to date with great offers, new products, and insights from the wonderful world of herbs!