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Herbal Health: how to support your mental health with helpful herbs

We all feel down from time to time but there are some natural remedies which can help you feel happier.

Editor Jane Garton looks inside the herbal medicine chest for some natural remedies to help you to do just that.

Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes things don’t turn out exactly as planned, problems at work can instil anxiety, as can financial worries, and relationships not running as smoothly as they once did.  Add in the uncertain times we are all going through, the Covid pandemic, and the soaring rise in the cost of living and it’s not surprising many of us are not feeling on top of the world.

If this sounds familiar it may be time to consider some herbal remedies to help you through these difficult times. And what better time than Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year runs from May 10th– 15th, to consider some herbal remedies that could help put back the smile on your face.

St. John’s wort

ST John's Wort flower with bright blue sky background

Otherwise known as the sunshine herb, St John’s wort is the ideal remedy if your mood is low, or anxiety is starting to interfere with your daily life. Typical symptoms include feeling tired and listless with next to no energy. You may also feel irritated by family and friends and regard daily life as a chore.

Numerous studies show that it can help to lift the spirits. The active ingredient hypericum is thought to help boost levels of the brain chemical serotonin, low levels of which have been linked with mild depression.

Rhodiola

Close up of the rhodiola plant

If stress at work or at home is getting you down, it may be worth giving Rhodiola a try. It may also help if you are still experiencing the after-effects of the pandemic like loneliness and isolation which can seriously damage self-esteem.

Like St John’s wort, Rhodiola helps to boost levels of serotonin in the brain, which in turn can improve mood and motivation and help you to feel better about yourself. It is thought to have anti-fatigue and anti-stress effects and has been shown to help improve mental and physical performance under stress.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha

Being an adaptogen herb, Ashwagandha helps to relax the nervous system as well as increasing strength and stamina. Studies show that Ashwagandha can help in the treatment of anxiety and low mood, and it is also said to help improve concentration and memory.

Panax ginseng

Close up of ginseng root and broth

Another adaptogen herb, Panax ginseng can help restore your get up and go, and so can be beneficial if you are feeling listless and without purpose in life. It helps to strengthen the adrenals and balance the system generally.

Valerian

The valerian flower

If anxiety and worries are keeping you awake at night and in turn making you more anxious during the day soothing Valerian could provide the relief you are looking for. Look out for extracts of valerian root which contain iridoids – naturally occurring compounds that have a beneficial effect on the nervous system so helping to promote calm ahead of sleep.

Lifestyle tips

MIddle aged woman smiling at the camera with a riverside background

Try something new

A new project or something like volunteering in your local charity shop will help activate your brain and stop you looking inward.

Get physical

Getting active can make a big difference to your state of mind and overall wellness.

Go outside

Although you may not feel like it even a walk round the block can help lift your spirits. Better still would be spending 30 minutes in your local park or somewhere green – nature can be wonderfully restorative.

Ring a friend

Getting in touch with a friend or family member can take your mind off negative thoughts.

Take a break

Go somewhere different such as a new coffee bar. Changing your physical location can help to change your perspective on the world.

Talk about it

You may be reluctant to admit you are feeling down but talking things through with someone can help to lift the burden.

Pamper yourself

A small indulgence or a luxury you have been promising yourself can do wonders for your mood.

To find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week visit the mentalhealth.org.uk website. 

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