Happy woman outside smiling

Herb Health: Get happy

We all feel flat from time to time and ‘getting happy’ can sometimes be easier said than done.

Medical herbalist Gabriella Clarke shares some top remedies to help restore your spirits and improve your get-up-and-go.

If you are feeling low, there are lots of lovely remedies to help lift the spirits and improve our mood.


Commonly called the sunshine herb, this has to be the number one remedy for treating low mood. It contains a chemical known as hypericin, which increases our natural levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin. This is also how antidepressant drugs work, but St John’s wort doesn’t cause the side effects that common antidepressant medication can do.

St John’s wort also helps deal with insomnia by increasing levels of melatonin – a hormone responsible for the quality and quantity of sleep we need. Some reports also show that St John’s wort may help us to overcome addictions. So if you are planning to give up smoking and opt for a dry January, this is definitely the herb for you. It should be noted that St John’s wort is contra-indicated with many common medicines, such as antidepressants and the contraceptive pill, so always check with your health care provider if this remedy is suitable for you.


We get most of our essential nutrients through the diet, but vitamin D is one of the exceptions. Although we absorb a small amount from vitamin D-rich foods such as oily fish, 80% of our vitamin D actually comes from our skin’s reaction with UV sunlight. This vitamin is essential not only for healthy bones, but also a strong immune system. Low levels of vitamin D in our blood have also been linked with low mood and depression.

For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, we simply do not get enough sunlight to synthesize enough vitamin D for our needs. Taking a supplement is essential unless you are lucky enough to be spending a good part of the winter months in the Caribbean or another far -flung sunny location.


This fantastic adaptogenic herb can help to combat anxiety and fatigue. Ginseng has a gentle regulatory action can help lift mood enabling us to cope better with day-to -day life while at the same time helping to regulate our sleep patterns.


Another great adaptogen, which has a wealth of clinical research behind it, is rhodiola. This performance-enhancing herb helps to increase physical and mental energy and reduce fatigue and enhance a sense of well being. It also has a stimulating effect on our immune system helping us to ward off the common viruses, which are rife at this time of year.