A range of herbs hanging up and drying

Herbal heroes: natural support for your health

Take control in 2021 and make this the year you address those common niggles such as migraines, sleep problems and aches and pains that can put a damper on daily life.

Editor Jane Garton picks some herbal heroes to take you through the year ahead.


For low mood try St John’s Wort

Close up of woman in black and white looking sad

This is a traditional herbal mood booster that studies show can be effective at treating mild-to-moderate depression. Often referred to as the ‘sunshine herb’ its active ingredient hypericin is known to help boost serotonin – the body’s natural feel-good hormone. If taking prescribed medication always check with your GP before taking St John’s wort.

For fatigue try Rhodiola

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This is a performance-enhancing herb, which helps to increase physical and mental energy and reduce fatigue as well as boosting well being. It also has a stimulating effect on the immune system helping us to ward off common viruses, which are rife at this time of year.

For migraine try Feverfew

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A member of the daisy family, the perennial plant feverfew has been used for centuries in herbal medicine and over the years has become a popular treatment for migraine. Some people report that after taking feverfew they get migraines less often and in some cases they stopped completely.

It is not an instant fix, however, and you need to take feverfew for several weeks before you can expect to see a marked improvement – maximum benefit is often achieved only after several months. It should be seen as a long-term preventative measure rather than a quick cure.

Although you can grow your own feverfew plants most people prefer to take it in capsule form as the leaves or teas are quite bitter and can irritate the inside of the mouth.

For sleep disturbances try Passionflower

Close up of woman in bed unable to get to sleep

The vibrant blooms of this distinctive South American climber yield soporific fruits that are often used to calm nervous tension. Passionflower combines well with camomile and valerian to aid sleep. To make an infusion put one teaspoon of dried plant leaves into a cup of boiling water. Leave to infuse for a few minutes before straining and drinking.

For coughs and colds try Pelargonium

Woman with a cold sitting with a blanket on

A member of the geranium family and native to South Africa, pelargonium is gaining a reputation for being a natural alternative to antibiotics. Start to dose up with pelargonium at the first sign of a sniffle or a sore throat. Research shows it helps to kick-start your body’s natural killer cells as well as helping to relieve typical cold symptoms such as a sore throat and nasal congestion. It may also help to put a stop to secondary infections such as bronchitis

For aches and pains try Devil’s Claw or Boswellia

A black and white picture of a man's back with the spine and lower back highlighted red to represent back pain

So-called because of the vicious hooks on its fruits which stick to animals’ feet, devil’s claw is a firm favourite with herbalists for soothing aches and pains.

Long used by bushmen living in the Kalahari Sands of Namibia for back and joint problems, numerous clinical studies show that devil’s claw contains substances that have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties and these are thought to be responsible for its soothing benefits.  Boswellia is another herb to consider to help ease aching joints.

For stress try Ashwagandha

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Used in Ayurvedic medicine for 3,000 years to promote youthful vigour and enhance muscle strength and endurance, an increasing number of studies now suggest ashwagandha can also help relieve ease stress as well as boosting wellbeing. It is also well known as an adaptogen, meaning it helps restore the body to a state of balance resulting from internal stressors such as insomnia, fatigue and anxiety.

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