herbs for anxiety depression

“You are not your chemical inheritance”, according to Adriana Ayales NYC herbalist behind Anima Mundi. But for those of us struggling with anxiety and depression, it might not seem that way — especially if being treated by the kind of doctor who doles out meds like Halloween candy. If you’ve been told, “you’re just hard-wired this way,” Ayales is offering a different perspective.

Pointing to new science on the ever-changing state of our brains, Adriana urges us to become more active in the way we approach stress, including her top five herbs for anxiety and depression…

Many of us have been taught that depression is the result of a genetic chemical imbalance. And while there is certainly a genetic component to depression, and, yes, neurotransmitters like serotonin do play a role in mood, depression actually has many potential root causes. Our mind, body and soul experience constant renewal and transcendence. In fact, so much so, that the latest discoveries within neuroplasticity teach us that our brain literally rewires itself daily. The brain is constantly ‘rewiring’ itself at every time scale—from hundreds of milliseconds, to minutes, hours, days, weeks and so on.

For decades, the prevailing dogma on neuroscience was that the adult brain is essentially hardwired, fixed in form and immutable so that by the time we reach adulthood we are pretty much stuck with what we have. And yes, you can very much de-accelerate development if a constant state of negativity and destructive emotions are allowed to prevail the internal atmosphere and trigger degeneration. But, I’m here to tell you good news.

herbs for anxiety and depression

You’re not your chemical inheritance. You’re not confined to the destiny of your genes, or the end result of stress, trauma, depression, chronic unhappiness, etc. You might not be who you think who you are. The latest research supports the notion that we have a natural ability to change the brain and body by thought alone. Because you can make thought more real than anything else, you can change who you are from brain cell to gene.

Dr. Joe Dispenza says, “We can turn on anxiety, stress and depression by thought alone. The hormones of stress fired for long periods of time, push the genetic buttons that create disease. And no organism can tolerate living in emergency mode for extended periods of time. The longterm effects of firing the hormones of stress such as anger, aggression, depression, anxiety, fear, unworthiness, guilt, shame, (etc) dysregulate and downregulate genes to create disease and imbalance. That means then your habitual thoughts and feelings can make you sick.”

All About Anti-Depressants + Placebos

According to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, approximately one in six Americans take anti-depressants. This means that more than 30 million Americans are gobbling Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Elavil, Norpramin, Luvox, Paxil, Wellbutrin and other antidepressant psychiatric drugs like candy. This drug use accounts for billions of dollars in pharmaceutical sales annually (14.11 U.S. billion just in antidepressants alone in 2017).

Yet according to a landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, antidepressant medications work—as well as placebos and not more. In other words, people in depression studies who are given sugar pills instead of antidepressant drugs do as well as the group who gets the drugs.

There is serious disheartening news about these drugs that need to be considered before they’re taken. Many people opt to taking antidepressant medications instead of changing the circumstances and habits that might be fueling the depression. There are a significant amount of studies demonstrating how depression can indeed be healed faster with meditation, herbs, diet, lifestyle choices and more, than the actual anti-depressant itself.


If you look at placebo studies, about 83% of the people in a double-triple blind placebo study, respond just as well as the anti-depressants. You can do functional scans at the brain before and after, and after 6-8 weeks after intake, you can see the change significantly. This means the brain is creating its own pharmacy of chemicals equal to the chemical they were taking. The chemistry of the brain has been proven to chance by thought alone.

+ inflammation
+ hormonal Imbalance
+ nutrient deficiencies
+ stress (physical, emotional, biological, spiritual, etc.)
+ thyroid dysfunction

Key Tools To Beating Depression With Medicinal Herbs

The foods that you eat and the substances that you choose to put in your body have a massive effect on your mood and on your emotional state and are often the key to reversing depression with herbs and diet. Like mentioned above, the psycho-emotional mindsets are quite necessary to set the foundation for change, coupled with nutritional and medicinal assets, are powerful duo’s to create the necessary transformation.

By the end of this article you will have a base roadmap to the most well researched herbs and some food suggestions to include in your diet to beat depression, which you should be eating daily to make sure your body has everything it needs to produce abundant neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, GABA, acetylcholine and how to use the autonomic nervous system to your advantage to tap deep into subconscious programming—all of which are huge players in your mood. We’ll also review some of the foods that make contribute to depressive tendencies that you can avoid to stop sabotaging your progress.

Top 5 Herbs To Boost Your Mood

If you are looking for a quick fix, the herbs mentioned below can grant you noticeable effects. And although these herbs and foods can give you an instant mood lift, you don’t want to build your home on a shaky foundation. Also, be aware that if you’re taking anti-depressants some of the herbs mentioned below cannot be coupled with them. Please inform yourself first before self-diagnosing.

herbs for anxiety and depression

Backed by extensive scientific research especially from Germany where some 3 million prescriptions for hypericum and almost 66 million doses of hypericum preparations are consumed annually, this ancient botanical, the favorite of herbalists of present and centuries past, is beginning to be used in western medicine for nervous anxiety, and sleep disorders.

Studies show that St. John’s wort can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression—and has fewer side effects. Many studies found that St.John’s wort successfully treated symptoms of mild depression more effectively than a placebo. Reduced symptoms to a similar extent as prescription antidepressants, appeared to have fewer side effects than prescription antidepressants and doesn’t decrease sex drive, like antidepressants do. (R) No medical studies have been made on dosage and efficiency for severe depression.

St. Johns Wort has also been successful and researched to helping with wound healing, hormonal imbalances such as those with PMS and menopause, as well as helping with SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

No one knows how antidepressants work, nor why they seem to take so long to exhibit their effects. In this, St. John’s Wort is no exception and it should be taken in full, regular 300 mg dosage three times at different intervals throughout the day for at least a month to six weeks before making an objective evaluation. After six weeks, the dose can be slightly reduced. St Johns Wort contains no known side effects.

Note: If you are already taking prescription antidepressants, do not alter your dosage or combine with St. John’s Wort without first consulting with your doctor. Nor should St. John’s Wort be concurrently used with MAO (mono amine oxidase) inhibitors such as Nardil or Parnate.


Rhodiola rosea has received quite a lot of press as it’s a big player amongst clinical trials as an antidepressant. Rhodiola is also a well known adaptogen, meaning it regulates the endocrine system (our stress response). It also supports the limbic system, also known the center of our emotions. The limbic system is composed of key glands that are said to be the glands of perception which directly influence our consciousness, some of them being the hippocampus, amygdala, hypothalamus, pituitary glands. This system directly responds to norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine and consequently contributes to positive outcomes in emotion, memory, mood, pleasure, energy and drive.

As with other adaptogens, Rhodiola acts upon the central nervous system to enhance the actions of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. Which as we learned above are key players to experiencing happiness, clarity, joy and an uplifted mood. It also makes the blood brain barrier more permeable to neurotransmitter precursors, so adequate neurotransmitters can be produced. Rhodiola is also well known to stimulate and protect brain function.

Clinical doses are commonly 200 to 600 mg/day. For depression, doses of 340 to 680 mg/day of R. rosea extract (as SHR-5) have been evaluated for up to 12 weeks. Rhodiola contains no known side effects.

herbs for anxiety and depression


Mucuna is perhaps one of nature’s most important antidepressant food and medicine. Mucuna pruriens is extraordinarily rich in L-Dopa, the amino acid found in our body known to be the pre-cursor to dopamine, and a host of other neurochemicals such as epinephrine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Mucuna is also rich in other rare neurochemicals like 5-MeO-DMT and 5-HTP, which all boost neurotransmitter production to varying degrees.

Several studies have demonstrated that healthy levels of dopamine, along with the presence of other key neurotransmitters such as epinephrine and norepinephrine, can prevent Parkinson’s. Mucuna has also been found to boost hormone production and libido, which can help to fight depression in many cases if low or imbalanced hormone levels are a contributing factor. Mucuna is also fairly rich in a number of vitamins and minerals as well, and for this and other reasons it is eaten daily in many indigenous cultures around the world and is a remarkably safe and effective food for fighting depression.

Low dopamine in the brain’s emotional (mesolimbic) centers may cause the inability to feel pleasure, which is common in depression. Low dopamine in cognitive (mesocortical) areas may trigger a lack of motivation, enthusiasm and purpose that people with certain forms of depression suffer from.

Clinical doses are commonly 15-30 grams per day of a standardized extract. Mucuna might have interaction with antidepressants, please consult your doctor before using. Other side effects that are rare are nausea and abdominal discomfort.

ALBIZZIA – eternal happiness tree

The flowers and bark of the mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) are among the most valued of Chinese botanicals for relieving anxiety, stress and depression. Recently some Chinese herbalists and acupuncturists have even called it ‘herbal Prozac’. Its use was first documented in the Shen Nong Ben Cao (Divine Husbandman’s Classic of the Materia Medica) during the 2nd century for its mood supportive and deeply calming properties, as well as for its shen (spirit) tonic qualities. Chinese people traditionally recommend its use for anyone who is suffering from grief and sadness as a result of a severe loss or trauma.

Both the bark and the flowers of albizzia are used as a calming sedative. Categorized in the Chinese Materia Medica as a calming spirit herb, “the bark is thought to ‘anchor’ the spirit, while the flowers lighten it.” (ND Michael Tierra). The flowers have also been used for the treatment of insomnia, anxiety, performance anxiety, lack of enthusiasm, amnesia, and confusion in Oriental traditional medicine as well as depression and melancholy.

Albizzia has been offered paird with other shen tonics, and adaptogens when dealing directly with depression. The classic clinical dosage is 200mg per day of a standardized extraction. There are no known side effects.


Ashwagandha, known as “Indian ginseng”, is considered one of nature’s greatest “anti-depressants” due to its powerfully calming effect on the endocrine and central nervous system. Taken daily, ashwagandha can significantly lower cortisol levels, stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms. It’s better than standard antianxiety and antidepressant drugs as it stabilizes mood, relieves insomnia, and revitalizes the body without any side effects or withdrawal symptoms. Moreover, it can manage weight and food cravings in chronic stress patients. Have 3 to 6 gm ashwagandha root powder daily for best results, but first consult with an Ayurvedic doctor.

Ashwagandha is a well known adaptogen with extensive clinical studies, many of which prove its remarkable abilities to assist the body in adapting to stress. It is indispensable in treating various central nervous system (CNS) disorders, particularly epilepsy, stress, and neurodegenerative diseases. It has also been studied for its mood stabilizing effects, supporting hormone regulation, as well as preventing insomnia, and the seasonal blues.

In a study on people suffering from chronic stress, it was found that ashwagandha roots could bring down the cortisol levels by 28% in just 2 months. It could improve the symptoms of stress, and in some cases, even prevented stress altogether.  The classic clinical dosage of ashwagandha for depression is 250–500 mg per day for at least one month. Generally, Ashwagandha is very safe, although it may increase thyroid hormone levels, which could cause fatigue, anxiety, shortness of breath and other problems.

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.

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