Herbal remedies…depression, nervous tension and anxiety

Following my recent article on treatment of depression with pharmaceutical drugs when compared to talk therapy, I received a question about herbal alternatives.

There are lots of herbs that produce a calming effect on the nerves, that soothe anxious feelings and take the edge of depression or chronic irritability.

One of the most famous street drugs, Cannabis, can cause such an effect in some people but has a wide-ranging effect on the body and mind.

Medicinally and therapeutically, herbalists may recommend certain herbs such as Skullcap, Valerian, St John’s Wort or Lemon balm. A few things you should know about each of them:



  • It is the root that is used as medicine.
  • Acids in Valerian can help with the release of the brain’s own anti-anxiety medication (GABA) and keep it longer in the system.
  • The effect you may get is a mild sedation, less anxiety, relaxed, and sleepy.
  • Substances in Valerian can create relaxation of certain muscles: stomach, intestines, blood vessels and womb.
  • It combines well with St John’s Wort as an antidepressant and with Kava Kava for stress relief.
  • Avoid mixing it with alcohol. In some people, it can cause tiredness, drowsiness or over-stimulate them.
  • Probably best taken in the evening or at night.
  • To get effective results, take the right dosage so please speak to a professional before use.


St John’s Wort:

  • Substances in this herb can produce a calming, antidepressant effect as it enables more availability of the brain’s  ‘happy mood’  (serotonin) and ‘pleasure/excitement’ (dopamine) chemicals.
  • Studies show that it can be effective in treating mild to moderate depression, improves mood, reduces anger and fatigue.
  • It interacts with drugs such as warfarin, pharmaceutical antidepressants and anticoagulants when taken in high doses.
  • You are likely to notice a change in mood after a 6-8 week period of taking this herb.
  • To get effective results, take the right dosage so please speak to a professional before use.

Lemon balm:

  • It is the leaves and essential oils that are used medicinally.
  • Essential oils in Lemon balm can create a sedative, pain-relieving and relaxing effect on the body.
  • Substances in Lemon balm can also be soothing for mild sleeplessness especially when taken regularly with valerian.
  • It has a long history of traditional use in treating depression and nervous breakdown.


  • It is full of flavonoids.
  • Has a wide range of traditional use as medicine:
  • Nerve tonic; sedative; for treating depression; hysteria; headache; nervous excitability; teething in children; physical and mental overwork; tremors and neuralgia.
  • To get effective results, take the right dosage so please speak to a professional before use.

A few notes:

As herbs exert a gentle effect on the system, it is always best to take them regularly over an advised period of time – to experience their true benefits.

Using these herbs should not have adverse effects such as dependency as pharmaceutical drugs often do.

Using herbal alternatives such as these may help you get off pharmaceutical prescriptions.

US researchers at UCLA recently reported that a gentle, westernised version of the ancient Chinese martial art tai chi could lift depression in older people. So exercising to increase the brain’s natural feel good chemicals should be a welcome addition to treatment.

Further reading on the research results? Try: