Sure, stockpiling hygge essentials can make seasonal depression a little easier to bear, but sometimes it takes more than a shaggy throw to cure the late-winter blues. (Especially when they’re amplified by stressors like a sick parent, an overbearing boss, or a fight with your BFF.)
That’s where herbs come in. While your worries won’t totally vanish after a cup of tea or a tincture, certain plants can be seriously powerful mood lifters—and they’re especially handy during those weeks when sunlight is scarce and the hard stuff seems to outweigh the good.
Herbalist and integrative health guide Rachelle Robinett believes in plant-based medicine so much that she regularly hosts workshops in Brooklyn to teach the herb-curious how to inspire more energy, better sleep, and even lucid dreaming. (Girl knows her stuff.)
Here, she shares five of her favorite mood-boosting herbs and the most effective ways to reap their benefits. Bring on the next winter storm.
Keep reading for the best ways to use 5 powerful, mood-elevating herbs.
This adaptogenic herb is really buzzing right now—Frank Lipman, MD, has even called ashwagandha “nature’s miracle stress fighter.” And there’s a good reason why it’s been voted most popular. According to Robinett, this shrub helps protect the body against chronic stress by supporting the adrenals over time, and it’s also been found to help with insomnia and anxiety. Who hasn’t dealt with at least one of those things?
How to use it:
“Either as a powder mixed in with food or in supplement form as a capsule or tincture,” recommends Robinett. Pro tip: Ashwagandha is fat soluble, so take it with food either way so it’s better absorbed. Also, make sure you’re getting at least a full tablespoon—just a sprinkle probably isn’t enough to significantly impact your mood, claims the expert.
St. John’s Wort:
“This is one of the most [commonly used] herbs for happiness,” Robinett says. That’s probably because St. John’s wort is powerful. In fact, some studies say it’s just as impactful as taking an antidepressant. Because it’s so strong, Robinett warns it can interact with medication—so if you plan on start taking St. John’s wort, make sure to tell your doctor.
How to use it:
Our herbalist says this plant is enjoyable as a tea, but if you’re using St. John’s wort to treat depression, go for it in capsule or tincture form—it’s most potent that way, and you’ll feel a more immediate mood shift.