Winter blues are a real thing. If winter blues seem to loom darker and darker each year for you, turn to these 5 healthy herbs to help you sustain your mental health through the long, cold season. We tend to spend less time outside and moving our bodies becomes more difficult. It’s cold. And the sunlight is not out as long, leaving us going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark too. No, it won’t last forever [even though it feels like it will].
It is just a season, but know we are here to help you beat the winter blues and be a little healthier with some of our favorite herbs.
1) Milky Oats – Avena Sativa
Common Name: Oat, oatstraw, milky oat, wild oats, oatgrass, catgrass
Parts Used: Milky oat tops; oat stem
Key Constituents: Silica, magnesium, phosphorus, chromium, iron, calcium, alkaloids, protein, the vitamin B complex, and vitamins A, C, E, and K, glycosides, flavones, polysaccharides, alkaloids, proteins, saponins
Safety: Of concern to individuals with celiac disease is the fact that oats are often processed in facilities that also process wheat and other gluten-containing ingredients and may become contaminated with gluten.
After harvesting, milky oat tops can be tinctured fresh or dried for making tea. The ideal way to consume oatstraw’s nutritive and medicinal qualities is in an infusion made by steeping one ounce of dried oatstraw (and dried milky oat tops, if desired) in four cups of boiling water for 4-12 hours. Oatstraw’s taste is sweet, grassy, and light. Energetically, oatstraw is moist, relaxing, and warming; others report oatstraw as cooling.
With all of these benefits, you can see why it is a favorite nourishing plant. Often used as a cover crop on organic farms, it not only restores the soil but it can restore our bodies. It is so helpful when combating winter blues, although it is not usually the first one people think of. These yummy pods are a wonderful antidepressant and are especially helpful for those who have suffered from seasonal depression. The rich vitamin B, calcium, and magnesium content in oats helps soothe and strengthen nerves. Milky oats are the secret to building long term resistance to stress and managing the decrease in sunlight. It is also very helpful for those of us who spread ourselves thin with our many commitments and responsibilities.
Oatstraw and milky oats are considered one of the best remedies for “feeding” and restoring the nervous system, particularly in times of stress and in the case of nervous system weakness or exhaustion associated with that depression. It will feed our nervous system and help us to recover when we’ve over committed ourselves or burned out. All too easy to do, but especially in the winter when we are using a lot more energy just to do day-to-day tasks. It’s used most commonly in tea and pairs well with lavender, nettles, and burdock root. The rich and hydrating milky nature of oats is welcome relief for soothing itchy skin conditions such as poison ivy, chicken pox, or other stress-related skin conditions. Great for a bath soak!
You can find this lovely plant in a few of our blends or by the ounce.
2) Lemon Balm – Melissa officinalis
Common Name: Lemon balm, melissa, balm mint, balm, sweet balm
Parts Used: Leaves, aerial parts
Key Constituents: Volatile oils, flavonoids, polyphenols, tannins, triterpenic acids
Safety: Avoid using in large doses with hypothyroid conditions or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis due to lemon balm’s mild thyroxine-inhibiting effect; large doses may also have a negative effect on thyroid hormone medications
This easy to grow, delicious smelling [and tasting] plant is a must have in your garden or on your porch. Lemon balm is a cooling nervine with a strong lemony smell and a more mild lemony but deliciously pleasant flavor. This popular mint family plant, whose genus name Melissa means “bee” in Greek, is an easy addition to the garden. It’s another great antiviral, anti-depressant, anti-microbial and helper to the lungs during infection. Native to the Mediterranean, this plant now grows all over the world and it’s bright, lemony flavor can brighten up even the dreariest of winter days. It is helpful for colds, flu, chest infections, dry cough and asthma and can help bring down fevers. It is an ally for those who have stress, anxiety, irritability and depression. While St. John’s Wort can heal nerves, lemon balm protects the nervous system from free radical damage.
Keeping our nervous system strong is vital to our overall mental and physical health in winter and curing winter blues. If the nervous system is damaged or inflamed it can cause our entire body to struggle. The plant is most commonly used in tea but can also be taken as a tincture or glycerite. It’s essential oil is especially good at lifting the mood and enhancing a feeling of joy. You can also use infused oil in a bath to calm the nervous system and relax any tension in the body. Another great thing about lemon balm is that it is a popular children’s herb and is used to calm restlessness and nightmares. It is also employed to improve memory and concentration and is sometimes used in cases of ADHD as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
There is no wonder Jamie uses this herb in SO many of her herbal tea blends!! It is also a tincture she recommends for most anyone being proactive for their mental health.
3) St. John’s Wort – Hypericum perforatum
Common Name: St. John’s wort, amber, touch-and-heal, goatweed, hypericum, johnswort, klamath weed, rosin rose, St. John’s grass, tipton weed
Parts Used: Flowers, leaves
Key Constituents: Naphthodianthones (hypericin, pseudohypericin), volatile oils, tannins, flavonoids (hyperoside, rutin), resins, alkaloids, phloroglucinols (hyperforin)
Safety: SJW contains constituents that are considered phototoxins, which may cause photosensitivity to sunlight in fair-skinned people if taken internally. Do not use it if you are pregnant or on anticoagulants [blood thinners]. It can interact with several types of drugs so don’t take it without first consulting your doctor.
This plant is an exceptional antiviral, anti-microbial, antioxidant, antidepressant and can assist with healing nerves. It’s beneficial internally during the winter to combat seasonal affective disorder by increasing sensitivity to sunlight. SJW is a relaxing nervine well known for its ability to soothe anxiety, tension and uplift the spirit during the months when winter blues might set in. It has been researched extensively as an antidepressant, and is employed throughout the world for mild to moderate depression. It helps to boost mood, alleviate general anxiety, depression and tension.
It’s anti-viral properties protect against influenza and it can improve sleep, which is key to staying well. The plant can be made into a tea or used as a tincture. It blends beautifully with peppermint, sage or chamomile in tea. Energetically, SJW is slightly bitter, astringent, and cool. It is also slightly drying due to its tannin content. SJW has an uplifting, joyful nature that radiates the midsummer sun. Standing in SJW’s sunny yellow presence, it is truly hard to resist feeling happy, and then grateful for the uplifting power of this unassuming little plant.
We have this by the ounce, as a tincture, or supplement within the store.
4) Chamomile – Matricaria chamomilla
Common Name: Chamomile, camomile, German chamomile, Hungarian chamomile, manzanilla, scented mayweed, sweet false chamomile, true chamomile, wild chamomile
Parts Used: Flower head
Key Constituents: Coumarins (umbelliferone, heniarin), flavonoids (apigenin, apigetrin, apiin, luteolin, quercetin, quercimeritrin, rutin), glycosides, tannins, 0.24-1.9% volatile oils (𝞪-bisabolol (up to 50%), sesquiterpenes, cadinene, farnesene, furfural, spathulenol, matricarin, matricin), amino acids, anthemic acid, choline, polysaccharides, fatty acids
Safety: Chamomile is generally considered safe when taken within the suggested dose and is a gentle herb suitable for children, and during pregnancy and lactation.
Many people are aware of chamomile’s relaxing qualities for daily use. But chamomile can be a much more useful herb to combat winter blues than it is given credit for. Chamomile is known to treat not only anxiety but mild depression as well. Regular use of this herbal option can help to further fight back against slumps of depression, signs of stress, and mood swings.
Chamomile provides a safe and gentle way of treating mild depression or seasonal depression. As well as helping to eventually reduce uneasiness and stress that can have a negative effect on your mood and outlook on life. Because it’s an antispasmodic, chamomile relaxes the smooth muscles of the digestive tract, helping to ease cramping and soothe digestive discomforts that can often lead to feelings of anxiousness or visa versa. As an anti-inflammatory herb, chamomile can be used topically for skin irritations such as rashes, abrasions, and insect bites and stings. In tradition of flower symbolism, chamomile represents strength through resistance. How lovely is that?
Another plant that is in many blends, even our kids tea line! It is beautiful and easy to enjoy.
5) Gotu Kola – Centella asiatica
Common Name: Gotu kola, Indian Pennywort, Brahmi (Sanskrit), Vallarai (Tamil), Babassa, mandukbrahmi (Tel), Thulkurhi (Ben), kula kudi Mandukaparni (Hindi)
Parts Used: Leaf
Key Constituents: Triterpene saponins, glycosides, flavonoids, volatile oils, sesquiterpenes, fatty acids, phytosterols. Other constituents include alkaloid hydrocotyline, the bitter principle vellarine, and an oligosaccharide, centellose
Safety: Generally accepted as a gentle herb, contraindicated only where there is a known allergy (in which case it may result in contact dermatitis.)
It is suggested that it can theoretically act as an emmenagogue, most sources show that the herb is safe in pregnancy, breastfeeding, and for childrens use. Gotu kola is also consumed as a raw or cooked vegetable in many areas, attesting to its safety. However, as with other saponin-rich herbs, there are some for whom gotu kola may be inappropriate or should be dosed at low levels. It is also important to use sources that are well-tested for purity, as it can grow in polluted ditches and waste areas, particularly in India.
Gotu kola is among the herbs with a long documented history of medicinal use in both Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. Though this herb may sound a little strange and be a bit less well known than other mood enhancing herbs that doesn’t make it any less effective for seasonal blues. Gotu Kola is often used to treat mental health since it is a relaxant herb. This herbal option helps to treat signs of mental unease or stress such as anxiety, poor quality sleep, insomnia, and mental fatigue. All things that can dramatically affect your mental wellbeing and mood stability.
Energetically, gotu kola is cooling to neutral, and balancing to all constitutional types. Traditionally, is said to equalize all doshas: vata, in which it calms the nervous system; pitta, for which it is rejuvenative; and kapha, in which it flushes excess. It is effective throughout the body’s systems, with an affinity for most tissues — particularly the blood, marrow and nerves and the nervous, circulatory and digestive systems. It’s also slightly drying, and helps reduce adipose tissue that has retained toxins; along with its effects on the nervous system, this makes it helpful for addressing drug withdrawal, particularly when used in combination with oats.
Gotu kola is a specific for addressing tissue states of relaxation, atrophy, and depression, which speaks to its cooling, nourishing aspects. It can increase the output of feel good chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, all chemicals in the brain that help to regulate mood swings. Gotu Kola can bring a balance to your brain and mental health, decreasing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress.
Remember, if you are not one who loves the winter months and are feeling a bit of the winter blues, there are ways to keep your mind and body productive, healthy and in balance. It is important to remind yourself you are not alone through this season. Highs and lows come with the changing temps and sunshine. Be aware, listen to your body, and give it the resources from the Earth to heal and stay well.
Stop in to grab any and all of these in our store at 4242 Gordon Drive Ste 210 Sioux City, IA 51106.
Soul Vibration Wellness
Easley & Horne, 2016
Winston & Maimes, 2019
Frawley and Lad, 1986
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