Several years ago, I treated a 26 year old male named Patrick. He was strong yet nervous professional athlete. He came to see me complaining about his nervousness before games and embarrassingly reported, disinterest in sexual relations with his wife. At the time I had a male intern, Jeff, who had passed by the waiting room while I was speaking with Patrick and noticed Patrick's wife. "I can't imagine having one moment of disinterest with her in my bed," said Jeff . After we got over the rudeness of his comment, we realized that the problem was indeed with Patrick. The primary issue at hand was Patrick's excessive nervousness prior to game time. The solution was not an easy one because I couldn't prescribe anything that might make him sluggish or interfere at all with his physical and mental acuity. I chose oatstraw and prescribed two capsules two times daily. One month later Patrick came into my office beaming from ear to ear. "I have to tell you, I'm smooth as silk before a game and my wife and I are having sex again. I couldn't ask for anything more."
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary is known to be antibacterial, antidepressant, antifungal, antispasmodic, cardiotonic, carminative, circulatory stimulant, tranquilizing and sedating. This herb has been used historically for anorexia, anesthenia, depression, headache, insomnia, painful menstruation, and nervous exhaustion.
Vervain (Verbena officinalis)
Vervain is known to be an antidepressant, antihypertensive, antispasmotic and mildly sedating. It has been used historically for depression, headache, hypertension, insomnia, melancholy, menopausal symptoms, and nervous exhaustion.
Chart: Herbs for Depression and Related Symptoms
Herb Medicinal Use Part Used How Taken Possible Side Effects
American Ginseng Helps to strengthen Root Tincture, tea, Nervousness, insomnia
overall constitution capsule, tablet, Diarrhea
Helps to relieve extract, whole root
or debilitation after
Borage Adrenal restorative, Leaves Tincture, capsule, None known
tonic, nervine infusion
Chamomile Relaxes, induces Flower Tincture, tea, Possible allergic
sleep; soothes upset capsule, dried reactions in sensitive
stomach flowers individuals
Dong Quai Regulates menstrual Root Tincture, capsule Rare, mild. Some may
cycle, good for PMS tablets, whole root be allergic to dong quai.
and other discomforts (Often used in
of menstruation; combination)
liver tonic; analgesic
Fo Ti Invigorate liver and Root Tincture, capsule, Rare. Large dose may
kidneys, promote tablet, whole root result in numbness of
longevity, fertility and extremeties and skin
vigor; neurasthenia, rashes
Gingko Biloba Age-associated Leaves of Tincture, capsule Rare. Mild
memory loss; poor young trees gastrointestinal
circulation to upset in less
extremities; hearing than 1% of people.
loss; early stages of
Kava Kava Calms anxiety, Rhizome Tincture, capsule, Mild gastrointestinal
tension, conditions tablet upset
Lemon Balm Insomnia, nervous Leaf Capsule, dried leaf None known
Linden Blossom Nervous tension, Dried flowers Tincture, infusion, None known
Oatstraw Insomnia, nervous tea, liquid, capsule None known
associated with drug
Panax Ginseng Adrenal support Root Tincture, capsule Rare at recommended
from stress; tablet, extract, dosage; rare insomnia or
revitalizes those whole root overstimulation
fatigue and debility;
endurance for athletes;
assists recovery from
Passion Flower Sedative for excess Whole plant Tea, tincture, fluid None known
nervousness and extracts
anxiety; can induce
high blood pressure;
Rosemary Anti-depressive, Leaves, twigs Tincture, infusion None known
Siberian Ginseng Fatigue; supports Root Tincture, capsule, Mild Diarrhea, may body during stress; tablets, powder cause insomnia in support during some if taken close to exercise; chronic bedtime
Skullcap Sedative, nerve Leaf Tincture, tea Possible giddiness,
tonic capsule irregular heartbeat
St. John's wort Mild to moderate Flowering Tincture, capsule May make skin more
depression tops tablets, extracts, light sensitive in fair-
tea skinned people.
Valerian Root Insomnia; mild Root Tincture, capsule May cause mild upset
anxiety and tablets, extracts, stomach in small
restlessness dried root, tea percentage of people
Vervain Depression, tension, Aerial parts Tincture, infusion None known
Nervous System Stimulants
Nervous system stimulants such as coffee, black tea, green tea, kola nut, guarana, Gotu kola and Yerba mate can be very effectively used in short-term situations to "spark" the nervous system. They are all caffeine containing plants, and in large amounts caffeine has been shown to produce nervousness, insomnia, elevated blood sugar, elevated cholesterol levels, heartburn and irregular heartbeat. Amounts of caffeine can vary widely, even within the same product such as coffee, but the following are approximations of the amount of caffeine in commonly used food products:
8 oz. cup of coffee 50 - 100 mg.
8 oz. cup of black tea 40 - 80 mg.
8 oz. cup of green tea 20 - 40 mg.
800 mg. of guarana 30 mg.
6 oz. cup of mate 25-50 mg.
12 oz. can of cola type beverage 50 mg.
6 oz. cocoa 15 mg.
1 oz. bar of milk chocolate 6 mg.
Coffee beans contain approximately 1-2% of caffeine. With the popularity of coffee and coffee houses most Americans will be hard pressed not to admit to knowing the effects of a cup of coffee. When used sparingly as an herbal remedy, it is considered a very effective mental stimulant.
Tea, camellia sinensis, and green tea have also long been used as beverages, before, during and between meals throughout the world. More recently green tea has been especially associated with a variety of benefits associated with its antioxidant properties. As for mood, many people report feeling an emotional lift without the harshness of coffee when they drink tea.
There is a popular Chinese mixture of Kola nut, Gotu Kola, and Polygonum multiflorum. This mixture is believed to prolong life and enhance mood and sense of well being. In India there is an old adage concerning Gotu kola, "two leaves a day will keep old age away." It is believed that Gotu kola will help to resolve various types of mental anxiety and nervous disorders.
Different Forms of Herbs
Herbs and prepared herbal compounds are available in different forms such as raw herbs, tinctures, extracts, capsules, tablets, lozenges, and ointments. Both individual herbs as well as complex herbal formulations can be found at your local health food store, pharmacy and in many grocery stores.
The use of whole herbs involves drying and then cutting or powdering plants or plant parts, to be used for teas or cooking.
In a tincture, alcohol is employed to extract and concentrate the active properties of the herb as well as to act as an effective natural preservative. A tincture is a very effective way to administer herbal compounds, as the body easily assimilates it and the herb is in a concentrated form. For the same reasons, tinctures are also cost-effective, however, the full taste of the herb comes through very strongly and some may find the taste to be bitter and unpleasant. Another concern when using tinctures is the presence of the alcohol. If you wish to lessen the amount of alcohol in a tincture, mix the appropriate dose with one-quarter cup of very hot water. After about five minutes, most of the taste of the alcohol will have evaporated away, and the mixture should be cool enough to drink.
Extracts can be made with alcohol (like tinctures) or the essence of the herb can be leached out with water. When purchasing a liquid extract of an herb, the only way to be certain of the extraction process (alcohol or water) is to read the label. Extracts offer essentially the same advantages and disadvantages as tinctures. They are the most concentrated form of herbal treatment and therefore the most cost-effective and have a virtually indefinite shelf life. They are also easy to administer, but have a strong herbal taste.
Capsules and Tablets
Capsules and tablets contain a ground or powdered form of the raw herb. They are considered the most convenient way to take an herb and one can avoid the unpleasant taste of the raw form. Clinically speaking, there does not appear to be much difference between the capsules and tablets in terms of therapeutic results. As finely milled herbs tend to degrade quickly, it is important that herbs be promptly encapsulated or tabeleted within twenty-four hours of being powdered. When buying herbs, read the labels to make sure fresh herbs have been used in the product. Capsules and tablets are not as strong and potent as tinctures and extracts, with the exception of certain herbal concentrates in capsule form.
Many delicious blends of herbal teas are now available to the public. You will find loose herbs that are ready for steeping, herbal formulations for specific health conditions, as well as convenient pre-bagged teas. Some teas such as spearmint, rosehips or lemon grass are generally intended for sipping or accompanying a meal. Other teas are consumed for their medicinal properties. For example, linden blossom, St. John's wort and oatstraw tea can be used to enhance your mood, peppermint tea for indigestion or chamomile, valerian or hops teas to aid sleep. Steeping in boiled water for a few minutes will release the fragrant, aromatic flavor as well as the herbs' medicinal properties.
In most cases, essential oils are distilled from various parts of medicinal and aromatic plants. Essential oils are typically extremely concentrated and one or two drops of the oil often provide a sufficient dosage. Some oils can be safely applied directly to the skin, but most essential oils can irritate the skin so it is recommended to dilute them in fatty oils or water prior to topical application.
Essential Oils for Depression
The following essential oils can be used in an aromatherapy room diffuser to reduce depression, anxiety and stress, and enhance mood. Follow the instructions on your diffuser, but one or two drops should be sufficient for a small room, and five to ten drops for a larger room.
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia): Helps to balance the emotions and is excellent for reducing depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): An excellent antidepressant for individuals who are subject to stress, anxiety, oversensitivity, suppressed anger or insomnia.
Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens): Useful for relieving anxiety, stress, discontentment and depression.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): Helpful for problems of the central nervous system, including nervousness, irritability, exhaustion, insomnia, and depression.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): A stimulating herb that acts as an antidepressant. It also enhances memory, and balances the body and mind.
Therapeutic Massage with Essential Oils for Depression, Stress and Insomnia
A powerful aromatherapy recipe for relieving stress, depression as well as insomnia is to combine two drops of lavender and one drop of chamomile essential oils in three ounces of almond, olive or your favorite massage oil. Massage up and down each side of the spine from the cervical to the lumbar, before retiring to bed. Another recipe that is more stimulating, and therefore should be done during the day, is a combination of lavender, rosemary or peppermint essential oils. Combine one drop of each oil to three ounces of massage oil and massage up and down the spine.