My favourite herbs for treating depression

Posted: September 28, 2017

There are many herbs that can be used in the treatment of depression, however, as it is such a complex issue, getting the right balance of herbs is essential. I have been using herbs with amazing results in my clinical practice for many years. I have also experienced first-hand the benefits of herbal medicine for my depression and anxiety. I love that we have these powerful healing herbs so readily available these days. And with few to no side effects they are a beautiful way to start healing.

St John’s Wort: has been used for many years in the treatment of mild to moderate depression with great results. Studies have shown that it is as effective as a standard anti-depressant for mild-moderate depressive disorders.

It can increase the production of Serotonin and has fewer side effects than anti-depressants.

It does have a number of contraindications however, such as use with the contraceptive pill, blood thinners and anti-depressants, so if you are taking any medication please consult with a professional – either a doctor or qualified naturopath, who can work with you to find the right herbs to go with your current medication.

Passion Flower:  has also been used successfully to help treat depression. It works on calming the nervous system. It has also been shown to increase the effectiveness of St John’s Wort. It may also help to boost GABA and in turn reduce the production of monoamine oxidase, therefore decreasing depression.

I use this herb a lot for treating both anxiety and depression, as well as high stress levels.

Please note that if you are using benzodiazepines or MAO’s, it is best to avoid this herb, or consult a professional to get the right balance.


Rhodiola: has been shown to increase the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine (the 3 big hitters in your neurotransmitter family). It is classified as an adaptogen, which means it allows the body to adapt to stress placed on the body. Some people find that they have a better response to Rhodiola compared to St John’s Wort, but everyone is different. Rhodiola has been used to help build mental and physical endurance, relieve stress and anxiety symptoms and alleviate depression.


Withania: Withania is one of my favourite herbs. Not only is it an adaptogen, allowing your body to adapt to stress, but it is also a non-toxic herb, which means it can be used for long term treatment.

This particular herb was really a saviour for me when I was struggling with both anxiety and depression, as well as adrenal fatigue. It really does cover a broad range of symptoms and is a gentle treatment method.

It has been shown to relieve anxiety and depression, and some studies have shown it to be as effective in treating depression as anti-depressant drugs.

Maca: Maca is a great option to add to your routine. It is a great all-rounder, however I recommend people take a couple days a week off of using maca so you don’t build up a resistance to it.

Maca has been used for thousands of years to help build stamina and energy in climates where they are fighting the elements. It is also used for hormonal balancing, supporting the adrenals in times of stress and reducing depressive symptoms.

I recommend it for clients with depression, not for its anti-depressant effects, but for its ability to increase energy, which is generally lacking when someone is struggling with depression. Used in combination with some other herbs, it can be really powerful.

Conclusion: I use herbal medicine with nearly all of my patients with depression, as it is a gentle but effective treatment tool. If you are taking medication I highly recommend you work with a professional to get the right balance. Also, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, please consult a naturopath about which herbs are safe to take.

Herbal medicine has been around for thousands of years. It is the original medicine, and I want to share my knowledge with as many people as I can, so that we can help end the struggle with mental health.



Disclaimer: The information in this article is not designed to treat, diagnose or cure any medical conditions, and is not intended to be medical advice. It is purely for information purposes. If you have any questions or concerns, I recommend you work with your health care provider.

References: I have not included references in my post, as I know my general audience. However if you are someone that would like to look at the scientific data please email me and I will endeavour to supply you with the relevant links. I do a great amount of research for both clinical application and writing. It’s just not something I have included in my posts.


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