Believe it or not, there's a lot to be said for folk wisdom and old wives' tales. While they may not always be completely true, they may have origins in fact, or part of their history might be relevant today. One such topic in which this often holds true is the healing power of herbs.
It must have been a challenge, learning which parts of plants to use and which to avoid. The common rhubarb plant is a good illustrator of that. The stalks are fine, the leaves are poisonous, and some people eat rhubarb pie without a second thought because they know what's what. Same thing with the potato. People eat the tubers and don't eat the leaves. Trial and error — maybe fatal error — is a fast teacher.
The benefits of plants, however, have stood the test of time. And here are some that may be helpful in treating the symptoms of depression.
Angelica (Angelica archangelica): Angelica has been used to treat insomnia. The medicinal use is to drink angelica as a tea. The recommended amount is one teaspoon of the roots or seeds boiled or steeped to a cup of water. Warning! Angelica resembles the poisonous water hemlock, so it's best not to go off and harvest your own.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum): Basil is a common herb that you may already have in your cupboard. Basil has been reported to have a mild, sedating effect. If you wish to give it a try for treating anxiety, you can either drink it as a tea or use it in your cooking. Basil is a member of the mint family, so it's an easily recognizable plant. It's considered quite safe.
Betony (Stachys officinalis): Betony contains glycosides, which, in one Russian study, were shown to have a moderating effect on blood pressure. It has been used for mild anxiety attacks. Betony's leaves can be used in a tea. It's generally considered to be safe.
Borage (Borago officinalis): Borage has pretty blue flowers, so just looking at it can lift the spirits. The leaves, stems, and flowers are all edible, and borage has been used to treat depression. You can make a diffusion of the flowers for a soothing tea.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria): Catnip is another member of the mint family. Just like its cousin, basil, catnip is used in tea for insomnia. It has a mild, sedating effect, just the perfect nightcap.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis): Goldenseal has been used to treat both stress and depression. It's extremely expensive. Warning! Hydrastine, goldenseal's main component, can be quite toxic and is considered dangerous.
Mint (Mentha ssp.): You've seen mint before in the catnip and basil sections. Any member of the mint family makes an excellent tea and is considered a safe treatment for insomnia. If you're skeptical about mint's sedative qualities, just offer some to your cat and watch what happens!
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): Rosemary has been used to treat insomnia and depression. It has a nice fragrance, which is soothing. Its leaves can be used as a diffusion to make a tea.
Saffron (Crocus sativus): Saffron has been used to treat insomnia. Its vibrant yellow color resembles sunshine. It is quite expensive. Warning! Saffron can be toxic, even in small doses.
Serpentwood (Rauvolfia serpentina): Serpentwood has been used to treat insomnia, and it is a crossover herb used in pharmaceuticals. The drug reserpine, which is used as a tranquilizer, is extracted from serpentwood root.
Herbs lose their potency over time. Plan to use your herbs within six months of purchase and store them in a cool place, away from moisture and light. Be sure to reseal the cap tightly, before returning it to the cupboard.