Herbs Hormones and Mental Health


Naturopaths use many approaches to help relieve mental health problems. Herbal medicine is usually included, along with important changes in diet, nutrition, lifestyle changes, exercise, relaxation techniques, homoeopathy, Bach flower remedies, massage and acknowledging the relevance of spiritual health.


Herbs are used both to help relieve the symptoms of poor mental health, and to help strengthen the body to stop symptoms reoccurring. Herbs such as Valerian, Vervain, Passionflower, Oats, Chamomile and Skullcap are used to help relax the body, and at the same time act as a general tonic to the nervous system as a whole. Some of these herbs are also used to help sleep. Good sleep is imperative to regaining good mental health.


Other herbs used will help relieve symptoms by addressing more underlying imbalances in the body. Imbalances of hormones, which can be described as chemical messengers, are often a trigger for poor mental health.


I often see women who have found no relief from pharmaceutical antidepressants and ask me for a natural antidepressant, while in fact their problems stem from hormonal imbalances. Herbal medicines, nutrients and lifestyle changes improve the hormones, resulting in the symptoms of depression disappearing.


The hormonal system is complex; it is not simply a case of saying “that hormone is low, let’s give you some more”, in fact that approach can lead to further imbalances of hormones. The approach used with herbal medicine is to support the parts of your body that produce the hormones. Some herbs such as Liquorice, Ginseng, Schisandra, Rhodolia, Withania and Sarsaparilla are known as adaptogens; they help the body naturally regulate the levels of different hormones according to your changing needs.


Herbs can also act as a tonic to specific hormone producing glands. The pituitary gland is the most influential. Think of this as the management gland, it controls and stimulates all the other glands: the adrenal glands, ovaries, testes, pancreas, and thyroid gland. Herbs that support the pituitary gland include Chaste Tree, and Sarsaparilla.


The adrenal gland produces the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone; but too much or too little at the wrong time can cause problems such as anxiety and depression. Herbs that help support the adrenal glands include Rhodiola, Liquorice, Ginseng, Schisandra and Hawthorn.


The ovarian hormones are helped overall by Chaste Tree, supporting the Pituitary gland. Others herbs such as Motherwort, Cramp Bark, and Black Cohosh improve mental health through hormone re-balance. Imbalances in the testes' hormone, testosterone, affects mental health. Ginseng, Sarsparilla and Liquorice are excellent herbs which improve testosterone levels.


There are other sorts of “chemical messengers”; these are nerve messengers called neurotransmitters. Many pharmaceutical medicines used for mental health problems act directly on the levels of the neurotransmitters being passed from one nerve cell to the next. The herbs Rhodiola, Valerian, Passionflower, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, and Skullcap have been used naturally for centuries to improve mental health, and more recently have been shown to act on the neurotransmitters. Ensure you seek advice before using any herbal medicines.


Contact Bay Health Clinic today to find out more about herbal medicine that can be tailored to your personal needs and to book your Naturopathic consultation; call 07 571 3226 or email us: ask@bayhealth.nz



Original Article October 2011

Copyright Jaine Kirtley