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Herbal mood enhancers: what are the benefits of natural antidepressants?

Everyone has a bad day, a bad mood or a low mood from time to time. Especially in autumn and winter, the lack of sunlight depresses the mood. However, if the depressive mood persists over a longer period of time, the symptoms should be reported to a doctor. Many people also resort to herbal mood enhancers for mild mood swings.

Table of contents
  1. What are natural antidepressants?
  2. Natural psychotropic drugs: What has a mood-enhancing effect? What herbal mood enhancers are there
  3. ? When are herbal mood enhancers useful?

What are natural antidepressants?

These are plants (e.g. herbs or spices) that have a mood-enhancing and calming effect. Such medicinal plants, which have an effect on the nervous system and the psyche, are also known as psychotropic phytopharmaceuticals (Greek phyto = plant). Many of these plants were already known for their medicinal effects in ancient times and were cultivated in monastery gardens in the Middle Ages. Even today, herbal antidepressants still play an important role in the treatment of mental illnesses. St John's wort, for example, is used to treat mild to moderate depression, while valerian is used to treat nervous agitation and sleep disorders.

Natural psychotropic drugs: what has a mood-enhancing effect?

Compared to synthetically produced antidepressants and tranquillisers, herbal alternatives have significantly fewer side effects. Herbal mood enhancers are better tolerated and do not lead to addiction. Different plants can be used depending on the symptoms you are suffering from. If you are suffering from nervous restlessness and lack balance and calmness, valerian or hops, for example, can help. St John's wort has proven effective for depressive moods or depression. Valerian, hops and lavender also have a sleep-promoting effect. The positive effect of many phytopharmaceuticals only becomes apparent after a longer period of use. If you don't notice any change after one or two weeks, you should therefore be patient.

Herbal medicines also have side effects. For example, St John's wort increases the skin's sensitivity to light and reduces the effect of oral contraceptives. Lavender oil can lead to headaches and nausea. It should therefore always be taken in consultation with a doctor. Especially if you are taking other medication or are pregnant.

What herbal mood enhancers are there?


The sleeping berry (Sanskrit ashvagandha) is considered a natural antidepressant and plays a major role in Ayurvedic medicine in particular. Ashvagandha is said to have a positive effect on the nervous system and promote sleep. However, the benefits and risks have not yet been sufficiently scientifically proven.


Valerian is used to treat restlessness and nervousness-related sleep disorders. Numerous clinical studies have proven its effectiveness. The dry extract from the valerian root is used. Due to its sleep-promoting properties, valerian is also often combined with other calming plants (e.g. hops as in our sleep mode capsules). The pharmacological effect of valerian is presumably based on influencing the GABA receptor. The nerve cells are then less excitable to external stimuli.

Gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA for short) is an important neurotransmitter of the central nervous system. GABA suppresses the transmission of stimuli in the brain and thus has a calming and relaxing effect. The precursor for this endogenous tranquilliser is the amino acid glutamine. You can read more about GABA and glutamine in our blog post "Sleep better with glutamine?"


Hops are also often recommended for nervous restlessness and sleep disorders. Hops are often used in combination with other medicinal plants in medicines or teas.

In our sleep mode capsules, we combine valerian with hop flower powder and tryptophan, among other things.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. As a precursor to the sleep hormone melatonin, it plays an important role in our sleep-wake rhythm. At the same time, tryptophan is also needed as a building block for serotonin. The so-called happiness hormone has a mood-lifting effect and puts us in a good mood. You can read more about this here: Tryptophan - the amino acid for a good mood and healthy sleep.

St John's wort

St John's wort is the best-known herbal antidepressant and is approved for the treatment of mild to moderate depression. The antidepressant effect is based on the ingredient hyperforin. Hyperforin influences the concentration and receptor structures of neurotransmitters (e.g. noradrenaline, serotonin, dopamine and GABA).

You can read more about the effect of St John's wort on depressive moods in the blog post "Natural antidepressant: Does St John's wort help with depression?"


Lavender oil is authorised in Germany for the treatment of anxiety and anxious moods. The calming effect is based on influencing the GABA receptors.

Milk thistle

Milk thistle is primarily known for its positive effect on the liver and intestines. However, the medicinal plant is also used to treat depression, mood swings and anxiety.

Medicinal plant milk thistle: Ideal for the liver and gall bladder

You can find out more about milk thistle in our blog post "Medicinal plant milk thistle: ideal for the liver and gall bladder"

Lemon balm

Lemon balm has a relaxing and sleep-promoting effect by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for the breakdown of GABA (GABA transaminase).

When are herbal mood enhancers useful?

Anyone suffering from mild depressive moods or seasonal mood swings (the so-called autumn or winter blues) can consider self-medicating with herbal mood enhancers. Herbal preparations can also help with mild sleep disorders or nervous restlessness. However, if a serious illness is suspected, this should definitely be discussed with a doctor or psychotherapist. Self-therapy with herbal antidepressants is not a substitute for therapy.

Many phytopharmaceuticals work by influencing the GABA receptor (e.g. lavender, valerian). These should therefore not be combined with other medications that work in this way. If you are already taking antidepressants or other medications (e.g. anticoagulants), you should always consult your doctor before taking herbal preparations. Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to negative interactions.

Just don't stress! Herbal helpers for nervous restlessness and exhaustion. DAZ 2017; 9:56 Extracts for mental stress and sleep disorders. Pharmazeutische Zeitung, retrieved on 09/09/2021