Top 5 Herbal Remedies for Depression

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Herbal remedies for depression have been used since the antique, for example, St.John’s wort, avena, vervain, lemon balm (melissa) and valerian. Some herbs have a stronger effect than others, but they should be used for a longer period of time and in defined dosages. Some of these herbs are sold over the counter in different forms, however, the best forms for treating depression would be infusions (tea and oil) and tinctures. Human organism has an innate defense system based on the principles of homeopathy originating from the time of Greek physician Hippocrates. Herbal remedies for depression presented in this article are based on these principles, but they are not categorized as homeopathic because of the method of preparation. Basically, these herbal remedies are prepared pretty much the same as flower remedies, for example, by placing the plant flowers into water to make tea.

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5 most widely used herbal remedies for depression:

  • St. John’s wort
  • Avena
  • Vervain
  • Lemon balm
  • Valeriana


St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is herbal remedy for depression and other disturbances used since antique times both in Asia and Europe. According to one of the many legends, the secret of St. John’s wort was in that it healed not only the body, but also the soul. Today, modern science has succeeded in proving its healing properties although it cannot determine exactly which substance contained in the herb actually produces the healing effects.

St. John’s wort acts as antidepressive, disinfectant, anti-inflammatory, relaxant, pain reliever, antispasmodic and sedative without narcotic effect. However, this herbal remedy cannot cure depression “overnight:” a depressed person ought to use St. John’s wort for weeks or even months before it starts showing positive effects on psychological conditions. The person may already start feeling better in the first two weeks, but this doesn’t mean that the person should stop the treatment.

The effect of St. John’s wort and how to use it

One example of depression is the winter depression. Scientists have confirmed that this type of depression occurs because people are not exposed to sunlight which is very important for the body; it is even advisable to light a candle in dark rooms because candle flame reflects red and orange color similar to that radiated by the sun in a sunset sky, the color which activates human organism. St. John’s wort is one of the best herbal remedies for depression because it improves mood and it stimulates the brain to effectively use hormone precursors of happiness present during sun light.

If you want to enlighten the psyche and free it from fear and depression, use St. John’s wort in form of infusion (tea and/or oil) and tincture.



  • Put 30 g of St. John’s wort flowers in 1 L of water.
  • Drink three to four cups of tea without sugar, each day (if you are depressed, avoid sugars because they deprive human body of vitamin B – which is very important for the central nervous system – and therefore they easily trigger depression)


  • Take 15 drops of St. John’s wort oil 3 times a day before meals (prepare yourself for a bitter taste).
  • Try to expose your body to the sun or day light before use.

How to make St. John’s wort oil

  • Put the flowers of St. John’s wort (cca.3/4 of a cup) in a transparent recipient (for example, an empty jar of marmalade) and cover them with (extra virgin) olive oil.
  • Put the recipient in a place exposed to the sun for 2-4 weeks (until it receives a crimson color).
  • Strain the oil and put it into a colored bottle (not transparent) and keep it in a dry place.


Don’t combine St. John’s wort with anti-depressives and contraception.

Legends about the origin of St. John’s wort (also known astheChase-devil):

  • One of the legends says that the devil came to tempt a maiden who hid herself in a field of St. John’s wort while trying to escape. The devil was so persistent that he used a needle to divide all the leaves of the herb in order to find her, but his efforts were in vain. She was nowhere to be found.
  • In ancient times, people made bouquets out of St. John’s wort and hanged them over images of saints to keep away evil spirits.
  • According to one of the legends, St. John’s wort came into existence from the blood of St. John the Baptist and another legend says that one of the followers of Jesus Christ found it under the Cross.
  • Another story says that this herbal remedy came into existence from the blood drops of Prometheus; according to the legend it was used to cure the so-called “syndrome of Prometheus:” insolence united with daily tortures of seeing one’s own end, an attitude accompanied by a frustrating image of one’s own defeat.

AVENA – Common oat

Common oat (Avena sativa) is another natural remedy for depression; people consume oat in form of oatmeal (for example, porridge, oat bread, oatcakes, etc.) and rolled oats (cereal flakes). The aerial part of the plant, the straw, is rich with silicon. An interesting fact is that silicon is an excellent semiconductor for microchips, the “nervous system” of computers, but also for the synapses of our cerebral circuits.

How to use common oat tincture as herbal remedy for depression


  • Put 30 drops in a tablespoon and take it three times a day before meals.
  • Put 40 drops of avena tincture in 1 dl of water before going to bed (in case of insomnia)


Vervain (herba veneris) is used as herbal remedy for depression usually as herbal tea. It was used by ancient Roman priests for protection and as sacrifice to Venus. It also served as an ornament for brides. There is a Christian legend saying that it was used to clean the wounds of Jesus Christ after he was taken down from the Cross. Consequently, it was called the “holy plant.” Alchemists called it “the blood of Mercury” because of its impact on the nerves and the capacity to relax and clarify the mind. Because of this “meditative” property it was appreciated also by the Buddhists, in India.

How to use vervain as herbal remedy for depression

Infusion (herbal tea):

  • Put one teaspoon in a cup of hot water and leave it for ten minutes.
  • Drink the tea 2-3 times a day.


  • Put 40 drops of vervain extract in a small amount of water and drink three times a day.


Do not use this herbal remedy during pregnancy at any cost (it is also used as abortifacient)!


Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is used as herbal remedy for depression in form of infusion (tea and/or oil) and in extract form (tincture). It is used to treat anxiety (as mild sedative), to improve mood and to help the performance of the mind. It has been introduced as a cure for depression since the ninth century by Arabian medics.

How to use lemon balm oil as herbal remedy for depression

Lemon balm oil

  • Put chopped lemon balm (cca.3/4 of a cup) in a transparent recipient (for example, a glass jar for home canning)
  • Leave the herb in the jar over night (to dry it – water must evaporate from the herb otherwise the oil might turn out moldy)
  • Cover the herb with (extra virgin) olive oil.
  • Put the jar in a warm sunny place for 2 weeks (until it becomes “cloudier” in color).
  • Strain the oil and put it into a colored bottle (not transparent) and keep it in a dry place.


  • Put 1 teaspoon of dried (or two teaspoons of fresh) lemon balm herb in hot water
  • Steep and drink as tea 4 times a day.


  • Take 40 drops of lemon balm extract three times a day.


Not for pregnant or breastfeeding women!


Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is effective in curing depression, anxiety and insomnia caused by nervous conditions. It has an effect of a tranquilizer and sedative with an impact on the central nervous system. It was widely used during the World War I to cure the shock caused by the fall of grenades in soldiers. Treatment with valerian shouldn’t last longer than 14 days when it’s advisable to substitute the herb with lemon balm (Melissa).

Interesting facts about valerian:

  • It was believed that valerian chases away demons and witches.
  • Rats and trout (fish) are attracted to the herb.
  • Cats like to wallow in the leaves and roots of valerian and chew them.
  • Bees run away from it.
  • The Benedictines (Christian priests) used the plant as herbal remedy for different diseases.
  • The British use it as an aromatic plant in the kitchen.

Tips on using valerian:

If you are making tea with valerian, don’t use boiling water to prepare the tea!

Use valerian root oil only under medical supervision because long exposure to it may cause numbness.


It is advisable to use herbal remedies for depression after you’ve consulted your practitioner or another person who understands the power of these herbs and the side effects that they may cause.


Frank J. Lipp, Le erbe. Medicina naturale. Simbolismi, rituali e folclore (1998)

Ferdinando Alaimo, Erboristeria planetaria, Proprietà curative e simbologia delle piante (2007)

Sven-Jörg Buslau & Corinna Hembd, Iperico, La natura contro la depressione (1999)

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Top 5 Herbal Remedies for Depression, Seekyt
General Contributor
Janice is a writer from Chicago, IL. She created the "simple living as told by me" newsletter with more than 12,000 subscribers about Living Better and is a founder of Seekyt.