5 Medicinal Herbs for Treating Depression

Medicinal herbs aren't a first-line treatment for depression. However, some studies suggest that they can help improve mood in mild or moderate cases.
5 Medicinal Herbs for Treating Depression
Grecia Morillo

Written and verified by the doctor Grecia Morillo.

Last update: 26 September, 2022

According to popular wisdom, since ancient times, medicinal herbs have been used to treat depression or, rather, to contribute to the relief of emotional distress and tension.

Although they don’t replace medical treatment, their use seems to improve mood in some people, since they help relax the body and fall asleep.

5 medicinal herbs to relieve depression

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved several drugs to fight depression in recent years. However, they aren’t necessary in all cases. Therefore, first of all, priority must be given to medical consultation.

However, there are medicinal herbs whose properties can help relieve the symptoms of depression. Although they aren’t a first-line treatment, some studies support their use as adjuvants to improve rest and mood.

But beware! Despite the fact that they’re natural products, they can cause interactions and side effects. They’re even contraindicated in some cases. Therefore, before trying one option or another, you have to find out all the information about it.

Now that you know this, below, discover the medicinal herbs to treat depression or rather, maximize general well-being. Use them with caution, following the consumption recommendations.

1. St. John’s wort

A cup of St John's wort tea.

Of all the medicinal herbs, St. John’s wort is one of the most popular for the natural treatment of depression. Some research shows its effectiveness for anxiety as well.

Apparently, its consumption helps increase the secretion of serotonin, a chemical associated with well-being. A systematic review published in Cochrane stated that it could help with mild or moderate depression.

However, you should only use it in completely natural treatments for treating depression. In other words, you shouldn’t combine it with any other antidepressant at the same time.


  • 1 cup of water (250 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon of St. John’s wort (5 g)

How do I use it?

  • Firstly, heat the water. Once boiling, add the St. John’s wort and let it sit for five minutes before consuming.
  • Drink it three times a day.

Remember that it may take three weeks to see its effects, since natural treatments are often very effective but also sometimes slower.

2. Poppies

Poppies are also a medicinal herb that you can keep around the house to treat depression. Thanks to their alkaloids, their main active compound, they’re very good at calming anxiety and moderate depression, according to a study published in Biochemistry Research International.
Note: It should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.


  • 1 tablespoon of poppy flowers (10 g)
  • 1 cup of water (250 ml)

How do I use it?

  • Make a tea using the poppy flowers and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Have it 3 times a day, keeping in mind that it’s another somewhat slow treatment.

3. Angelica

An Angelica plant.

Angelica belongs to the group of medicinal herbs that can treat severe depression. In fact, a study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine talks about its antidepressant effects.

This is due to its sedative properties, useful for relieving symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, and even the lack of appetite that is a product of serious depression.

  • Only people over six years old should use it because of the strong effects of its main active compound.
  • The plant shouldn’t come in contact with your skin as it may cause dermatitis.


  • 1 teaspoon of angelica flowers (5 g)
  • 1 cup of water (250 ml)

How do I use it?

  • Firstly, make the angelica tea with a teaspoon of its flowers for each cup of boiling water and let sit for five minutes.
  • Have three times a day before meals and you’ll see changes within a week of starting.

Valerian is one of the most popular medicinal herbs for depression that exists.

When valerian was first discovered, it was mostly used for its ability to treat spasms. However, over time, its value as a sedative was noticed. Now it’s used to treat insomnia and relieve depression.

Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine suggests that it may be effective against the emotional symptoms of PMS.


  • 1 tablespoon of valerian (10 g)
  • 1 cup of water (250 ml)

How do I use it?

To make the tea, keep in mind that what you need is the entire plant including the root, which is where most of its depression-fighting powers are concentrated.

  • Firstly, add a tablespoon for each cup of boiling water and let sit for 15 minutes.
  • Ideally, you should take it 3 times a day. Be patient, and you’ll see results in a few days.

5. Ginseng

Ginseng in a bowl.

Ginseng is a natural stimulant that may help fight depression. This medicinal herb exerts a tonic effect on the brain, helps channel relaxation and, as a result, deflects feelings of anxiety, depression, and loss of appetite.

Research published in the Journal of Ginseng Research indicates that this plant could help relieve depression derived from constant stress and anxiety.

Some possible side effects that may come with this herb are nervousness and hypertension, but these normally only appear if the recommended dose is exceeded.


  • 1/4 teaspoon of ginseng (1.2 g)
  • 1 cup of water (250 ml)

How do I use it?

  • Heat 1 gram of the ginseng herb in a cup of water.
  • Let it boil for 3 minutes and then let it sit for 5 minutes.
  • Have just once a day in the morning, as it has a better effect on the nervous system at that time of day.

Medicinal herbs to relieve depression: conclusions

In conclusion, some medicinal herbs can help you reduce the symptoms of depression. However, in order for them to be more useful, you must modify your lifestyle, go out, play sports, and watch your sleep and diet.

Finally, remember that it’s best to go see a psychologist or health professional. No herbal supplement should be considered a substitute for medical treatment. Keep that in mind!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Yeung, K. S., Hernandez, M., Mao, J. J., Haviland, I., & Gubili, J. (2018). Herbal medicine for depression and anxiety: A systematic review with assessment of potential psycho-oncologic relevance. Phytotherapy Research. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6033
  • Lakhan SE, Vieira KF. Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review. Nutr J. 2010;9:42. Published 2010 Oct 7. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-42
  • Linde, K., Berner, M. M., & Kriston, L. (2008). St John’s wort for major depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD000448.pub3
  • Fedurco M, Gregorová J, Šebrlová K, et al. Modulatory Effects of Eschscholzia californica Alkaloids on Recombinant GABAA Receptors. Biochem Res Int. 2015;2015:617620. doi:10.1155/2015/617620
  • Shen, J., Zhang, J., Deng, M., Liu, Y., Hu, Y., & Zhang, L. (2016). The Antidepressant Effect of Angelica sinensis Extracts on Chronic Unpredictable Mild Stress-Induced Depression Is Mediated via the Upregulation of the BDNF Signaling Pathway in Rats. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/7434692
  • Behboodi Moghadam Z, Rezaei E, Shirood Gholami R, Kheirkhah M, Haghani H. The effect of Valerian root extract on the severity of pre menstrual syndrome symptoms. J Tradit Complement Med. 2016;6(3):309–315. Published 2016 Jan 19. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2015.09.001
  • Lee S, Rhee DK. Efectos del ginseng sobre la depresión relacionada con el estrés, la ansiedad y el eje hipotalámico-pituitario-adrenal. J Ginseng Res . 2017; 41 (4): 589–594. doi: 10.1016 / j.jgr.2017.01.010

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.