14 Best Natural Herbs for Anxiety and Depression

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

There are many different herbs for anxiety and depression, as these can often have soothing, anxiolytic, sedative or detoxifying powers. Anxiety is often misunderstood, as people are quick to write off anxiety as being stressed or overwhelmed by work or personal life. In most forms, stress is a temporary response of the body and usually passes within a few hours or days. However, anxiety disorders are when your high-stress levels become chronic, and these conditions must be taken seriously.

Some of the most common anxiety disorders are a social anxiety disorder, panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. Going into the details of these anxiety disorders is beyond the scope of this article, but they can be disabling for some people, preventing them from living a normal life, holding down a job, or experiencing positive relationships. Common symptoms of anxiety disorders include elevated heart rate, palpitations, shortness of breath, clammy hands, sweating, chills, headaches, stomach upset, sleeplessness and changes in appetite and mood. [1]

When it comes to mood disorders, anxiety is extremely closely linked to depression. In more than 75% of cases of depression, there is also a diagnosis of anxiety disorder, and panic disorders are also often present. Depression often manifests with symptoms like extended periods of sadness or lack of enthusiasm for life, even in previous interests. Some of the more tangible symptoms are sleep disorders, changes in appetite, loss of self-esteem, exhaustion, weight loss, or thoughts of self-harm or suicide. The close connection between anxiety and depression makes many of the treatments for these conditions the same. There are many treatments, including everything from therapy to pharmaceutical solutions, but herbs for anxiety and depression are becoming increasingly popular. [2] [3]

List of Herbs for Anti-anxiety

Some of the best herbs for eliminating anxiety include lavender, kava, chamomile, ashwagandha, passionflower, ginkgo biloba, and valerian root.


Numerous studies have been done on the effects of chamomile on stress hormone levels in the body, and it has been found to soothe the nervous system and help to induce sleep and feelings of calm. This can be consumed in the form of a tea or a supplement, and its anxiolytic effects are well known. [4]


Primarily used to help people get uninterrupted sleep, this ancient sedative is known to counter the feelings of anxiety and can provide a sense of relief from overwhelming emotions. This herbal remedy is primarily used as a tea, although there are also tablets and herbal supplements available. [5]

Gingko Biloba

It can counter the negative hormones that cause feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, and loneliness that often accompany anxiety. As a mood booster, it can provide energy and aid you in overcoming negative thoughts. [6]

White marble mortar and pestle surrounded by herbs and spices

Herbs and spices help relieve inflammation. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Valerian Root

Many of the same active ingredients present in valium can be found in natural form within valerian root, and it is frequently recommended as a sedative, helping people achieve deep and restful sleep. The chemical compounds in this herb can settle the central nervous system and balance your hormone levels. [7]


Lavender is packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, but it is perhaps best known for its scent, which alone can help calm down a busy mind and release physical and mental tension. Even a few drops of this essential oil on your pillow can work wonders, or lavender tea can be brewed and consumed regularly. [8]


For people who suffer from social anxiety disorder, using kava can be extremely effective. Also known as kava-kava, this natural solution to feelings of nervousness, anxiety or stress has been used in traditional medicine as a sleep aid for centuries. You can steep a chopped up bunch of kava root, as you would a tea, and then drink this soothing beverage at any time of day. [9]


In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is widely praised for many health conditions, but it is particularly well known as an adaptogen, meaning that instead of regulating certain hormones or metabolic functions in one way or another, it helps the body adapt to different stressful environments and improve our natural response to anxiety triggers. [10]

List of Herbs for Depression

Some of the most effective herbs for anxiety and depression are St. John’s Wort, skullcap, lemon balm, hawthorn, California poppy, omega-3 fatty acids, and green tea.

Lemon Balm

Formally known as Melissa Officinalis, lemon balm improves appetite, aids in healthy sleep, and can cure the inflammation or discomfort that often accompanies depression. It is known to uplift mood, while still allowing enough peace and relaxation to induce healthy sleep. [11]

California Poppy

Used successfully for mental and physical exhaustion, as well as acting as a general analgesic in the body, this little-known herb is often recommended for people suffering from depression. It can provide a better mindset by altering neurotransmitter levels, while also stimulating the metabolism and energizing users. [12]

St. John’s Wort

One of the most famous herbs for anxiety and depression, St. John’s Wort has impressive antidepressant powers, which can help clear the mind, without impacting cognition, unlike so many pharmaceutical solutions for depression. For severe depression, however, professional help is recommended. [13]


If you are suffering from occasional bouts of serious depression, you can take skullcap to reduce inflammation, soothe the stomach, and stimulate cognition in a positive way, which can help with depression. This herb should only be used for short periods of time, as continual use could result in a worsening of your symptoms. [14]

Green Tea

Packed with many antioxidants, particularly L-theanine, green tea supplements or green tea as a beverage can stimulate the production of GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid), which controls a great deal of our central nervous system activity, including the release of “feel good” hormones. [15]

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Many studies have linked low levels of omega-3 fatty acids to higher rates of depression and anxiety. You can get your fill of these critical fats in certain types of fish, such as salmon, as well as herbal supplements and tablets. [16]


Capable of calming deep-seated emotions of fear, anger, sadness or uselessness, this powerful herbal remedy for depression is packed with saponins, catechins, and anthocyanins that can positively alter the chemical balance in your body. [17]

How Are Herbs Useful?

Herbs for anxiety and depression are useful because they can be effective treatments without forming habits or altering the chemical balance in your body to a dangerous level. There are many different herbs that can be used to treat these conditions, so even if you are overly sensitive or allergic to one method, there is likely another option that can help provide relief. Herbs have many of the same effects on hormone levels, metabolism and neurotransmitters that more traditional drugs provide, but tend to cause less negative side effects. Herbs for anxiety and depression also have hundreds or even thousands of years of anecdotal evidence backing up their ability to improve mood and relieve the signs of these mental conditions.

Dosage for Anti-anxiety Herbs

Every herb for anxiety and depression has slightly different qualities, as they each have different active ingredients and effects on the body. It is important to note that despite their general safety and efficacy, herbs can often have concentrated amounts of certain compounds, so use these remedies in moderation and as recommended by herbalists or medical professionals.

The majority of herbal remedies, particularly those included in this article, can be consumed orally, in the form of a tea, or as a topical application. Some of the herbs for anxiety and depression recommended here can also be found in capsule or tablet form. In terms of dosage, you can find the prescribed or safe amount of the most common herbs for anxiety and depression below.

  • Chamomile – Avoid drinking more than 4 cups of this tea, or consuming more than 1,000 milligrams.
  • Passionflower – Only very small amounts of passionflower are needed, no more than 90 mg per day.
  • Gingko Biloba – In extract form, most people take approximately 150 milligrams, broke up into 3 doses throughout the day.
  • Valerian Root – 500-600 milligrams of this herb are safe to take per day, in supplement form, or roughly 2-3 glasses of tea.
  • Lavender – Simply diffuse 5-6 drops of the essential oil, or add 2-3 drops to a cup of herbal tea.
  • Kava – No more than 200 milligrams should be taken before going to sleep.
  • Ashwagandha – Experts recommend no more than 4-5 grams of this powdered extract each day.
  • Lemon Balm – Do not consume more than 600 milligrams of this powerful herb per day in supplement form.
  • California Poppy – No more than 10 drops of the concentrated extract should be used each day.
  • St. John’s Wort – No more than 1,800 milligrams should be taken per day, consumed at 2-3 different times.
  • Skullcap – 3 cups of this tea per day is the limit, as the effects are quite powerful
  • Green Tea – No more than 6 glasses of green tea per day should be consumed, or 200 milligrams of the herb extract.
  • Omega-3 – If taking supplements, 500-1000 milligrams per day is a safe level.
  • Hawthorn – Depending on the concentration of the extract of supplement, you should consume between 400 and 1000 milligrams each day for best results.

Note: Before deciding on a dose for any of these herbs for anxiety and depression, speak with your doctor about potential risks, interactions with other drugs, or possible complications with pre-existing conditions. 

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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