I was recently talking to a friend about mental health herbalism and they wanted some good recommendations about how to stock their house with the best herbs so I thought I’d write out a few thoughts with my recommendations on tinctures. Often a mental health tincture is one that is gently relaxing, can help someone drift off to sleep more easily, can help improve mood or reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety. It is key to pair taking these tinctures with lifestyle changes such as addressing poor dietary and lifestyle habits for deeper resolution of the underlying issues.
As an herbalist, I also think its key to work with herbs in other forms such as broths and teas. Tinctures do not carry a great amount of nutritional material and often to restore balance it is important to nourish the system deeply in order to rebuild resiliency and underlying nervous system strength. I will address working with herbs in teas and broths in a separate article.
None of this is medical advice and of course I advise anyone to first please speak with a professional and/or experienced herbalist. A number of these plants have potential contraindications with certain pharmaceutical medications and further consultation is needed before making decisions.
First off- a tincture is an alcohol or glycerine based extraction of herbs. When you go to a natural foodstore, you are generally going to see bottles that contain an extract of herbs- usually in 50-95 % alcohol. Most tinctures are produced in one ounce bottles (30 ml) bottles. Each dropper pulls up about 1 ml. People tend to take 1-3 ml of a tincture per each dose depending on the strength of the plant and the desired effect. That means each one ounce tincture bottle has about 10-30 doses depending on how much you use each time.
The best “mental health” tinctures are ones that tend to have a specific effect such as
analgesic- pain reducing
antispasmodic- muscle relaxing
anxiolytic- anxiety reducing
hypnotic- sleep inducing
antidepressant- mood lifting qualities without being excessively stimulating
So with that in mind it often makes most sense to get a formula that has herbs with several of these types of effects in combination. However in this case, I will recommend tinctures with single extractions and you can look to purchase formulas that are a combination or make those formulas yourself.
My top 15:
Kava- strongly antispasmodic, anxiolytic, can be hypnotic. There is a fair bit of controversy around this herb and especially some concern around it affecting hepatic function so do your research around this one before taking it regularly.
Cramp bark- antispasmodic, anxiolytic
Jamaican Dogwood- analgesic, strongly antispasmodic
Devil’s Claw- analgesic, antispasmodic
California Poppy- analgesic, anxiolytic
Hops- hypnotic, anxiolytic, antispasmodic
Saint Johns Wort- Antidepressant, anxiolytic
Valerian- Hypnotic, anxiolytic
Hawthorne- Antidepressant, anxiolytic
Milky Oats- Anxiolytic, antidepressant
Lemon Balm- Anxiolytic, antidepressant
Skullcap- Anxiolytic, mildly hypnotic
So a classic mood improving formula could include Saint John’s Wort, Albizia flower, lemon balm, hawthorne and milky oats.
A classic sleep formula could include hops, valerian and skullcap.
A classic pain formula could include Jamaican Dogwood, devil’s claw, california poppy and cramp bark.
A sleep inducing formula that helps with restless legs could be cramp bark, jamaican dogwood kava, and hops.
As you can see, these tinctures can be mixed and matched and often work synergistically for best effect. These are all herbs you can purchase at local stores, make yourself or purchase from herbalists in your community that you trust. Some of the places I trust to make good tinctures include Mountain Rose Herbs, Herb Pharm, Oregon’s Wild Harvest and Terra Firma.
You can also find me at the Facebook group Herbs for Mental Health