There are quite a lot of herbs out there that contain the right kind of chemistry to make us feel good. Considering ‘happiness’ is quite a large variable amongst us humans, it all depends on what exactly it is that our body+mind needs in order to get the boost. You could be the kind of person that feels happy with a dopamine boost like our friend Mucuna provides, or the kind of person that gets happy by taking the edge off with an adaptogen, like Ashwagandha, or by going deeper into your serotonin reservoirs, like St. Johns Wort, along with a nervous system side boost of CBD. Nature has all-and-all provided a remedy for just about anything. We have a conglomerate of natural sources to fuel our feel-good molecules and get our moods in the right place.
Here’s a basic overview on my top 5 favorites that assist in stress relief, anxiety, and along with assisting the secretion of the long famed, dopamine and serotonin — the main neurotransmitters that assist us in feeling good. Now, take note, that these are just the botanical counterparts to a diet that should be rich in nutrients, along with practices that also fuel well-being.
For example, foods rich in B Vitamins, along with gentle and conscious exercises like tai chi and yoga, particularly fuel Serotonin. On the other hand, Dopamine, for example, thrives with a diet rich in protein, with more adventurous and intensive exercise like rock climbing, surfing, etc.
ALBIZZIA (Albizia julibrissin)
The flowers and bark of the mimosa tree are among the most valued of Chinese botanicals for relieving anxiety, stress, and depression. Called by some Chinese herbalists “the tree of eternal happiness”, and in modern times referred to as “herbal Prozac”. Both the bark and the flowers of albizia are used as a calming sedative in Oriental traditional medicine. Categorized in the Chinese Materia Medica as a calming spirit herb, the bark is thought to ‘anchor’ the spirit, while the flowers lighten it. The flowers have also been used for the treatment of insomnia, amnesia, sore throat, and contusion in Oriental traditional medicine (Kang, et al) as well as depression, melancholy and anxiety Considering the proliferation of antidepressant drugs throughout the Western world with their increasingly recognized adverse effects, it’s wonderful that nature has, in abundance, a safer and better alternative probably growing in close proximity to one’s doorstep.
ASHWAGANDHA (Withania somnifera) Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), an Indian plant that has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine, contains powerful adaptogenic compounds that are known to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. The plant is also known to help fight degenerative brain conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Several studies, including one published in the journal Phytomedicine back in 2000, have found that ashwagandha works as well as, or better than, antidepressant drugs at relieving anxiety and treating depression symptoms. And ashwagandha naturally prevents stress-induced free radical damage without causing harmful side effects 
MUCUNA (Mucuna pruriens) is especially beneficial to brain health, its primary compound “levodopa (L-dopa)” is a precursor to dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. L-Dopa is able to directly affect the central nervous system by boosting the output of dopamine, the chemical responsible for sensory stimulation, physical pleasure, and bursts of euphoria. Serotonin, a famous mood regulator, is also released, along with adrenaline. The combination of these elements makes Mucuna Pruriens wonderful natural remedy for depression.
RHODIOLA (Rhodiola rosea) Rhodiola rosea grows in cold, alpine regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Its roots contain a sap that has long been used to improve physical and mental endurance, relieve symptoms of anxiety and stress, and even lift mood and alleviate depression symptoms. This is why it is considered to be an adaptogen, a natural substance that helps normalize the body’s response to stress and maintain optimal homeostasis by balancing the immune system and endocrine hormones.
Numerous scientific studies have revealed that Rhodiola can be safely used for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), adrenal fatigue, reduce recovery time after workouts, improve attention span and memory, improve physical fitness and performance, enhance psychomotor function, and alleviate depression and anxiety.
ST. JOHNS WORT (Hypericum perforatum)
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), a plant native to temperate and subtropical regions of the world, has long been used in many cultures to treat depression. Numerous research studies, including a 2008 study published as part of the Cochrane Systematic Review, have found that St. John’s Wort is at least as effective as standard antidepressant drugs at treating mild to moderate depressive disorders, but with few potentially harmful side effects.
When taken as a whole extract, St. John’s Wort has also been shown to help naturally alleviate sleep disorders, promote relaxation, and boost energy levels in such a way that avoids the “spikes” and “plunges” typically associated with consumption of caffeine and other stimulants. St. John’s Wort is considered to be a safe, inexpensive herbal remedy that can help promote improved overall mental health.
And just a couple more herbs that I love that are more traditional within this department in Central-South America, are:
MUIRA PUAMA – consumed by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon for centuries for its effect on the central nervous system, especially when nervous system disorders are a result of stress. Studies have shown that this herb possesses several nervous system activities – including anxiogenic (decreases anxiety), and adaptogen-like properties (!) A recent study, published in “Psychotherapy Research” indicated that Muira Puama may impact levels of dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin in the brain, producing antidepressant effects.
DAMIANA – One of the active constituents of this herb is thymol, and it is this compound that is responsible for Damiana’s life-enhancing and stimulating effect on the mind and body. Many herbalists prescribe Damiana for mild to moderate depression, anxiety, and nervous exhaustion. Its stimulating and restorative properties make it a valuable herb for anxiety and depression occurring together – as can often happen as a result of long-term stress.
Boost up your cocktails with our Happiness Tonic containing adaptogens and supporting herbs known to secrete dopamine and serotonin!
A super easy cocktail to have basically any day and any time!
Hibiscus + Rose tea infusion
1-2tsp Happiness Tonic
1. Infuse equal parts of hibiscus and rose in a teapot. Strain and place in the fridge
2. Pour a homemade kombucha or your favorite into a glass (ginger tastes particularly good with hibiscus and rose)
3. Once the tea is chilled, combine with kombucha, add happiness tonic and mix well.
4. Decorate with flower petals for beauty. Enjoy!