SAD or seasonal affective disorder is a winter depression caused by the shorter, darker, colder days and lack of exposure to sunlight. Apart from photo-therapy, sufferers can also use herbs, essential oils and supplements for SAD. Vitamin D is an especially important supplement for SAD and a deficiency in this vital nutrient is known to cause depression and feelings of sadness. In today’s article we will only focus on herbs you can use to help someone(or yourself) when suffering from seasonal affective disorder.
1. St. John’s Wort
Many herbs have been studied for depressive disorders but the one examined extensively for seasonal depression is St. John’s Wort or Hypericum Perforatum. In one study in Germany, patients with SAD were divided into two groups. One group was treated with bright light and St. John’s Wort while the other group was treated with St. John’s Wort and dim light. Both groups reported significant improvement in symptoms despite the light used. Another study in London asked 301 SAD patients to take St. John’s Wort three times a day. Most of them reported significant overall improvement. It is no wonder that many healthcare practitioners in Europe recommend St. John’s Wort to treat depression in patients.
Dosage: Consider taking 1 tsp or 3-5 ml of tincture 5 times a day. If you are taking any prescription medication, check with an herbalist to ensure it is safe to take this herb.
Also known as Albizia julibrissin, Mimosa is not so well known, but is still the best antidepressant for seasonal affective disorder. Mimosa flowers and bark are used for creating the tincture which is readily available. The herb has an acrid, astringent flavor.
Dosage: Take 30 drops of the tincture or 1-5ml twice a day.
3. Holy Basil
In India, Holy basil or Tulsi leaves are used to ward off colds, coughs and also depressive thoughts. Holy basil has a strong medicinal aroma that is known to reduce effects of stress and spark creative focus. The tea made by boiling holy basil leaves is strong, sweet and delicious and also non-habit forming. You can safely take this herb to calm anxiety, fight inflammation and buffer the effects of stress.
Dosage: Drink 2-3 cups of basil tea or take ½ tsp of tincture twice a day.
Frankincense is a resin obtained from Boswelia species of trees found in deserts of Africa. In ancient times, the resins were burnt to produce a heavenly aroma that was believed to open a gateway to the heavens. Many people use Frankincense till date while meditating as it is known to create a calming, spiritual atmosphere. Frankincense essential oil is also one of the best essential oils for seasonal affective disorder. You can also eat the hard resins which impart mood balancing effect and also control inflammation in the body.
Dosage: Eat ¼ to ½ tsp of Frankincense ‘tears’ once a day.
5. Lemon Balm tea
Lemon balm is known as Melissa officinalis. This herb has a delightful and refreshing scent that can balance and uplift the mood. Brew a strong tea of lemon balm leaves and drink it 2-3 times in winters to lessen anxiety and uplift the feelings of sadness.
Dosage: Drink 3 cups a day. You can also use lemon balm essential oil for massage or in bath water to relax the senses. Add it to a humidifier or room diffuser to create a cheerful, invigorating and spa-like environment in winters.
Seasonal affective disorder treatment lights are great but you can also use a strong cup of rose tea to cheer up your senses and uplift dark mood. Many herbalists recommend rose for overcoming trauma or withdrawal as well as winter sadness.
Dosage: Use 1 tsp of petals to make one cup of rose tea. Drink this 1-3 times a day. You can also use 5-50 drops of Rose elixir or tincture to mend a broken heart.
This evergreen coniferous tree has always been associated with the darker, colder months. The smell of pine and pine essential oils is uplifting, antidepressant and energizing. Tea made from pine needles is packed with Vitamin C and is very beneficial for the respiratory system.
Dosage: Steep a cup of chopped pine needles in a pint of water for 5-10 minutes. Drink 2-3 cups per day.
A tea made from oats seedheads is known to alleviate seasonal depression, anxiety and also build immunity to stress. It is also a good tonic for people who have to stay up late for work/exams.
Dosage: Use 2 tbsp of dried, unripe oat seedhead in a cup of hot water and steep it for 5 minutes. Drink 2 to 3 cups per day.
9. Other essential oils for seasonal affective disorder
Many aromas are known to be especially uplifting and can help you overcome winter blues. Lavender and peppermint are some notable ones. You can also drink Peppermint tea 2-3 times a day. Diffusing these oils can also uplift the mood. Make a potpourri of fresh or dried seasonal flowers, dried branches, twigs, pine needles and leaves and spritz a few drops of the best essential oils on the mixture. This potpurri will make your home/office smell divine and also alleviate negative thoughts.
Consult your doctor if your feelings of depression persist. As stated before, take a multivitamin supplement. In particular, find out how much Vitamin D to take for depression in winters. That combined with the herbs for SAD should help you feel a lot better.