Spring is springing everywhere and this week we even had a sneak peak at summer. And yet for many of us, there are days or longer periods of time when we just don’t feel that spring in our step. Anxiety creeps in and rain clouds hover over our heads. And in many cases we cannot identify any particular reason, we just feel blue.
Depression and anxiety take an enormous toll on us both emotionally and surprisingly physically too. For example, it is considered that depression increases the risk of a heart attack to almost three times normal. Other symptoms that you may not even associate with depression or anxiety include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, being easily frustrated, loss of interest in hobbies or normal activities, sleep issues, whether too much sleep or insomnia, general fatigue, changes in appetite, trouble concentrating and even physical symptoms such as headache and backache.
Doctors often prescribe pharmaceutical antidepressants, and these are without doubt invaluable for those with severe, debilitating depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. But there are negative impacts. Almost all antidepressants flatten mood—that is, they improve your lows, but they also reduce your highs—making life just a bit more bland, without its normal ups and downs. You can feel like you are living in zombieland. They also commonly reduce libido and orgasmic ability, which is depressing in and of itself—particularly given that sex can improve both anxiety and depression.
A meta-analysis of all antidepressant studies from 1990 to 2009 showed that the effect of antidepressants on mild to moderate depression was non-significant.
If you are taking an antidepressant and feel it is benefiting you, by all means keep taking it! For some, however, antidepressants are not effective and/or have side effects that make taking the drugs undesirable. For those seeking alternative treatments, you may want to give our Feeling Blue blend a try.
In traditional Chinese medicine the liver is thought to smooth the “chi” and as a result emotional responses were often linked to the liver. This is also supported through our history, with the use of the word “bilious” referring to people who were irritable and bitter. Botanicals that support liver and digestive function are also therefore appropriate in many cases of anxiety and depression. The liver metabolizes and excretes active hormones any stagnation here will impair the body’s ability to process what it needs. Angelica root is a spicy, warm bitter herb that stimulates liver function, and invigorates the blood. And Hawthorn is known for nourishing the heart blood, improving overall circulation around the body, avoiding stagnation.
Anxiety is often associated with adrenal fatigue, so this is a key area to address. Ginseng is a great botanical that supports adrenal regulation and may therefore improve depression and hormonal disorders.
There are also herbs which nourish the limbic system, which supports a variety of functions including emotion, behaviour. Lemon Balm is a fantastic herb for improving overall cognition and mood. Similarly, Rhodiola is a well known adaptogen, meaning that it acts in non-specific ways to increase resistance to stress, and trials found significant improvement in cognitive functions and fatigue with patients reporting fewer symptoms of depression.
Our Feeling Blue tea is a wonderful mix of all the above, and therefore look to not only address how you are feeling in the moment, but also working to get at the root cause of what may be bringing you down.
It is interesting to note however, that during these times we tend to have low levels of serotonin, the “feel good” mood stabiliser. So the challenge is to provide herbal enhancing therapy that can replace pharmaceuticals that enhance our serotonin levels (which can also drop naturally as we age)
Probably the best known herb used to treat both anxiety and depression is St. John's wort. It is used first-line in Germany for mild to moderate depression and is well-established as an effective antidepressant—equivalent in effectiveness to prescription antidepressants—with fewer side effects.
Similarly, Ginkgo Bilbao is known to increase the number of serotonin receptors, particularly when associated with age related decline. Ginkgo is believed to work by increasing blood supply, reducing blood viscosity, boosting neurotransmitters, and reducing harmful free radicals. Ginkgo is widely used in Europe where it’s available by prescription or as an approved over-the-counter medication. In one year alone, West German doctors wrote 5.24 million prescriptions for ginkgo leaf extract.
Unfortunately, these two herbs are restricted in Ireland. Go figure! Our original recipe for this tea did contain these two ingredients, but for general sale we had to remove them…. And I will leave this right here, but advise you to take a look at the page for this Tea for more information.