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Herbs to Change Your Mood

by Herbalist Kami McBride

There are many herbs that can help improve your mood, without having to take synthetic drugs.

herbal tea

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Often when we think of mood altering herbs, kava kava and St. John’s wort are the first to come to mind. Indeed, these are wonderful herbs that have many soothing and calming properties. More than 25 scientific studies confirm St. John’s worts’ ability to help people with mild to moderate depression and associated symptoms of anxiety and insomnia. St. John’s wort is often my first choice to help with tension and nervousness.          

Kava kava is one of the world’s most researched plants. It has passed many tests, proving its ability to calm the mind without affecting productivity or concentration. Kava kava is the herb to take if you are stressed out from deadlines or schoolwork. It allows you to relax while maintaining your ability to study and perform well under duress. Kava kava is also one of the best herbs for helping to relieve insomnia and muscle tension.
In any health food store, you can find these herbs in pill form along with their recommended dosage. But herbs also heal with their taste, texture, color, and smell. When making tea with these herbs, you not only benefit from the constituents you would find in the capsules, but the taste and smell of the herbs enliven your senses and play a part in bringing you into the present moment--reducing stress and enhancing your mood.
Hurrying and worrying is stressful on the body and keeps us too busy to notice the miracle of what is happening right now. Taking time to drink an afternoon tea or evening herbal cordial is part of the stress-busting effect of the herb. I have beautiful tea cups and cordial glasses that I love to drink from. Unwinding from different aspects of my day involves ritual drinking and the sensory experience that entails. In the winter we always have a warming cordial around the evening meal and in the heat of the summer we sip on cool herbal fruit drinks after the sun goes down.

Herbal medicine is the place where we bring the abundance of the natural world into our homes and use nature in a concentrated form to heal ourselves. A part of the collective interest in herbs is our desire to be more connected to the earth. The modality of how we use herbs for healing plays a role in the breadth of how they affect us. When we take herbs in tea form, bathe or cook with them, we have an opportunity to experience a connection with nature through the sensory experience of the herb itself.

An aspect of the explosion of interest in herbal medicine is that we hear the call of the green world speaking to an old part of ourselves that remembers living more in harmony with nature.

Soothing Herbal Tea Recipes

St John’s Wort Lavender Lemonade
4 cups water
2 tablespoon St John’s wort flowers
1 tablespoon lavender leaf or flower
1 can frozen organic lemonade [concentrate]
Put herbs and water in a pot. With the lid on, bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Let herbs steep for one half hour. Strain the plant material out through cotton muslin or a metal tea strainer. Let cool and add frozen lemonade concentrate.

Kava Kava Chai
2 cups water         
2 cups coconut milk
1 Tbs kava kava       
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coriander        
1 tsp fennel
1 tsp orange peel     
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp black pepper  
1/4 tsp clove
Place herbs, water and coconut milk into a pot. Cook on medium for 10 minutes and then turn off the heat. Let everything steep for a half hour and then strain the herbs out. Re-heat or serve chilled. Add milk and honey to taste.

Peace and Calm Evening Cordial
1 cup brandy
2 Tbs St. John’s wort flowers
2 tsp lavender flowers 
1/2 cup honey
Put herbs and brandy into a jar and let it sit for one month. Strain and discard the herbs. Add honey to the brandy and you now have a cordial. Sip one ounce to help with relaxation and digestion.

Kami McBride has taught herbal medicine and women’s health since 1988. For more information visit www.livingawareness.com

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