Who couldn’t use a little more joy in life? These days, no one seems to be immune from the burdens of daily stress, political and social conflict, and a general sense of ennui. We are required to function in a society that is plugged increasingly into technology while becoming simultaneously disconnected from the natural world. Luckily, we can call on our happy herbal allies in times of need!
There are countless plants and herbs that can bring joy into our lives. Even the simple act of keeping and caring for a potted plant has been shown to promote feelings of peace and contentment. Additionally, adding small amounts of medicinal herbal preparations into our regimens can likewise have profound emotional and spiritual benefits. Any herb you vibe with can bring you joy, but read on for some of our favorite herbs to work with when we’re looking for an extra helping of joy and happiness.
Albizia for A Joyful Disposition
Albizia (Albizia julibrissin), also known as Mimosa, or Silk Tree – This distinct and
beautiful tree is a rather undervalued ally here in the Western world. In Traditional
Chinese Medicine, both the silky, ethereal flowers and the bark are used as gentle qi and blood movers, and can be helpful in cases of liver qi stagnation which is often characterized by emotional tension, irritability, mood fluctuations, and feelings of frustration. The flowers are especially prized for their uplifting and mood enhancing properties, whereas the tree bark is more grounding and helps to calm the heart and spirit in times of trauma, grief, anger, depression, and anxiety. Both the bark and flowers are best taken as a tincture, starting in small doses of 1-5 drops, 2-3 times per day.
Many people have seen marked improvement in mood within just one day of working with this herb, and it is safe to take long term. At this time, Albizia has no known contraindications.
Lemon Balm Benefits for A Happy Heart
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – A favorite herb to many (including the bees!), Lemon Balm has been shown to improve mood with its happy, citrus-y scent alone. Long celebrated for its relief of mild anxiety and depression, Lemon Balm has a recorded history of several thousand years and has been used in many different traditions to calm the heart, mind, and body. Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine lists Lemon Balm’s psychiatric uses as “strengthening…resistance to shock and stress; anxiety and neurosis.” Other benefits of Lemon Balm include potent antiviral properties, memory enhancement, digestive aid, and help with insomnia.
This joyful herb is part of the mint family and makes a wonderful tea, tincture, honey, vinegar, topical salve, or syrup. It’s also a wonderful addition to any culinary recipe, sweet or savory, that calls for fresh herbs. Try incorporating a little Lemon Balm in your life: To make an incredibly refreshing infusion, steep 2 tbsps of dried herb in 12 oz of boiling water, covered, for 15 minutes.
Cool, refrigerate, and enjoy!
Damiana for Relaxed Invigoration
Damiana (Turnera diffusa) – Often thought of as an aphrodisiac, Damiana—a noteworthy reproductive tonic—is so much more than just that! Native to Mexico, Central, and South America, Damiana has been used for centuries for its ability to both stimulate and relax the central nervous system. This quality provides anti-depressive action as well as heightened sensory capability, which in turn elevates mood. It’s especially indicated for people who feel lethargic, depressed, stuck, and emotionally cold or heavy. Damiana has a mild, pleasant taste and has traditionally been used to flavor food and beverages, especially Mezcal. Damiana makes a nice tea, and can also be used as a tincture, taken as an elixir, and may even be smoked to achieve its joy-promoting benefits.
Try a dropperful of Damiana elixir 2-3 times per day, add to your favorite smoke blend a few times a week, or imbibe in some Damiana-infused Mezcal on special occasions.
St. John’s Wort for Emotional Resilience
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) – The classic antidepressant herb! St. John’s Wort was once the best selling herbal supplement in the United States, and for good reason—beyond plain antidepressant capabilities, St. John’s Wort is a nervous system trophorestorative that helps to ease anxiety, physical tension, neuralgias, seasonal affective disorder, hormonal issues, pain, burns, liver and gallbladder congestion, nerve disorders, sciatica, spine and brain injuries, viruses, and yes, mild to moderate depression. With happy yellow sunburst flowers, St. John’s Wort appears often in disturbed areas, such as recent sites of forest fires and along the edges of highways, as though a reminder of hope and resilience. Since St. John’s Wort stimulates liver detoxification, it is contraindicated for many pharmaceutical medications, so please consult with a knowledgeable pharmacist or herbalist before taking!
St. John’s Wort is best taken as a tincture of the fresh plant, 1-5 drops, 2-3 times per day.
Mucuna Pruriens for A Dopamine Boost
Dopamine Bean (Mucuna pruriens) – A member of the Fabaceae, or legume family, Mucuna Pruriens is a vine that grows velvety beans which contain L-dopa, a building block for dopamine. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, regulate movement and emotional responses—which is essential in our experience of joy and happiness.
Mucuna has been used medicinally for thousands of years and has recorded uses in the Ayurvedic, or Indian system of herbal and holistic medicine, as well as the Unani-Tibb, or Greco-Arabic system. Traditional uses included indications for overall wellness, and for benefit to the nervous, endocrine and reproductive systems. Recently, Mucuna Pruriens has been touted for use as a mood elevator and nootropic with promising beneficial action on Parkinson’s Disease.
Mucuna can be a great dietary addition, but should be taken at regular doses under the supervision of a knowledgeable herbalist or physician, especially if taking pharmaceutical medications.