I just want to take a moment to acknowledge that if you’ve come to this blog entry it’s probably because yourself, or someone you know is struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. I see you, I hear you and I am you. You are not alone.

If we could just take a moment together in breath – breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4 and hold for 4. Every single person who reads this has taken those breathes with you.

Last year was tough, I don’t know anyone who got through 2022 without feeling the after affects of 2 years of covid and lockdown, the distance from friends and family – missed birthdays, Christmases, moved weddings etc etc, the list goes on and we all have a very personal experience with what happened.

I have more and more people asking me for blends and suggestions to what could help with sleep, anxiety, depression, low mood etc so I thought I’d put together a little collection of information that might help answer some of those questions. Please do be aware that a lot of herbs can interfere with pharmaceutical medications, so if you’re taking an antidepressant, antianxiety etc medication then please do check with a medical professional before self-medicating with herbs and botanicals. I’m also not a registered herbalist, this is based on my research and knowledge, so if anything is slightly wrong or if you have information to add then please do let me know as I’m always open to expanding my knowledge.

My absolute favourite herb for low mood and anxiety is St John’s Wort, it has a calming and sedative effect on the whole nervous system and when in flower it is a beautiful sunny yellow colour. It blooms around the summer solstice so holds the power of the sun within.

Valerian is known to improve sleep quality and reduce the amount of time it can take to fall asleep. It is often referred to as ‘natures Valium’ due to its calming effects on the body and its ability to relieve restlessness and panic. It has a woody or earthy flavour, so I like to mix it with ginger or galangal for a warmer and sweeter edge.

Passionflower is similar to the above in its ability to reduce stress and anxiety as it soothes an overactive, worried and stressed nervous system with a relaxant component great for cramps and seizures.

Lemon Balm, also known as Melissa, is another sleep promoting, anxiety reducing, stress busting herb. As a member of the mint family, it has a bright citrus flavour which makes it great for mixing with some of the more bitter or earthy herbs.

Ashwagandha, used widely in Ayurvedic medicine this humble root is another powerful stress and anxiety reducing and particularly useful in cases of nervous exhaustion and chronic fatigue. It covers three of the five flavours – bitter, pungent and sweet

Chamomile is probably the most widely known calming herb in my experience and is native to Europe so you can easily grow this yourself in a pot or in your garden. It looks much like a daisy and the whole flowers have a sweet and almost fruity flavour.

Lavender is back with a vengeance! Gone are the days of smelling lavender and automatically thinking of talcum powder in your granny’s bathroom. This sleep promoting herb is wonderfully relaxing and looks absolutely beautiful too – there are lavender fields near(ish) me in Kent and the sight of them in bloom warms my soul. Another favourite is walking past a lavender bush in someone’s front garden and hearing all the bees buzzing away collecting nectar to make their honey. It warms my soul.

These are just a few examples of how to improve your mental wellbeing using the power of plants. A few other things I love to do involve being with nature –

A walk along the beach in any weather, hearing the waves crash against the beach in the wind or gently lapping at the sand when it’s still. Looking out at the vastness of the ocean and just being. We don’t expect anything of the sea other than it to just be, sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves of that too. I love to breathe with the waves, as the sea pulls back on my exhale it takes my troubles with it.

As you can probably tell by the above, I’m a seaside dweller, I’ve always lived by the sea, and it calls me. But sometimes I need to be with the trees. Their deep roots and tall branches make me feel small, in a good way. Sometimes we can become consumed with ourselves and how we feel and think and all the troubles that can bring. I like to find the oldest tree I can and either touch the trunk or sit at the base and remind myself that the tree has been there for longer than I am old, and will be there, hopefully, for long after I am gone. It reminds me the importance of living and loving and experiencing. It reminds me not to get too caught up with the stress of life, to learn to let it go and live.

Within this is a powerful practice taught by Tich Nhat Hanh that reminds us that just as the weather comes and goes in the vast sky, so do our thoughts, feelings and emotions; sometimes the sky is even capable of holding a whole range of weathers at the same time. Whilst at the current moment we may feel angry, sad, happy etc, just like the weather that will change. Today we may feel rainy and cloudy, but tomorrow the sun may shine once more. The simple act of changing “I am” to “I feel” can make a difference to how we view that feeling.

“When we look deeply into the heart of a flower, we see clouds, sunshine, minerals, time, the earth, and everything else in the cosmos in it. Without clouds there could be no rain, and without rain there would be no flower” Tich Nhat Hanh