Herbalists speak of the different effects of plant parts and generally ascribe mentally and emotionally uplifting properties to flowers. Many of our key herbs used to alleviate anxiety and depression (and other mental health conditions) are derived from flowers: Chamomile, Lavendar, Lemon Balm, Linden flower, Magnolia, Passionflower, St. John’s Wort, Saffron (Crocus) and Skullcap are among some of the more commonly used flowers for mental health conditions.
I will highlight some of the key therapeutic effects and research on flowers in addressing mental health conditions (and allied/concomitant health issues) below:
Lavendar (Lavandula angustifolia) is a marvelous herb to calm and a specific essential oil preparation of Lavendar (taken orally) has been shown to possess clinically significant benefits in subsyndromal (or subthreshold) anxiety and anxiety-associated sleep impairments.1 Inhalation of lavender essential oil can help with acute anxiety (inhaling into the left nostril will help facilitate a shift in the overly dominant right to left-brain firing that can occur in anxiety). 2
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a wonderful antidepressant herb that helps to sharpen focus, improve concentration and uplift those with apathy, melancholy or an inability to experience joy (anhedonia). It can be helpful in cases of hyperthyroidism as well.3
Linden Flower (Tilia spp.) is relaxing to the heart and blood vessels and thus is useful in stress-related hypertension or high blood pressure and heart palpitations resulting from stress and arrhythmia. It eases anxiety and can be effective in panic attacks. 3
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a mild sedative, anxiolytic (eases anxiety) and antidepressant. It can be particularly helpful in cases where there is muscle tension and cramping and when it is hard to get one’s mind to shut down and relax. I often recommend it singly, or in combination with other herbs that settle the nervous system and help to support sleep and mood.3
Saffron (Crocus sativus) has been studied in 8 different clinical trials comparing saffron to antidepressant drugs. The results of these trials showed that saffron can be as effective as antidepressant medications.4 Furthermore it offers efficacy with fewer reported side effects than many antidepressant medications currently in use.5
In addition to the herbs mentioned above, there is merit to including edible flowers (nasturtiums, borage and pansies to name a few) in teas, salads and as a garnish to your dishes, bathing in flowers, using essential oils topically and in your home and keeping fresh flowers in your home or garden.
Flower essences, energetic preparations of flowers, are particularly therapeutic for easing transitions in the psyche and spirit and a number of homeopathic remedies that have potent effects on the mind (and body) are prepared from flowers. They each warrant a more in-depth discussion on their effects- stay tuned for this in future blog posts.
Please note that though herbs have a wide margin of safety, they are not without potential safety issues and are thus best selected and taken under medical supervision or the supervision of a practitioner skilled in herbal medicine.
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1Möller, H.J., Volz, H.P., Dienel, A., Schläfke, S. & Kasper, S. (2017). Efficacy of Silexan in subthreshold anxiety: meta-analysis of randomised, placebo-controlled trials. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00406-017-0852-4
2Chui, T. (2017). Using the Senses to Improve Genetic Expression. Interpreting Your Genetics Summit. Evolution of Medicine. Retrieved from http://geneticssummit.com
3Stansbury, J. (2017). Mastering Herbs Nervines [PowerPoint Recording]. Retrieved from Online Web site: https://www.naturopathicce.com/course/mastering-herbs-nervines/
4Moshiri, M., Vahabzadeh, M. & Hosseinzadeh, H. (2015). Clinical Applications of Saffron (Crocus sativus) and its Constituents: A Review. Drug Research, 65(6), 2867-95. [Abstract]
5Shaflee, M., Arekhi, S., Omranzadeh, A., & Sahebkar, A. (2018). Saffron in the treatment of depression, anxiety and other mental disorders: Current evidence and potential mechanisms of action. Journal of Affective Disorders, 227, 330-337. [Abstract]