When winter starts here in Wisconsin, everyone is excited about the first snowfall. And then the hubbub of the holidays comes and goes. After that we are left with short days and the darkness comes too early. The excitement turns to redundancy and we miss the long days of summer when we could spend time outside and not get frostbite.
Many people at this time suffer from depression, sadness, fatigue, and restlessness as cabin fever sets in.
One big reason that our bodies go through this change every winter is because we spend less time outside in the sunlight. In the winter our bodies lack the crucial Vitamin D that we get from the all-powerful sun. Taking a Vitamin D3 supplement can help. Recommended dosage is anywhere between 600-2,000 IU.
Herbs are also helpful to take at this time of the year, not to mention it’s the perfect time to curl up with a hot cup of herbal medicinal tea.
St John’s Wort~ The first herb that I will talk about is the king of the depression herbs. The bright yellow flowers that it bears around the 4th of July give us a feeling of happiness and will help us hold on to that happy feeling when we need it the most. It is a Wisconsin native plant that was put here to help us through the long winter months. It is the amino acid GABA present in the plant that regulates brain chemicals, stabilizing mood and emotions. This can be taken as a tincture or a tea every day for depression. This little plant does a lot more than just help with depression too. It is also used for the common cold, flu, mono, pain, PMS, menopause, anxiety, insomnia. Do not take while on antidepressants, birth control, or while pregnant. Always consult your doctor before taking any powerful herbs.
Damiana~ This is the ideal herb for folks who just can’t get out of bed in the morning or have a hard time motivating themselves to get out and get stuff done. This is the ultimate motivational herb, with a spicy, peppery kick to it. It makes a delicious hot tea that is ideal for those who want to hibernate when they can’t, or who are slow or sluggish, with the depressive “winter blues”. It’s a relatively stimulating herb and best for folks who run a little bit cold (as it gets the circulation moving!) Herbs also for energy are Siberian Ginseng (Eluethero Root), Ginkgo, and Gotu Cola.
Lemon Balm~The volatile oils in lemon balm are mildly sedative and have wonderful anti-depressive properties. It has been described for centuries by herbalists as a “trophorestorative” for the nervous system, which can become highly sensitive with any affective disorder. I like lemon balm as a daily tea (which also tastes delicious combined with damiana).
Motherwort~Along with being an excellent heart tonic, Motherwort is a great herb to calm down the nervous system for those that feel overly anxious or fearful of going out in public. Often the winter months present plenty of socializing engagements with crowds and gatherings, and Motherwort is a great tool to utilize when social anxiety takes hold. This is a pretty bitter herb and takes some getting used to in a tea form, so the tincture (diluted in a little juice) may be better. Other great nervines include: Skullcap, Passion Flower, Catnip, Milky oats and Linden flowers.
Holy Basil (also called Tulsi) ~This is my favorite winter time herb. I consider this a hug-in-a-cup, a truly uplifting, happy herb that makes a delicious hot tea. It is often used in India for celebratory occasions, and has a sense of happiness to it. Holy Basil is ideal for cold month despondent people who can’t seem to get motivated, who lack joy in the season or who feel a little emotionally murky. The ultimate winter-blues tea combo would be Holy Basil + Lemon balm + Damiana to really get you up, moving and motivated.
There are many more herbs out there that will help you get through the long winter months. Your local herbalist will help you find just the right combination.