Herbs for Psychological Imbalances

Herbs and other natural remedies are increasingly called upon as important
additions to a total program to help restore emotional and psychological
equilibrium in people who have problems in these areas. The following information
is meant to offer a starting point for designing herbal support programs.

Key concepts:

  • The liver rules the emotions, addictive behavoir–liver vital energy
    stagnation, liver cleansing
  • The heart is a key organ for psychological imbalances and sleep disorders

Depression: mild to moderate long-term, chronic depression, sleep

Herbs: St. John’s wort (t 1 d 3-4 x daily); Rosemary or + lavender tops
(t or tea m dose); for sleep, valerian + cal. poppy + kava (t 2-4 d before

Anxiety: recurring anxiety or mild panic attacks, hyperventilation,
sleep disturbances

Herbs: California poppy (t 1-2 d 3-4 x daily with other calming herbs)

Excessive emotions

Anger: excessive anger can damage the digestion and heart, and lead
to heat conditons in the body

Herbs: liver herbs (dandelion, artichoke leaf, bitter tonic), liver flush
(see Natural Liver Therapy)

Sadness and grief: excessive sadness can damage the lungs, predisposing
to chronic cough, lung infections, wheezing, asthma and other lung disorders

Herbs: lung strengthening herbs, mullein (tea, sd), osha (t 1 d 3 x daily),
elecampagne (tea 1/2-1 cup 2-3 x daily)

Other suggestions: it is important to embrace the grieving process when
possible to complete the energy; grieving groups meet at many local hospitals
on a weekly basis; a local Hospice is also a good resource

Fear: excessive fear can weaken the kidneys and our foundational vital energy

Herbs: eleuthero ginseng (tea or t, sd), adaptogen formulas, deep breathing,
rehmannia (add to eleuthero)


Sugar cravings: consumption of refined sugar can damage the digestion
and lead to mood swings, skin problems, tooth and gum problems and decreased

Drug addictions: it is best to work with chronic drug and alcohol abuse
by eliminating all forms of sugar from the diet and eating a whole foods,
mostly cooked diet

Herbs: liver cleansing, cooling herbs (see Natural Liver Therapy)

Signs and Symptoms

Key signs and symptoms of

  • Liver vital energy stagnation: headache, red tongue, thin yellow coat,
    red eyes, irritability, disturbed sleep, wiry pulse
  • Heart (spirit) disturbance: disturbed sleep, emotional imbalances, palpitations,
    shortness of breath, depression, anxiety

Materia Medica

Therapeutic Categories of Herbs to Treat Psychologica/Emotional Ailments



Digestives: Assimilation/Elimination Tonics

Energy tonics

Heart tonics



St. John’s wort: modern German research shows that it is as effective as
pharmaceutical anti-depressives for mild depression; mild MAO inhibitor;
latest research shows that a whole-plant extract works better than a “standardized
extract”; caution–avoid prolonged sun exposure while taking this herb

Rosemary: contains natural camphor, used as a nerve restorative in Ayurveda,
use as a tea or tincture

Lavender: the flowering spikes make an uplifting tea or take as a tincture;
smell often, carry a spike in the pocket (squeeze and smell), essential
oil or use in baths and soaps

Chocolate (unsweetened): use only unsweetened powder, blend with plain rice
milk or almond milk for a mild euphoric and energy tonic; tropical monoculturing
is an issue, but organic plantation, sustainable products are becoming available

Other natural therapies: movement, dancing, walking, running, something
highly aerobic for 15-20 minutes at least every other day, health permitting


California Poppy: well-researched traditional Native American remedy for
mild anxiety, nervousness, restlessness–use as a tincture (sd, or as needed)

Kava kava: the national drink of Fiji–use as a tea or tincture; mildly
euphoric, relaxing, non-narcotic or habit-forming


Valerian: the best sleep-promoting herb and central nervous system relaxant
and calmative herb (see my book, Valerian–The Relaxing and Sleep Herb)
for more details

Passion Flower: good herb for people with over-active imaginations, calms
mind and thoughts, worry; use as a tincture (the fresher the better) sd

Vital Energy tonics

Ginseng: the most famous panacea herb; red ginsengs are more stimulating,
white Chinese and Asian types, less so, and white American (preferably woods-grown)
is nourishing to the vital essence and supportive to one’s energy; caution–don’t
overuse if under 40 years of age

Rosemary: contains natural camphor, mild energy stimulant

Chocolate (unsweetened): mild energy stimulant, see above

Heart tonics

Hawthorn: calmative, relaxant, strengthens heartbeat, benefits heart strength,
good for palpitations; use as a tincture or standardized extract

Cactus: available as a tincture only, 25-35 drops 2-3 x daily; best if mixed
with hawthorn; steadies, strengthens heartbeat

Hops: good for people who have an abnormal awareness of the heartbeat, calmative,
digestive stimulant; take as a tea or tincture


Choose a diet based on individual constitutional type and needs.

For anxiety, depression or other excessive emotional times, it is best to
avoid refined sugar (including fruit juice, dried fruit), coffee, alcohol
and other stimulants.

Try kitcharee (soupy mung beans and rice 3-4 times daily) for 3-7 days to
calm the emotions and regulate body systems.

A whole foods diet, mostly cooked, with some fish and chicken, depending
on constitutional type is best.


sd = standard dose

tea: use 1 teaspoon/cup of water, simmer for 10 minutes on low heat, remove,
strain and drink 1 cup 3 x daily between meals

tincture: 1-3 dropperfuls of single herb or formula with herb as a leading
component 3 x daily, between meals

capsules: 2-3 capsules (“00”) 3 x daily with meals

t = tincture

d=dropperful (not drop–about 40 drops)

Herbs for Psychological/Emotional Imbalances C. Hobbs 4

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Written by Christopher Hobbs LAc AHG

Explore Wellness in 2021