You may know about coffee’s mood-boosting effects or green tea’s calming effects. But did you know that herbal teas can provide similar benefits—without the troublesome side effects of these caffeinated drinks, such as jitteriness, headaches, and anxiety?
If you experience stress, anxiety, or depression and are looking for a quick pick-me-up, herbal teas might be the way to go.
What are “herbal” teas? While traditional teas (e.g., black, green, and oolong) are derived from the Camellia sinensis plant and contain caffeine, herbal teas are made from various parts (e.g., flowers, leaves, and seeds) of other plants and typically do not contain caffeine.
Let’s learn about some herbal teas that are great for mental well-being.
If you’re experiencing low mood or anxiety, consider lavender tea, as lavender is thought to promote a calming effect.
A systematic review of 65 studies and nearly 8,000 participants found that lavender effectively treats anxiety. Another study with 60 participants found that lavender reduces anxiety, as well as depression.
To prepare this fragrant tea, steep some fresh buds in hot water for 10 minutes, strain, and enjoy! For convenience, you can also use lavender tea bags or loose-leaf tea.
Due to its calming effects, chamomile is an excellent herbal tea if anxiety or depression keeps you up at night. Chamomile contains a compound called apigenin, which may be responsible for the herb’s soothing effect by acting on brain structures related to sedation.
A clinical study with 80 postpartum women found that chamomile tea helped lower depression and improve sleep quality. More evidence for chamomile’s positive effects on sleep quality and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) was found in a systematic review of 12 studies and 965 patients.
You can prepare this tea by steeping the flower in hot water for 5-10 minutes, straining, and adding sweeteners or other flavourings. Chamomile tea is also available in tea bags and as loose-leaf teas.
Ashwagandha’s root and leaves are often used as an “adaptogen,” meaning a natural substance that makes the body more resilient to damage caused by stress. It is thought that ashwagandha works by regulating the brain systems responsible for the body’s stress response. This makes ashwagandha a stress-reducing and mood-boosting herbal tea.
In a study with 60 stressed adults, those taking ashwagandha daily for 2 months had reductions in their stress, anxiety, and depression scores compared to those taking a placebo. Another study with 64 chronically stressed people found that taking ashwagandha root extract reduced perceived stress levels and cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body.
You can prepare this tea by steeping ashwagandha root in boiled water for 10-15 minutes, straining, and adding flavourings of your preference. You can also find powdered ashwagandha in capsules or loose powder form to enjoy.
St. John’s wort tea
As one of the most promising herbal medicines for depression, St. John’s wort (SJW) can also be enjoyed as a tea for its antidepressant and mood-boosting effects. It is thought that SJW affects brain signalling pathways involved in depression to produce these effects.
When it comes to treating depression, SJW works better than placebo and just as well as pharmaceutical antidepressants, according to a systematic review of 35 studies with a total of 6993 patients.
To prepare this mood-boosting tea, you can steep fresh or dried flowers of the SJW plant in hot water. After steeping for 4-5 minutes, strain, add any flavourings you’d like, and enjoy!
Lavender, chamomile, ashwagandha, and St. John’s wort are some herbal teas that can be used to promote mental well-being. You can find more information about these herbs in Nara’s Plant Library (including how and why they work, clinical evidence, and safety details).
Please note that this article does not contain medical advice. For serious health concerns, please consult a healthcare professional.