St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

On October the 10th it was Mental Health Day so here's a blog for your mental health this winter.

Here in the UK it’s basically expected that you’re a depressed sod. Any outward expression of happiness or enthusiasm is mostly shunned. I think we’re pretty famous for it actually. I threw caution to the wind when I married an American, the antithesis of the British predisposition for grumpiness. I enjoy a good whinge as much as the next person but, for some, a whinge isn’t enough to cheer them up. If you find this happening to you, or worse, but just during the darker months you could consider if you have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s not very nice. But it does happen to a lot of people. Essentially this is depression brought about by the changes of light levels available in the winter. Symptoms might include:

  • persistent low mood
  • difficulty finding pleasure in things you’d normally enjoy
  • irritability
  • despair, guilt, worthlessness
  • lethargy
  • sleeping for far longer than your norm
  • craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

I feel like, aside from the bad moods, that it’s totally normal to crave carbs and want to sleep longer in winter! I actually can’t see anything wrong in it. You’re just going with the seasons. But if it gets excessive and starts to impact on your life then it’s time to seek some help. Even if you can’t classify yourself as having SAD you might get mild versions of the above. I think we all do really. Don’t wait till Winter to start doing these things if you know you always feel low. Start now.

Here are some ways to keep yourself a little more cheery in the darker days:

  1. try to maximise the time you spend out in the daylight, outside is best, but by a window if you have to
  2. you may want to buy yourself a special light (but I’ve read that any light will do, it’s more about brightness than the type of light wave)
  3. do some exercise or/and have sex! These are classic activities to raise endorphins and keep you cheery
  4. supplement with VitDit is a fat soluble vitamin which we usually make through exposure to the sun and some things we eat (eggs and oily fish for example). Supplementing can help lift the mood
  5. make the most of the long nights with movies, home-cooked meals, doing crafty things in the home
  6. don’t get upset that you don’t feel like going out! It’s ok. You’ll make up for it in Summer ;)
  7. try some St John’s Wort tea. 2-3 cups a day. It’s a gentle anti-depressant but not suited for anyone on medications as it lessens the effect of your other medicines.

If you try these things and still don’t feel better I’d recommend seeing a herbalist who can look into it a little more in-depth. They can write you a prescription specifically suited to you. If you’re based near Faversham or Bromley, you could even come and see me. Find your local herbalist here or here.

I’d love to hear what you feel like during winter and what things you’ve found helpful in the past. Leave a comment below!

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By Natasha Richardson

Disclaimer: Please don’t use any herbs featured on this website for medicinal reasons without contacting your health practitioner first.