Yes, this blog is about herbs to support a physiological state that is very suitable for happiness, but it is not like these herbs give you happiness as much as they help the body/mind to function without “moods.” Interesting how the word “mood” has so many negative connotations to it.
So we are going to talk in terms of “moods.” True, that is a bit vague, but we are going to work with it.
In my practice around this topic the model that has coalesced to assist in helping people divides “moods” up into two main categories.
- Mind-Neurotransmitters (specifically monoamines like dopamine, aeratonin, adrenaline (epinephrine), and melatonin)
- Body-Reproductive-Hormone (estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone, oxytocin, prolactin, testosterone)
The first category, Mind-Neurotransmitters, I divide up into two different types:
- A) Transient moods related to acute stress (Physiological imbalances/treatment)
- B) Deeper moods related to chronic stress (Anatomical imbalances/treatment)
This second category, Body-Reproductive-Hormone, I also divide up into two different types:
- A) Full Moon Moods (Moods, positive or negative, based on outer organs of sexuality. Includes “getting in the mood”)
- B) New Moon Moods (Moods, positive or negative, based on inner organs of reproduction. Includes PMS)
Of course, many neurotransmitters also act as hormones and certainly do trigger them, so don’t take this distinction too literal.
So this blog is about the moods associated with category 1) here, the mind and the neurotransmitters including, as I said, dopamine, seratonin, adrenaline (epinephrine), and melatonin.
Mood, Stress & Adaptogens
Would you agree that most moods are caused by stress/conflict/resistance? Makes a lot of sense. However, to be a bit more precise, as my teacher Sri HWL Poonja tells me, moods are typically caused not by stress but by our relationship to stress/conflict/resistance. So it makes even more sense that central to really supporting our ability to manage moods is our ability to manage stress response. Here are three really great ways to do that:
- Remain in your center: Always stay mindful of who you really are and thus knowing that what you really are is always untouched by stress like water is untouched by the wave.
- Yoga/Ayurveda: Employ one of the dozens of Yoga and Ayurveda methods and techniques. There are far too many to get into here, but mindfulness meditation and yoga (asana) practice are excellent options.
- Anti-stress Adaptogens: Yes, those herbs that support you to adapt to situations and support really healthy responses to stress, at the level of physiology, of anatomy, as well as at mental and spiritual levels. These herbs would include Tulsi-Holy Basil; Ashwagandha and Brahmi (Bacopa and Centella), all three of which can be found in our Joy! Formula; Eletheuro; Rhodiola; Katuki; Amalaki and Reishi.
Transient moods tend to be caused by transient stresses and are based or held in our physiology, like a significant decrease in the neurotransmitters that support stable levels of happiness, general positivity and openness. The herbal support for these types of moods would be those herbs that support the production and function of neurotransmitters, especially dopamine and serotonin.
Living in a town like San Francisco, I know that many people may think the only time they use up their levels of serotonin and dopamine is when they binge on party favors, especially the white ones. True, substances like this are really good at seriously depleting your neurotransmitters, but they are just one of thousands of forms of chemical stress and all forms of stress actually tend to deplete dopamine and serotonin. This is why you tend to feel grumpy and moody after enduring a lot of stress.
The first step toward stable positive states is of course to stop or minimize anything that is attenuating your neurotransmitters, like excessive stress, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, etc. Yup, sorry, the reason why you may like these things is that they tend to release feel-good-chemistry in the brain, the serotonin and dopamine.
The second step is to rebuild these neurotransmitters by consuming:
- Nutraceutical precursors to them, like tryptophan, 5-HTP, B-6, and theanine
- Herbs that support neurotransmitter synthesis like Mucuna and phytoestrogens like Shatavri
- Herbs that slightly inhibit the uptake of neurotransmitters, in other words inhibit monoamine oxidase (MAO), like St. John”s Wort, Passionflower, Licorice, Nutmeg, Huáng bǎi, Babchi, Turmeric, Comfrey, Bringraj, Skullcap, Kava-kava, Wild Indigo, Gentian and Green Tea.
- Diets low in empty carbs and high in quality protein and nutrients
So deeper moods tend to be caused by enduring long-term stresses and are based or held in our anatomy, like a significant decrease in the receptor sites of the neurotransmitters that support stable levels of happiness and openness. The herbal support for these types of moods would be those herbs that support the production and function of the nerves themselves.
This would be herbs like Brahmi, Ashwagandha and Lion’s Mane and functional foods like Omega oils and lots of B vitamins. It also would take a lot of patience as rebuilding nerves and receptor sites takes a lot of time. There are tricks and shortcuts, but these are to be told at a later time.
Also, Tulsi-Holy Basil is simply one of the great herbs to invoke the quality of clear balance in the body/mind as well as assist in digestion at the “emotional” level. Tulsi-Holy Basil can be central to any protocol aimed at generating personal sustainability and positive evolution.
The “deeper moods” are very important to address as they often tend to become terrain for the presence of some very unfriendly forms of dysfunction.
So the moral of the story is to stay strong, kind and graceful in your center, to minimize the depletion of neurotransmitters, and to make judicious use of all our fine herbal allies, integrating their much older plant intelligence with your own. Hey, if you can’t take a restorative and invigorating walk through a meadow full of herbs, then at least let those herbs take a restorative and invigorating stroll through you! This is your nature after all!