The Get Happy Herb Guide
MILK THISTLE (Silybum marianum)
This detox herb might not seem like a go-to mood stabilizer at first. After all, it cleanses the liver. But a clogged, overloaded and toxic liver does not make for a happy girl. “Every hormone the body makes has to be metabolized by the liver,” explains Phyllis D. Light, a registered herbalist and professor of herbal studies at Clayton College of Natural Health based in Birmingham, Ala. “When the liver is congested, it doesn’t break down neurotransmitters or stress hormones properly.” Light notes that despite its current cleansing cred, milk thistle was traditionally used as an herbal antidepressant. “The liver is associated with anger. Whenever frustration or rage are feeding depression, this is a good choice.”
TAKE two capsules (375 to 425 milligrams) three times daily with meals for the first two weeks, then decrease to four capsules a day. Take it for at least one month, or continue indefinitely following product label directions. Because milk thistle is fatsoluble, it should be taken with food.
CONTRAINDICATION: Don’t take milk thistle along with prescription medications, because the herb may clear them out of your system too quickly. And talk to your doctor before taking this (or any other herb) if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
CHOCOLATE (Hypericum perforatum)
Yes, chocolate is an herb, says “medicine hunter” Chris Kilham, ethnobotanist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and author of Tales from the Medicine Trail (Rodale). “Cocoa is one of the great herbal mood enhancers,” he says. Chocolate contains a substance called anandamide—aka the bliss molecule—which is known to bind to human cannabinoid receptors to create a sense of well-being. “It’s a bliss-enhancer—ananda means bliss in Sanskrit,” Kilham says. “We know that chocolate boosts natural levels of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter. You can happily self-medicate with chocolate and greatly improve your brain chemistry.”
EAT 2 ounces of dark chocolate that contains 60 to 75 percent cocoa daily.