Navigating Mental Health with Holistic Living Nature Sunset

Navigating Mental Health with Holistic Living Tips & Household Herbs

herbalism regenerative living Feb 22, 2024

Mental health conditions know no borders. Every country, race, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status suffers from the devastating effects of mental health conditions and the lack of funding, care, and resources. Millions of people suffer in silence, and the World Health Organization estimates that a staggering 1 in 8 people live with a mental health issue that typically goes untreated.

The swift transformation and degradation of many of our world’s structures pose distinctive challenges to our mental wellness. The uncertainties, disruptions, daily flood of information, and the fast-paced nature of contemporary life underscore the need for proactive and compassionate care for our mental well-being.

Mental well-being is a single thread in the complex web of this human experience, and there are many factors that contribute to the weaving of this thread. There are individual psychological and biological factors, the factor of family and community, and then there are “structural factors” that directly relate to the broader sociocultural, geopolitical, and environmental surroundings.


“Wellness is where the threads of physical, mental, environmental, social, spiritual & emotional well-being weave together.”

— Emily Ruff, Ecoversity Herbalism Teacher

A Holistic Approach to Mental Well-Being:

We know that mental health is the foundation of our emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual well-being. It influences how we think, feel, and act, and it directly impacts our daily experiences. The reality of mental health and the lack of care paints a clear picture that points to an emphasis on a holistic approach to mental well-being and advocacy for sovereignty practices as the way forward.

Education as the Seed of Change:

Education serves as the foundational seed of change in how we approach and care for our mental health. Education empowers by fostering a deeper understanding of mental well-being and eradicating stigmas around asking for help and advocating for self. It cultivates a culture of awareness, compassion, and proactive self-care, paving the way for a more informed and supportive society.

As we prioritize education about mental health, we plant the seeds of change that have the potential to transform attitudes, break down barriers, and ultimately cultivate a healthier and more resilient communities. Let’s dive into some educational points of mental health and well-being.

The Gut-Brain Axis & Mental Wellness:

Our Herbalism Program educator, Asia Dorsey, covers the significant connection between the gut and brain in our module on Mental and Emotional Wellness. She explains that our mind lives beyond the mind in our environment, our body, the Central Nervous System, the Intrinsic Cardiac Nervous System, and in our belly, the Enteric Nervous System.

The Enteric Nervous System, often referred to as the "second brain," is a complex network of neurons embedded in the gastrointestinal tract. This network plays a crucial role in regulating digestion and communicating with the Central Nervous System.

Consider this: there are more signals being sent from your gut to your brain than the other way around! 🤯

Gut health has many determining factors that include both early life experiences, and medical interventions like the use of antibiotics, NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), Antacid medications, as well as the modern processing and preservation of food.

The part of the Enteric Nervous System that is affected by these determining factors is the mucosal membranes. These membranes consist of absorptive cells that line our gut, forming a barrier between our food and the rest of the body. Damaged cells become permeable and leak unprocessed food into the body. This prompts an inflammatory immune response that deeply impacts mood & overall well-being.

Asia Dorsey highly recommends remineralization to remedy gut issues and help elevate mental well-being. This practice begins in the kitchen! Culturally significant foods, warm broths, bone broths, and home cooking are great ways to jumpstart your remineralization journey. If you want to learn how to make a nourishing bone broth, be sure to check out Ecoversity’s free resource “7 Ways to Boost your Gut Health”.

Another effective approach to enhance gut health involves the use of herbal bitters and carminatives in your routine. Examples of herbal bitters include Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), which stimulate digestive juices and promote efficient nutrient absorption. Carminatives, such as Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and Ginger (Zingiber officinale), work to soothe the digestive tract and alleviate bloating and gas.

The Nervous System & Nervous System Regulation:

At the core of our physiological responses lies the Nervous System (NS), a sophisticated network that orchestrates communication throughout the body. Our Herbalism Program educator, Emily Ruff, helps us gain a deeper understanding of the Nervous System in our module on Mental and Emotional Wellness. She explains this system works as a feedback loop that regulates bodily functions through the response to all stimuli. She emphasizes that our overall well-being, mental health, and resiliency are directly affected by this integral system.

To simplify a bit, the Nervous System is comprised of the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord, serving as the command center, interpreting sensory information, processing emotions, and generating responses. The PNS extends throughout the body, transmitting signals between the CNS and various organs, muscles, and tissues.

The significance here is that neural pathways facilitate the release of neurotransmitters, including (and not limited to) serotonin and dopamine, influencing mood, emotions, and cognitive functions. Nurturing the complexities of this electrical system requires a holistic approach to mental wellness.

Effective Nervous System regulation is integral to mental resilience. Emily Ruff suggests the following practices for cultivating resilience in the NS:

  • Go outside
  • Move
  • Breathe
  • Hydrate
  • Rest
  • Nature
  • Herbal Allies

Nature to Nurture:

Getting outside in nature is one of the easiest ways to boost your mental well-being. Widespread research shows that nature therapy, forest bathing, and movement in natural settings have profound positive effects on mental health.

Engaging in nature-based activities has been linked to reduced stress levels, improved mood, and enhanced cognitive function. Immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and scents of a forest leads to lower cortisol and increased feelings of well-being.

Movement, such as hiking or walking in green spaces, promotes physical health and contributes to emotional and psychological well-being because, as we have learned, all of it is intimately connected. These therapeutic approaches emphasize the inherent connection between nature and mental health, highlighting the restorative power of the natural world in fostering a balanced and resilient state of mind.

Hydration & Rest:

Hydration is a significant factor in the proper functioning of each process in your body, including that governed by the Nervous System. The brain, composed of around 75% water, relies on proper hydration to support cognitive functions such as focus, memory, and mood regulation.

Chronic dehydration can lead to cognitive fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and mood disturbances. The NS, in its intricate communication network, depends on a well-hydrated environment to facilitate the transmission of signals and neurotransmitters.

Paired with proper hydration, we look to rest as a way to nurture our wellness. Rest is a multifaceted physiological and psychological phenomenon crucial for overall well-being. During rest, the body experiences changes in brainwave patterns, hormonal balance, and cellular repair, promoting recovery and maintaining homeostasis.

Beyond sleep, rest encompasses periods of relaxation, downtime, and activities that reduce stress. Scientific understanding of rest emphasizes its role in optimizing physical and mental performance, fostering resilience, and preventing adverse health outcomes.

Herbal Allies & Herbal Medicinals for Mental Resilience:

Finally, we have our herbal allies and the practice of herbalism as a path of sovereignty and a way to nurture mental well-being. Herbalism, as an ancient practice, recognizes the symbiotic relationship between plants and humans. Harnessing the therapeutic potential of herbs lies in their diverse compounds, which interact with the body's biochemical processes, impacting neurotransmitter activity, hormonal balance, inflammatory responses, and so much more. Our botanical allies offer a natural and holistic approach to mental wellness.

Here are our top 5 household herbs for mental wellness:

  1. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
  2. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  3. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
  4. Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  5. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
  • Parts Used: Roots
  • Herbal Energetics: Earthy, slightly bitter
  • Use in Mental Health: Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, which means it has a non-specific action that increases the body's natural resistance to stressors. It normalizes physiological functions to mitigate stressors from the environment or from exercise, diet, lifestyle, and modern life. This plant is also a nervine trophorestorative. It tonifies, strengthens, and restores the proper structure and function of the nervous system and, in turn, the rest of the system.
  • Preparation: Ashwagandha is commonly prepared in various forms, including powder, capsules, tinctures, or herbal infusions.
  • Harvest/Origins: Ashwagandha is native to India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa and can be easily grown and cultivated in a home garden. Roots are harvested in the autumn when the plant is mature (at least 1 year).

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Parts Used: Aerial
  • Herbal Energetics: Warming & stimulating
  • Use in Mental Health: Rosemary is a diverse and highly aromatic plant. Its warming and stimulating effects on the body help to move digestion, increase the efficiency of the Enteric Nervous System, distribute blood, and improve overall circulation. Rosemary can be considered a nootropic as it helps improve mental function through improved blood flow to the brain.
  • Preparation: Rosemary leaves are commonly used in culinary dishes as well as in teas, tinctures, essential oils, and topical oil infusions.
  • Harvest/Origins: Rosemary is a hearty evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean region and easily grows in many places around the world.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Parts Used: Leaves
  • Herbal Energetics: Warming, pungent & slightly bitter
  • Use in Mental Health: Sage is a strong aromatic that is highly versatile. Sage has been historically used to support digestion, helping to clear and warm the body and its connection to the brain. Dried sage is traditionally used as a smudge in many places around the world, helping to clear stagnant energies & welcoming a sense of clarity and centeredness to people and spaces.
  • Preparation: Commonly ingested in culinary dishes, teas, tinctures, or topically as an essential oil. Dried and bundled into a smudge stick for ceremonial purposes. Note: Please make your own smudge stick at home or source from a sustainable source.
  • Harvest/Origins: Sage is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and is closely related to other herbs like rosemary, thyme, and basil. Sage is native to the rocky coast of the Mediterranean and thrives worldwide.

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
  • Parts Used: Aerial
  • Herbal Energetics: Slightly bitter & cooling
  • Use in Mental Health: This plant is considered a nervine sedative, promoting gentle relief for the Nervous System and all of its functions. Chamomile helps to soothe inflammation in the body and has an affinity for the gut with its bitter, carminative effect, stimulating gastric secretions and reducing indigestion and inflammation.
  • Preparation: Chamomile is used commonly as a tea, tincture or glycerite.
  • Harvest/Origins: Chamomile prefers temperate climates and can often be harvested continuously throughout the growing season. Regular harvesting may encourage the plant to produce more flowers.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
  • Parts Used: Leaves
  • Herbal Energetics: Warming, pungent & slightly bitter
  • Use in Mental Health: Lemon Balm is a balm for the soul! Considered a highly effective nervine trophorestorative, its effect on the integrated mind, body, and spirit system is deeply restorative, strengthening, tonifying, and helping to repair and combat depletion, stress, and burnout.
  • Preparation: Commonly ingested via tea or in tinctures. Can also be prepared as an essential oil.
  • Harvest/Origins: Easily cultivated around the world. Harvest the leaves in the morning when the essential oil content is known to be highest.

In a world where the pursuit of well-being is paramount, the integration of herbal practices becomes a holistic journey toward a resilient mind. By embracing the wisdom of herbs and implementing practical tips for mental health, we not only fortify our individual well-being but contribute to the collective harmony of our interconnected world.

For those eager to delve deeper into herbs, holistic practices, and mental well-being, check out our 6-Month Herbalism Program. This is your opportunity to embark on a transformative journey through education towards a resilient and harmonious future. 🌹

Written by: Allison Graham

Allison is a professional copywriter & brings an integrated expression of mind, body, and spirit to Ecoversity. As an entrepreneur with a profound connection to the natural world, she has founded the Science Meets Spirit Podcast and a line of herbal medicinals to honor her path as a budding herbalist. Her multifaceted approach to life extends through offering leadership experiences in the form of retreats and 1-on-1 mentorship sessions. She aims to inspire others with her commitment to holistic wellness and her connection to the cyclical wisdom of our human experience.


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