Well-known herbs and spices can help boost your mood

Herbs and Spices to Boost Your Mood

By: Sonali Ruder, DO

Scientifically Reviewed By: Michael A. Smith, MD

Whether you're worried about work or feeling a bit of the blues, a little mood boost can go a long way. Our brains and bodies have chemicals called neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, that make us feel happy and support our mental health.

The amazing thing is that certain herbs and spices, along with our lifestyle choices, can help support a healthy mood. So if you're curious about natural ways to lift your spirits, these nutrients might help put a smile on your face.

Which herbs are best for mood support?

Even on good days, we could all use some more "happy" in our lives. Try using herbs and targeted nutrition to encourage your mood and mental health:


One of the most precious spices in the world, saffron is derived from the stigmas of the flowers of the Crocus sativus, a flowering plant. Often referred to as "red gold," saffron is a staple ingredient in kitchens around the globe, lending its bright golden color and earthy flavor to many dishes.

Saffron also contains two bioactive compounds, crocin and safranal, which have garnered attention for their potential mood-supporting properties. While it's difficult to get sufficient supportive levels of these compounds through food alone, standardized saffron extracts have shown promise in supporting mood in several studies. Several studies and meta-analyses have highlighted saffron's ability to enhance mood compared to placebo.

Some supplements combine saffron extract with probiotics. Studies show certain gut-friendly bacteria help support healthy mood and stress management—benefits that complement the effects of crocin and safranal.


Ashwagandha has been called the king of Ayurvedic herbs. It's well-known for promoting a healthy response to stress and encouraging a healthy mood. This herb is known as an adaptogen, which is a natural substance that helps your body fight the effects of stress. It's like that friend who helps you stay calm and balanced when things get tough.

Ashwagandha helps maintain already-healthy cortisol levels in your body. Cortisol, which is produced by your adrenal glands, is known as the "stress hormone" because it helps the body respond to stressors. Ashwagandha helps promote a calm, relaxed state of mind, which benefits adrenal gland health and nervous system function. Its calming properties extend to supporting restful sleep, and this herb has potential benefits for memory, vitality, hormone function, healthy weight management, and more.


Ginseng is a plant belonging to the genus Panax. Native to North America and Eastern Asia, it is sometimes called "man-root" because its unusual shape and fleshy roots resemble a person.
There are several varieties of ginseng, and they are prized for their potential health benefits, such as supporting energy, promoting a healthy response to stress, encouraging cognitive function and enhancing overall well-being.

Panax ginseng—also known as Asian, Korean, or Chinese ginseng—is known for its ability to function as an adaptogen, a stress-fighting compound that helps you keep on keeping on.


Chamomile is an herb that comes from the daisy-like flowers of the Asteraceae plant family. It has been used for centuries as a natural remedy to promote stress management and digestive comfort. It is commonly enjoyed in various forms, including herbal teas and supplements.

Chamomile is packed with antioxidants. It contains compounds like apigenin that can help promote relaxation. Multiple studies have shown that chamomile extract can help manage stress and encourage a healthy mood.

Curling up with a hot cup of herbal tea at bedtime is not only a cozy ritual, but it may also help you sleep—and if it is chamomile, even better! A meta-analysis found chamomile promotes sleep quality. That restful night's sleep also plays an important role in maintaining a healthy mood. So, whether it's sipped as a warm cup of tea or taken as a supplement, this herb offers a natural way to unwind and support emotional well-being.

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How can I support my mood?

Looking for ways to lift your mood can be an empowering journey. By incorporating holistic practices and targeted nutrition into your daily lifestyle, you can cultivate a sense of well-being and support your mental health. It's all about finding what works for you and rolling with it!

Here are some lifestyle strategies to consider:

1. Find your zen with meditation

Practicing meditation can help cultivate mindfulness and put you on the path to finding inner peace.

Although stress is something you can't see or touch, you can still feel its effects on your mind and body. Meditation, which involves focusing your attention inward to induce a deep state of relaxation, can help alleviate these undesired effects. By dedicating time each day to quiet reflection, you can soothe your mind, manage stress and gain clarity and perspective on life's challenges.

2. Harness the power of exercise

Engaging in physical activity not only enhances your mood but also boosts your energy levels. Whether it's a brisk walk in nature, a heart-pumping cardio session, or a restorative yoga class, physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins. These chemicals are natural mood-lifters, helping us feel revitalized and refreshed. Exercise also has a positive effect on your dopamine and serotonin levels.

Studies have consistently shown that even small amounts of physical activity are associated with a healthy mood and improved mental health. In addition, exercise can help you achieve healthy weight management, and who doesn't feel good when they achieve their goals?

Along with weight management, exercise helps support your joint health and mobility. That's why it's important to stay active and move frequently to ensure you can keep moving for many years to come. Thankfully, there are herbs and spices for joint health that can help assist you in keeping your joints healthy with regular exercise.

3. Prioritize restorative sleep

Getting adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining a positive mood and overall well-being. Research shows that sleep quality is closely linked to mood, and we certainly can see the effects of poor sleep in our own lives. It's essential to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to ensure you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day.

4. Nourish your body with a balanced diet

Maintaining a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, is important for your mind, body and mood. Research suggests that adhering to a Mediterranean dietary pattern—with nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats—is associated with improved mood scores and a better quality of life.

5. Cultivate meaningful social connections

As humans, we thrive on social connections—it's in our nature. Research confirms what we already know: Being socially connected leads to a longer, healthier, and happier life.

When we feel a sense of belonging and have stable relationships, we're more likely to make positive choices and enjoy better mental and physical health outcomes. Social connections also provide a buffer against tough times, helping us navigate the ups and downs of life with greater resilience.

Fostering social connectedness isn't just about feeling good. Having strong social ties can support heart health and brain health. Spending time laughing with loved ones also promotes the release of serotonin. Overall, having meaningful social connections is important for our well-being.

6. Embrace the joy of pet ownership

For a real mood boost, welcome the unconditional love and companionship of a furry friend into your life. Having a pet by your side isn't just fun, it's good for your health, too. The simple act of petting a dog can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Plus, interacting with your pet can boost oxytocin, the "feel-good hormone" that bonds mothers to babies.

Additionally, owning a pet, particularly a dog, can encourage physical activity. Regular dog walks not only keep your pet happy, but they also help you stay active and engaged. It's a win-win situation.

7. Spend time in nature

Taking time to connect with nature can work wonders for your mood and mindset. Beyond the calming sights and sounds of nature, spending time outdoors lets you disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and reconnect with yourself. Immersing yourself in natural environments has been linked to healthy mood, enhanced concentration, and better sleep quality.

Spending time in the great outdoors can also help boost your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is important for your bones, blood cells, and immune system, and it also plays a role in supporting your mood health.

To start immersing yourself in nature and reaping its benefits, try these activities:

  • Plan a picnic with loved ones at a nearby park or try a game of frisbee or soccer
  • Grab a good book and find a shady spot under a tree to enjoy it
  • Plant a garden on your patio

Whether it's bird watching, golfing or enjoying a daily stroll with a friend, finding ways to connect with nature can be a powerful mood booster, promoting healthy stress management and overall well-being.

Want to get started on your healthy mood journey? Take our health needs quiz to get a personal recommendation on the supplements that fit you.

About the Author: Sonali Ruder, DO, is a board-certified emergency medicine doctor, classically trained chef, cookbook author and founder of the popular website, TheFoodiePhysician.com. Dr. Ruder is a contributing writer, recipe developer, spokesperson, and health and wellness expert for several national magazines, websites, and organizations. Her passion is giving people the tools to take control of their health, starting in the kitchen!


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