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9 Herbs and Foods That Boost Serotonin

| 3/22/2018 9:56:00 AM

Serotonin is often referred to as the “happy hormone” and its production is closely linked to vitamin B6 and the amino acid tryptophan. Serotonin plays a vital role in our overall well-being, sleep habits, appetite, food cravings, and the way we experience pain. Lack of serotonin often leads to panic attacks, anxiety, eating disorders, chronic pain, and low mood. Fortunately, there are several foods and herbs that you can consume to bring serotonin back to normal levels.

small bowls full of herbs
Photo by Max Pixel/Nikon Coolpix P7000

St. John's Wort

St John’s Wort, or Hypericum perforatum, is a medicinal herb with antidepressant qualities given by its many bioactive compounds. The most important ones are hypericin and hyperforin. Hyperforin boosts many mood-related brain chemicals and helps serotonin bind to serotonin receptors. St. John’s Wort increases brain serotonin synthesis and is one of the most widely studied natural treatments for depression. The prestigious Cochrane review comprising of 29 international studies have found that St John’s Wort can be as effective as pharmaceutical antidepressants.

Panax Ginseng

Panax Ginseng is one of the most popular herbs on the planet and an all-round healthy choice for those that want to boost their immune system, overall well-being, and energy levels. Panax means “all-heal” and it’s quite accurate given its many health benefits. Ginseng increases the level of serotonin and rejuvenates the mind. It’s also beneficial for those who suffer from diabetes, unclear thinking, and erectile dysfunction.


Kava-kava is a plant of the western Pacific that is widely consumed throughout Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. Kava has been shown to have a positive effect on cognition and attention by relaxing the mind. Kava extracts bind to GABA, dopamine, serotonin, and opiate receptors. This herb typically contains around 18 types of kavalactones, each having various psychoactive effects; there are a number of strains with varying profiles of kavalactones. As a result, effects vary slightly across strains. Kava helps those that suffer from insomnia and it has also been used to treat breast, bladder, colon and prostate cancer.


Kratom, or Mitragyna Speciosa, is a psychoactive plant used as a stimulant, sedative, pain killer, or treatment for opiate addiction. The alkaloids of this plant function as agonists for the serotonin, norepinephrine, and k-opioid receptors. Kratom is indigenous to Southeast Asia, but has recently attracted international attention due to its effectiveness in alleviating depression, relieving pain, and helping with opiate withdrawal.

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