Yellow flowers

St. Johnswort flowers. Photo credit: Hannah Jacobson-Hardy

By Hannah Jacobson-Hardy, Herbalist at Sweet Birch Herbals
*Reprinted with permission from

The winter is long in New England and many people suffer from symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), especially in the months of February and March. This is partly due to the lack of sunlight and Vitamin D, but it could also be deeper beneath the surface. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), winter is Water Time- and it is an important time to honor the inner self, ask deep questions, ponder what the future holds, and nourish one’s reserves.

Imagine living in a world that honored the cycles of nature and the cycles of the body, which may be ready for deep rest after the busy holidays, but a busy work life beckons. Try using this precious time to go inside and ask what the heart may be wanting this spring, as if a seed is gestating underneath the cold damp snow, waiting to sprout.

There are several herbs which restore the body and replenish the nervous system. Take advantage of these herbal allies especially in the cold winter months when our bodies are ready to receive yin nourishment.

Tips for Uplifting the Spirit this Winter:

  1. Uplifting herbs: Hawthorne, St. Johnswort, Lavender, Rose, Tulsi, Linden, Lemon Balm, Passionflower

  2. Nervous System Restoratives: Milky Oats, Ashwagandha, Chamomile, Nettles

  3. Flower Essences: Borage, Rose, Calendula, Sunflower, Gorse, Mustard, Vervain

  4. Consume Mineral Rich Superfoods: Parsley, Seaweeds, Spirulina, Nettles, Cacao, Spinach, Kale, Mustard and Dandelion Greens

  5. Take Vitamin D daily, at least 2,000 to 5,000 IU

  6. Eat grass-fed animals that were raised outside because they store Vitamin D in their fat cells.

  7. Cook with mushrooms that have been dried outside exposed to sunlight such as shiitake and maitake because they store Vitamin D in their cells.

  8. Exercise and spend time in nature- even getting a few minutes sun rays on the face can make a big difference with mood!

  9. Treasure Sleep: sip a nervine tea before bed if needed

  10. Remember, the sun is returning and the Spring Equinox is soon!

A mason jar filled with liquid and herbs on a windowsill next to a jade plant and small green bottle.

Nourishing infusion tea. Photo credit: Hannah Jacobson-Hardy.

Depression, fatigue, insomnia, lack of interest in life, brain fog and SAD may be an indicator of something deeper going on that your heart is calling out for. Our society often views sadness as weakness, but many alternative practitioners and holistic health coaches see symptoms of depression as a signal of imbalance, or something ready to born that has not yet been acknowledged. Try meditation, warm herbal baths, walking in nature, sharing with trusted friends, and journaling to nurture the inner wisdom that is waiting to be seen.

Recipes for SAD symptoms and depression during winter months:

Uplifting Heart- Spirit Tincture:

  • 3 part hawthorne leaf, berry and flower
  • 2 part tulsi (tulsi glycerin is delicious, too)
  • *1 part St. Johnswort
  • 1 part part rose (rose glycerin is delicious, too)
  • ½ part lavender
  • ½ part lemon Balm

*Leave St. Johnswort out if you are on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Talk with your healthcare provider before taking St. Johnswort in conjunction with other medications.

Download a handout on how to make a tincture here.

Nerve Tonic Tea:

  • 3 part chamomile
  • 2 part nettles
  • 2 part skullcap
  • 1 part oats
  • 1 part passionflower
  • 1 part lemon balm
  • ½ part roses
  • ½ part lavender
  • * Add 1 part valerian and 1 part hops for sleep tea

Visit the Sweet Birch Herbals blog for more herbal tips and the Sweet Birch Herbals online shop for herbal products.