Holy Basil: the natural anti-depressant
Updated: Apr 3, 2020
Below is a paper I wrote for my Herbal Studies class back in March 2019. It is a personal piece I feel should be shared if it has the ability to help someone else who also struggles with depression.
By: Reana Tracy
Holy Basil leaves immersed in a cup of hot water, it introduces itself to me with it's dried brown and green leaves and flowing aroma; a familiar smell to me, but I can't quite put my finger on it. I close my eyes and smell it once more. A hint of clove is what comes to my mind, a sweet and hearty smell all wrapped in one. I'm holding a cup of personality in my hands, I take a sip of my Holy Basil tea, my taste buds welcome this slightly bitter taste. I'm comforted by it's warm flavor, my relationship with Holy Basil is off to a good start.
It has now been 5-weeks since I had my first cup of Holy Basil tea and the effects on my mental health have been nothing short of remarkable. I'll begin sharing my experience now.
I've been stuggling with depression for as long a I can remember. For a long time I didn't recognize there was anything wrong, I assumed everyone struggled to get out of bed each morning and the ones who were "morning people" I believed were only a select few. I thought racing thoughts were a normal part of being a teenager, lack of clarity or lack of paying attention was what people just called "daydreaming", and having to push yourself to do the simplest of tasks, I just thought that was a part of growing up. I didn't yet connected the dots, it would take me 15 years to realize I suffered from a mental illness called depression. I had a difficult childhood and my adult life wasn't any easier. Growing up without a father was difficult, but watching my mom raise us alone struggling to pay the bills and put a warm meal on the table was much harder. My brother was the only man I trusted in my life, watching his addiction to meth overpower him was devastating to watch and still is to this day. I always associated my saddness or feeling hopeless with the circumstances I was in at the time. I was always going through something in life so my emotions were always completely justified, until they weren't. During the times I should've been happy, I wasn't; the times I shouldn't of been stressed, I still was. It wasn't until a few years ago that I recollected on certain events in my life wondering if these things left such a mark on me that I may never get over them. Did the trauma, pain, and saddness scar my emotional well-being? Is the person who was once filled with light and spunk as a little girl gone forever? Where did she go and when did she leave? I never noticed the change in me and how victim mode consumed my life up until I searched for my happiness again. It was then that I began asking myself questions. I wondered if all the pain I had swept under the rug so many years ago came back as unfinished business. Or was I just destined to be incarcerated with this genetric trait? Either way depression found it's way into my life like a squatter you can't get rid of. I've learned to live with this ball and chain attached to me, some days I'm strong enough to walk with the weight and some days it overpowers me.
Five short weeks ago I introduced Holy Basil into my life, not because of all my past depression (I was used to this), but because of the postpartum depression that gave me an overwhelming sadness that I could not take control of. All the things I learned to do: wear a mask and pretend nothing was wrong and push through the day no matter how exhausted I was, wasn't working for me. This new depression was extreme and it was only getting stronger, I was beyond sad as if I was grieving the loss of someone. The postpartum depression started when my baby was 6 weeks old, I was lacking sleep (a lot of it). She was Colic as well as acid reflux, so needless to say she needed all of my attention all day for months. Her dad and I were exhausted (thank god for him), I was starting school again after a 3-month Leave of Absence, and my two older kids (10 yr old boy, 12 yr old girl) were no longer getting the needed amount of attention from me (I was a single mom with them for a long time so guilt has been something I've struggled with a lot). I was beginning to feel guilty for my lack of attention on them as well as doing my best to balance all these new changes. One day I just couldn't get out of bed, I had no interest in anything except being sad. I felt like an anchor was pulling me under water and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. It was in that moment I felt so hopeless and not good enough for my kids to be around that I decided I had to be medicated. I was never diagnosed for my depression, I never wanted that label slapped on my forehead. I was finally willing to put my pride aside and accept the fact that I needed some form of treatment, even if that meant no longer breastfeeding my baby if i was going to be on an anti-depressant.
Two days after my decision to medicate I started this Herbal Studies and Applications class while on my path to become a Holistic Healthcare Practitioner. In this class our assignment was to choose an herb to start a relationship with. I wanted an herb that helped with depression (there are several), I figured to give this a try and see what happens. I began noticing a subtle difference in my mood a week after drinking one cup of Holy Basil tea daily. I didn't feel as fatigued as I had been feeling the past 4 and a half months since giving birth to my baby girl. Two weeks of drinking Holy Basil tea daily: the sadness was completely gone and my body didn't feel as achy. Jump ahead to today, 5 weeks of drinking one cup of Holy Basil tea daily and I feel connected to myself, my muscles don't feel achy or tight like they used to, and my mood is stabilized. Of course there are the everyday life stressors of the kids not listening, the baby is having a day, dinner needs to be done, homework and bed time routines aren't always on schedule. However, I am equipped to manage all this without that HUGE obstacle in my way. There is the pain of my past that I still need to work on and I still struggle with anxiety on a daily basis. I am aware that depression is always going to be with me, it's the imperfection I inherited, the environment I grew up in, and the hurt I faced that are all factors in my depression. My road to maintaining emotional balance
and structure is just beginning, I still have so much to learn. If just one herb helped me begin my journey with nourishing my mind, I am beyond excited to explore so many more. Here's to healing one herb at a time.
By: Reana Tracy