This article is excerpted from the Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course at the Herbal Academy.
It is no secret that modern day life is rife with stress. While many of us have become experts at adapting to and performing under stressful conditions, the truth is that chronic stress takes its toll on all aspects of our health: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Lucky for us, there are dozens of herbs that can help with anxiety and restlessness to support our overall wellbeing. In the Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course, we have identified three main herbal actions that are helpful for supporting a body under stress: nervines, adaptogens, and sedatives. In this article, we’ll take a look at nervine herbs for stress management.
But First, What Is An Action?
An herbal action is the effect that an herb is believed to have on the human body. The primary action correlates directly to a system, an organ, or particular tissue type. So you might say that a herb is ‘diuretic’ – that is a herbal action relating to the urinary system that increases urination. You might say that it is ‘expectorant’ – relating it to the respiratory system and its use in supporting the lungs in clearing of phlegm. Or it may be ‘laxative,’ which would be a useful herbal action when you are trying to help ease constipation. We can turn to herbs with nervine, adaptogen, and sedative actions for support to help manage our stress response.
Nervines For Stress
A nervine acts on the nervous and limbic systems to reduce overactive stress responses (such as fight or flight) and return the body to a resting, relaxing, digesting, sleeping phase. This means helping to switch the active state from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. Nervines work gently to tonify the nervous system and re-establish normal nerve function and balance. Some may also lift the mood and ease anxiety, but they are not sedating.
3 Nervine Herbs to Help Soothe Stress
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm is a cooling nervine with an appealing lemony smell and deliciously lemon-like flavor. It is preferably used fresh to capture its light, uplifting taste, but can also be used dried, and may be infused in teas or honey and added to formulas to improve compliance by disguising other flavors. Lemon balm is calming, uplifting, and tones and restores the nervous system as a trophorestorative. It may be particularly indicated for those who tend toward anxiety and nervousness.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
Chamomile may appear fragile and gentle, but it is a powerful nervine and one of the most versatile plants in the herbal repertoire. Chamomile is an aromatic annual in the aster family (Asteraceae) whose name is derived from the Greek for “ground apple,” alluding to the apple-like scent of the plant. Chamomile is often used to help ease anxiety and tension and to invite sleep. Its neutral to cooling energetics and mild flavor lend it to many tea blends. No wonder it is such a beloved herbal tea!
Linden (Tilia spp. (especially T. cordata Mill., also T. platyphyllos Scop., T. americana L., T. europaea L.)
Linden has a sweet, pleasant aroma and flavor due to its aromatic oils and is considered one of the most gentle nervines, tending toward sedative, but often used in herbal tea blends just for its lovely flavor. Linden is cooling, moistening, and calming, and can be used to dispel a sense of overwhelm and stimulation, helping to shift one into the moment, as well as to promote peaceful sleep. Linden is used across age groups and is thought to be particularly well matched to people of a sensitive constitution or emotional state.
Herbs can support us in many ways in our stress management quest, but it is important to educate yourself about herbal safety before including them in your self care regime. The Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course dives into herbal safety considerations such as dosage, contraindications, and herb-drug interactions for each of the herbs referenced in this excerpt from the course. It is crucial to know when it might be appropriate to seek the advice of a clinical herbalist, to have open communication with your doctor and healthcare team regarding the use of herbs, and to understand when to avoid over-the-counter herbal supplements and to work with bulk or fresh herbs directly. So make sure you are very familiar with those topics before you explore herbs and herbal preparations for stress management.
If you are interested in unraveling the concepts of stress management from a holistic and herbal approach, we welcome you to join us in the Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course!
Discover what “herbal” self-care really means—much more than just taking herbs when we are frazzled or blue or tired. The Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course explores stress and its effects on wellbeing and then delves into the holistic approach to self-care for stress management. You’ll walk away with an understanding of the nutritional choices, lifestyle practices, and herbs that can transform your response to stress and enhance your wellbeing.
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