Herbs To Soothe Stress
Feeling stressed? Aren’t we all after almost two years of coronavirus lockdowns. Thankfully, there are legal herbs that can come to our aid and we’ve put together a list of the best six herbs that are great for natural stress support. These herbs to soothe stress naturally and support our body through short- and long-term forms of stress.
Now, before we delve into the herbs, let’s first take a brief look at what is stress, what causes it and how can we reduce it. Understanding stress is important because stress isn’t simply a mental state but something that affects your entire physical body.
In A Nutshell: Stress In The Body
Stress is a double-edged sword – meaning, it’s not always a bad thing. In fact, it can be a very good thing in certain situations. It can help us to react quickly, making a fast-paced decision, or even saving a life. However, for most of us living in the modern world, stress is an all too familiar companion. A companion that is often worn as a badge of productivity and unfortunately, it’s damaging our bodies.
We are aware that too much stress has an adverse effect on multiple body systems. The primary systems affected by stress are the nervous and endocrine systems.
These systems involve the brain, nerves and various glands in the body. Once these systems are triggered, they, in turn, trigger other body systems, such as the digestive and cardiovascular systems. All these systems work together during times of stress to bring the body back to a balanced state.
Our body is generally able to handle fluctuations in these body systems. However, when the body is under a constant state of stress, damage can eventually occur in these systems. Thankfully, there are plants that can come to our aid on a regular basis. These plants not only strengthen and tone these body systems but also soothe stress naturally as well. These benefits both assist the body to better handle the demands that stress puts on it.
When it comes to using herbs to soothe stress naturally, there are several categories of herbs that are used.
- Nervines: Herbs that nourish the nervous system.
- Adaptogens: Herbs that support the body’s stress response as a whole.
- Sedatives: Herbs that physically relax the mind and body.
Nervine Herbs To Soothe Stress
Nervines are herbs that have a direct effect on the nervous system. Most times, these herbs are nourishing in nature. When you look at nervines as a whole, this group of herbs can be further broken up into three other categories – tonic nervines, relaxing nervines, and stimulating nervines. When using nervines for natural stress support, herbalists typically only use the first two groups.
Two popular nervine herbs that have been used for centuries to soothe stress naturally are oats and chamomile. Both of these herbs can be used in a variety of ways and for long periods of time.
Milky oat tops and oatstraw are both excellent for nourishing the nervous system, with milky oats being the stronger of the two. Milky oats are trophorestorative which means they are tonic-like to the nervous system, helping to restore normal function. This plant is also high in vitamins and minerals. Not only that but it’s specifically indicated during times of exhaustion and prolonged or chronic stress.
Chamomile flowers are a well-known nervine, but they differ from milky oats in that they are more of a relaxing nervine than a tonic nervine. Chamomile should be used during stressful times when you feel tense, irritated, or restless. Studies have shown it is very useful for those struggling with anxiety as well.
Chamomile is often thought of as a children’s herb due to its gentle action in the body. But don’t let its gentleness make you feel less of it. It’s a potent herb that works well for even the strongest adults. Both oats and chamomile can be used in teas or tinctures to help you soothe stress naturally.
Adaptogens For Natural Stress Support
Adaptogens are a newer category of herbs. These herbs have always been around, but the term “adaptogens” is a modern term. This term defines specific herbs that work to support the body’s stress response as a whole. These herbs are non-toxic. They help the body manage stress responses triggered from a variety of sources, such as emotional, physical, or environmental stress, stress from illness, etc. They also help to bring the body back into a balanced state of health.
Liquorice root is a herb that’s always good to have on hand. It has so many uses, and when it comes to stress, it’s invaluable. Liquorice has a tonic effect on the endocrine system and adrenal glands. It also has a regulating effect on the HPA axis and the immune system. Both of these systems play a role in the stress response. As a whole, liquorice is indicated during times of stress where digestive ailments (like stress ulcers) and a weakened immune system (resulting in an increased chance of developing other illnesses) are common.
Holy basil is an excellent herb and widely used in Thai cuisine. It’s indicated for periods of stress when you feel stuck or restless and don’t know what to do. At first, the herb has a stimulating effect that eventually leads to a very relaxed, grounded and balanced feeling. Holy basil also helps create a sense of calm and focus – perfect for individuals who tend to worry a lot.
Herbal Sedatives For Natural Stress Support
When most people think of herbs for natural stress support, they think of sedatives. However, sedatives are rarely the first herbs that an herbalist uses when approaching stress. Sedatives are herbs that have a substantial relaxant effect on the body. They depress the nervous system to various degrees and help to produce a state of calm in many individuals. Herbal sedatives are mostly used in small doses and for short periods of time. This dosing guideline isn’t because sedatives are addictive like many pharmaceutical sedatives. It’s because long-term nervous system sedation isn’t good for one’s health.
Passionflower is for nervous, irritable individuals who are exhausted and find it difficult to relax. These individuals often have trouble getting their thoughts under control and falling asleep. This trouble creates a cycle of stress, leading to even more uncomfortable symptoms. If an individual is wound up and can’t focus, passionflower can increase a person’s concentration. It does this by cutting out excess thoughts that disrupt the ability to focus.
Valerian is a well-known mild herbal sedative that is often used to help a person who can’t sleep or suffers from headaches. Studies have also shown it to be very useful for persons with obsessive and compulsive behaviours as well. In most people, valerian creates a calming effect. However, in a small percentage of people, it can have the opposite reaction. Instead of relaxing the mind and body, it can excite it. If you are not sure how valerian will affect you, try testing a small amount out on yourself (preferably before bedtime) to see.
Main image courtesy Gerd Altmann.