Sometimes the effects of stress creeps up on you. Sometimes we don't even realize how much stress we are under, till our body gets sick. Other times, you are well aware of the stress and may not have any control over it. How do we support our bodies through all of these situations?
In this post we will discuss herbal nervines to help us, but there are a plethora of ways we can support ourselves through stressful times from diet, to deep sleep, to flower essences, herbs, aromatherapy, exercise, massages, acupuncture and other measures of self care. We will get to those in later blog posts.
To understand what herbs to choose to support the stress you are experiencing, it is important to understand the categories of herbal nervines. Basically, a nervine herb tones the nervous system or helps you adapt (adaptogenic) to the stress and nourish the nervous system. There are 4 categories of herbal nervines:
Nerve Tonics: herbs that feed, tone, rehabilitate and strengthen the nervous system directly and are high in Calcium, Magnesium, B vitamins and protein. They are mild in action and can be taken over a long period of time.
Examples include: Oatstraw, skullcap, chamomile, valerian, hops, Tulsi and
2. Nerve Sedatives: Herbs that directly relax the nervous system and help reduce pain, ease tension and encourage sleep through gentle action that soothes and nourishes the peripheral nerves and muscle tissue.
Examples include: California poppy, passionflower, St. John's wort, catnip,
valerian, lemon balm, hops, lobelia, skullcap and cramp bark.
3. Nervine Demulcents: herbs are soothing and healing to irritated and inflamed nerve endings. Their actions are general and not specific to the nervous system, but are included in nervine formulas for their soothing, healing qualities.
Examples include: Slippery elm bark, oats, barley, flaxseed and marshmallow
4. Nervine Stimulants: Mild herbs that gently and surely nourish and spark the appropriate system, activate nerve endings by increasing circulation, providing nutrients, increasing vitality and zest.
Examples include: lemon balm, peppermint, ginkgo, gotu kola, spearmint, wintergreen, cayenne, ginger, bee pollen, ginseng, rosemary, Tulsi and sage
So how do you know what to choose? How do I make a nervine blend for tea or tincture that will work best?
Let's step back a minute. First, no herb or any other recommended resource can "cure" or "resolve" your stress. That takes conscious work and decisions on your part. So first thing, sit back, quiet the room around you, close your eyes and listen to what your body wants to tell you. Where are you experiencing the stress? What is the source of stress? What can you control and what can you not control? Tune into yourself, your body and mind will tell you. Journal what your body teaches you.
Next let's make sure we are getting enough sleep, drinking enough water and removing processed foods, alcohol and sugar from our diet. We will talk in more detail in a later post about why that is important and what foods stress or soothe the nervous system.
Make time every hour or two to sit still and take slow, deep breaths. Whether sitting at your desk at work or in between activities with your kids. Breathe at least 5 deep, slow breaths. Okay, this now gives us a fighting chance to let the herbs work on the nervous system.
I would have to write a book to teach you everything about these powerful nervine herbs and how to choose them. Since this is a simple blog, I will share the basics, but by all means, reach out and do your research for the best herb blends for your specific situation.
So how is your body experiencing the stress?
If it is poor sleep, consider nerve sedatives with some nerve tonic herbs to help nourish the nervous system. For example a tea blend of. 1/2 part licorice, 2 parts lemon balm and 1 part valerian root could help. The licorice helps with the flavor, adrenal exhaustion and immune support. Lemon balm is a calming elixir, tastes wonderful and helps to lift and relax you. It is also a mild sedative for insomnia caused by grief and sadness. The Valerian root has sedative properties, especially as a result of anxiety, nervousness, stress, and exhaustion.
This is just one example of a sleep stress blend. We also sell tea blends, "Summers Night" and "Tranquilty" at Kanji Naturals to help with sleep and calming nourishment.
Also consider developing a night time routine, starting with taking the night time tea beginning 4 hours before bedtime. This could include tea, warm baths, warm glass of milk, turning off electronic devices, turning down lights and so on. Try to keep to a strict schedule.
Perhaps you experience anxiety and nervousness. Can't sit still, worry about everything, can't focus? Get rid of nerve stimulating foods (next weeks post), work on deep breathing and yoga and drink a good herbal nervine tea 3-4 times a day. A popular tea for anxiety would be a good lemon balm tea with herbs like borage, chamomile, lemon verbena, St. John's wort, Tulsi, Linden or Milky Oats. It doesn't have to include all of these, use what you have on hand. Making a glycerin or tincture with Tulsi or Milky Oats or Kava Kava and taking a dropper full every time you feel unduly anxious is also helpful.
At Kanji Naturals, we have the tea blends, "Sunny Soul", "Mothers Embrace" and "Hope and Joy" and "Calm and Focus" to help reduce this anxiety and nervousness.
Is your stress ruining your immune system response? Do you find yourself getting sick over and over? St. John's Wort is not only an anti-depressant, but also a nerve restorative and anti-viral. Also consider a blend with medicinal mushrooms like Coriolus versicolor, Oats to nourish the body, Sage as an anti-bacterial and relaxant, rose hips for high vitamin C or Catnip.
Teas available at Kanji Naturals to help support the immune and nervous system include "Immune Support" and "Winter Blues"
Do you experience Adrenal Stress or Exhaustion? this also will be experienced as a reduced immune system as mentioned above. Trying a tea blend or tincture of adaptogenic herbs is your best bet for healing the adrenals. Herbs like Astragalus, Rhodiola, Tulsi, Skullcap (though not an adaptogenic herb). Adaptogenic herbs are great at reading the body and knowing if we need a lift (stimulate nervous system) or to relax and calm down. My favorite tea blend for this is "Harmony". You could also make a simple glycerine/tincture with Tulsi.
Are you weepy and over reacting? Do you tell yourself, I can't take one more thing? This can also be a sign of adrenal fatigue (see above), chronic stress, and/or malnourished nervous system. Consider herbs that are nourishing like oats, oat straw, hops and skullcap as well as herbs that are stimulating lemon balm, gotu kola, spearmint, ginkgo and sage. You are also in need of some deep sleep and a pull back on your schedule while you acknowledge and begin to control those things you can that are causing the chronic stress. Find a good, safe friend to release and talk things out with. Kanji Natural teas like "Sunny Soul", "Heart Calm" and "Calm and Focus" can help with these symptoms.
We will discuss other options to consider when supporting the immune system and dealing with high stress in your body. Tune in next week for some more suggestions for safe, natural, calming help.