It’s 2020 and Stress seems to be the theme, right? Maybe. Life has always had its stressors, no matter where you live or what to do, chances are you have experienced the effects of stress in your life. Some wellness advocates speak of finding balance in life, I believe it’s more about creating resilience, life will never be permanently balanced, so we need to build our resilience muscles to overcome the tough times that may come along. There are many ways to build this resilience, from meditation to affirmations to lifestyle strategies, but today I want to share my favorite plant allies for this. However, before we start, I must say this: before trying any of these plants consult with an experienced practitioner and check in with your doctor if you have any pre-existing conditions or are on medication. These are considered generally safe, but always listen to your body.
Let’s get started!
Within the herbal Materia Medica (a fancy term for the libraries of herbs and their properties) there are several categories of herbs that have proven to be helpful in times of stress. I will list my favorite in no particular order and will share when and how you might try them.
One of my all time favorites is Ashwagandha, you might have heard of it or even tried it, it is all the rage now a days due to its adaptogenic properties. An Adaptogen is a plant or mushroom that helps the body modulate the stress response in a non-specific way, which means they help the whole body to better handle stressors. They are best taken on a daily basis, to achieve maximum effectiveness. Ashwagandha, being an adaptogen, loves the nervous system, it is soothing and grounding while also providing steady energy. It helps to achieve deeper, more restful sleep, without heaviness or morning grogginess. It helps build red blood cells, combating anemia and supporting growth and development as well as proper circulation to the brain and reproductive systems. It is known for boosting libido and creativity. It is one of the best herbs for anxiety relief. It helps us preserve our vital energy to live longer and happier lives. A typical dose for stress is 500mg-3g a day.
Another one I love, and take often, is Tulsi, the Holy Basil. Another traditional Ayurvedic beauty. It is considered to heighten awareness, aid meditation and promote compassion. It has a sweet, uplifting aroma and lovely taste. It is a natural antidepressant, beautifies the skin and hair and supports the body’s detoxification pathways, which must be clear to better manage stress. It’s lovely in an afternoon tea for relaxation and better sleep. It is antibacterial, antispasmodic and antiviral. It helps lower fevers and relieve headaches, particularly those that come with nervous tension.
Good old Chamomile has super powers too! If you are feeling touchy and impatient, brew a strong infusion of these delicate flowers. Make sure your herbs are always fragrant, it means their properties are intact. This plant is wonderful when facing digestive upset, whether from eating something that doesn’t agree with us or eating under stress. It is antispasmodic, nervine (soothes nervous system), anti-inflammatory, helps lower fevers, calms the spirit, relieves pain. It has high Calcium content, making it particularly useful for insomnia, restlessness, nightmares and irritability. For children it can prove its worth in times of teething or interrupted sleep. Colicky babies can also benefit from it, whenever possible, the breastfeeding mum will drink the infusion. It can be taken daily 1tbsp per cup of water, 1-4 times per day.
Skullcap (Scutellaria Lateriflora) has saved several from sleepless nights. It also belongs to the Nervine category of plants and it is amazing at halting those obsessive thoughts that won’t let you sleep. It helps remove nervous energy from mind and body, allowing us to enter deeper states of sleep and relaxation, which makes it a great ally for nervous tics, tremors and muscle spasms. It also does wonders for our concentration, by removing white noise from our mental space. It relieves anxiety, frontal headaches, PMS, nervous fears and may even help with drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. I like it best in Tincture form 30-60 drops does the trick for most people.
Hops helps you fall asleep. It is a relaxant, for those times when you are so tense you keep tossing and turning. It is widely used for ADHD, Irritability and nervousness. Take a cup of this tea, a couple of hours before bed, it will make you sleepy, so don’t use if driving, using machinery or if you need to stay alert. A typical dose for infusion is 1tsp per cup of water.
Lemon Balm is another one we often use at our place. It has proven effective at lowering fevers and relieving headaches, whether from a cold or from nervous tension. It is a mild nervine, so it won’t make you sleepy, but it will help you relax and rest better. I often use it when my kiddo catches a cold, both to relieve fever and/or cold symptoms and to help fight off the infection, since it has antiviral properties. I always travel with a glycerite (non-alcoholic tincture) in case of motion sickness, colds, fevers, nervousness or headaches that my little one might experience. If you are under a lot of stress, you can use it daily as a tonic for your nerves. You can take it in a tea or as a Tincture. I love blending it with Chamomile and Lavender for a more pronounced relaxing effect.
Unassuming Vanilla is great at bringing in happiness and relieving stress in your life. You can add it to your tea or coffee to reap all of its magic. It touches the ethereal parts of life as well as the memory centers of the brain to positively affect your state of being. I love taking it daily, in my Matcha, which is another wonderful ally for stressful times, since it doesn’t spike and crash your energy. It provides steady, gentle energy to carry you through your day.