Many people feel overwhelmed, stressed-out or anxious, especially during these challenging times. Some of the effects of uncompensated stress and anxiety include difficulty sleeping, digestive issues, headaches, heart palpitations and increased muscle tension. A class of herbs known as “nervines” help us naturally calm down without being sedating. Nervine herbs help normalize our response to stress and naturally promote relaxation. For people that enjoy drinking tea, hot or cold, this is a great way to experience botanical medicine and reap the benefits of these medicinal plants. Here are a few calming herbs to take as a tea:
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita/Matricaria chamomilla)
The flower from this versatile herb has been used traditionally to calm nerves. Try drinking several cups per day to promote relaxation, decrease anxiety, promote sleep and improve digestion. Pour boiling water over 2 teabags or 1 tablespoon of the flowers and cover for at least 15 minutes, then strain and drink.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
The leaf from this herb has a wonderful lemony scent that is naturally relaxing. It also makes a delicious tea when using the fresh leaves. Lemon balm is a great plant to grow in your garden; it is an attractor for bees and is a lovely addition to container gardens, but best of all, will provide you with fresh leaves for tea. Use a small handful of leaves and make tea that you can drink hot or cold to calm the heart, decrease anxiety and aid sleep.
Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
The flowers from lavender are full of essential oils that can help decrease muscle tension and stress as well as aid sleep and relieve gas and bloating. Since the taste of lavender can be strong, a little goes a long way. Use one teaspoon of dried flowers to one cup of boiled water for tea. You can use more or less herb based on your preference. Lavender is great combined with either chamomile or lemon balm for a delicious tea that can be enjoyed hot or cold.
Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum)
Also known as Tulsi, holy basil is in the same family as basil that is used as a cooking spice. Our knowledge of holy basil comes from Ayurveda and is revered as a sacred plant in that tradition. The leaf is the medicinal part and makes a delicious tea that decreases anxiety, balances mood, decreases inflammation as well as supports adrenal function and our ability to cope with stress. There are many Tulsi tea combinations readily found in the natural markets.
Green tea (Camellia sinensis)
Known for its delivery of antioxidants that support overall health and decrease inflammation, green tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which increases gamma-aminobutyric acid, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and dopamine as well as alpha brain waves, all of which support a calm mental state and help to decrease anxiety. Some people are sensitive to the caffeine present in green tea, however, if it’s not an issue for you, try drinking green tea early in the day to enjoy the medicinal benefits while avoiding issues with sleep.
There are a variety of treatments to maintain your overall health and medicinal teas are a great natural option that can provide many benefits, but they may not be enough to combat significant anxiety. It’s normal to feel anxious during times of uncertainty, but if you feel it’s too much to manage on your own, consult with a doctor to discuss additional treatment options; they can help you determine the best path for a happier and healthier life.
Dr. Patricia Gaines is a Naturopathic Physician, Registered Herbalist, Chair of the Botanical Medicine Department and a supervising physician at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & SCNM Medical Center. She treats children and adults utilizing botanical medicine, nutrition and lifestyle counseling to make positive changes in patients’ health.