The modern lifestyle with our multitasking ways, sleep minimization, non defined work hours, “no time for downtime” attitude, 24 hour connectivity and go, go, go mentality is bound to lead to increased stress. Thankfully, nature has given us some natural ways to rebalance our life. This post focuses on the medicinal herbs that can be used to reach a balancing level of relaxation that is both mild and natural. These are the herbs that I personally have in my herb cabinet for some well deserved downtime.
- Herbal Teas
My preferred form is tea, although each form has its advantages. It’s fairly easy to make capsules and extracts from the raw herbs, but, maybe that will be the topic of a later post.
1) Valerian Root (Valeriana officinealis)
I actually grow some of this in my garden; although it has not grown enough for me to harvest. Maybe next year. Some observations:
- Valerian has been used since ancient Greece/Rome
- Acts as a mild sedative
- Is a bit stinky (smells like aged cheese)
- Also used for insomnia and anxiety
- Can taste bitter
- Should not be made with boiling water as heat could destroy the active ingredient.
2) Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
Everyone is familiar with Chamomile, it is an old standby with a long history of use. In Europe, Chamomile is generally given to children that are not feeling well. What’s good about Chamomile?
- Tastes great
- Calms the nervous system and is a gentle sleep aid
- Anti-inflammatory and settles the stomach
3) SkullCap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
This is a North America original (not be be confused with the Chinese skullcap) and I also have some of this growing in my yard. It is easy to grow (since it is basically a weed) and has very pretty blue flowers. In addition:
- Also tastes pretty good
- Mild sedative and sleep promoter
- Can help with anxiety
4) Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
The Passion Flower, also called Maypop, is native to North America and can be quite hardy. I don’t have one for the yard yet, but definitely will be getting one. The flowers are very exotic looking and the fruit is edible. In addition:
- medicinal use dates back to the Native Americans
- treats nervousness and insomnia
- ironically used in Europe quite often, while it’s just getting popular in the US (the country of origin)
5) Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Do I have some of this growing in my yard? You bet I do – it practically grows itself.
- lemony taste (surprise, surprise)
- calming effect, helps for insomnia and anxiety
- often mixed in with other herbs
6) Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
That’s right, the stuff that drives your cat crazy is good for you too. Don’t have it yet in my garden, but I will and it’s going in right next to the lemon balm.
- a third of cats are not affected by Catnip, who knew?
- easy to grow
- decent taste
- general nerve tonic for anxiety and insomnia
7) Damiana (Turnera diffusa)
Finally, another North American native and this herb smells and tastes great.
- Calming effect
- Doubles as an aphrodisiac 😉
- sometimes used in Margaritas in Mexico
- did I say it tastes great?
8) Kava kava (Piper methysticum)
Wow, this stuff is strong, too strong really for me. It starts when it hits your mouth leaving it slightly numb and then spreads throughout your body. It is banned in some countries due to potential liver toxicity, but that may be linked to combining it with alcohol or impure kava kava powder. I don’t find the taste to be that bad, but do find the effect a bit too strong for me.
- used in Polynesia, where it is has a long history of use
- consumed to relax without loosing sharpness of the mind
Hope you get to try some of these! What herbal tea is your favorite?