Many Herbs Help With Anxiety

It's a stressful time, on many fronts, for a variety of reasons.

That herbs can reduce anxiety, pain or depression will be a surprise to no one. Think marijuana. Think opium poppy. 

Obviously those are the heavy hitters, but there's a range of assists available with herbal teas, tinctures, salves, capsules and lotions. 

One of our best herbal anxiolytics (herbs that cut anxiety) is kava-kava (Piper methysticum).  Native to the western Pacific islands, it's related to black pepper (Piper nigrum) and produces feelings of calm and empathy. The tea was traditionally used to begin community meetings, environments with a potential for disputes. In Fiji, where there is a history of cultural use, kava is still used to welcome dignitaries: Lady Bird Johnson drank kava upon arriving to the island, as did Pope John Paul II and Queen Elizabeth. While it's original use is as a tea, I prefer the capsules because the herb is numbing to the lips and tongue, and for me this simply causes further anxiety. One negative kava-caveat: do not mix with alcohol. Kava is synergistic with alcohol and amplifies its effects. On the flip side, a positive kava-caveat:  it's anesthetic to the urinary tract and will reduce the pain of a UTI. Take note however, it'll stop the burning but won't clear the infection. 

Anti-anxiety/relaxation effects are also achieved by blending herbs for a team effort. Formulas are said to be an attempt to build a better plant, one that offers a desired effect. When creating my Urban Stress formula, that desired effect was an ability to maintain calm in an otherwise nerve-jangling setting. It contains passionflower, valerian and crampbark. 

Passionflower promotes calm and relaxation. It's particularly useful against mental worry, those circular thoughts that can keep folks awake at night. So it's also in my Buenas Noches sleep formula. Here I blend it with California Poppy and Chamomile. The poppy sounds ominous, but it's a gentle herb containing zero opiates and traditionally used with cranky children.

Simply feeling down can be another consequence of consuming too much heavy news. One pleasant and delicious attitude adjustment herb is Lemon Balm, also called Melissa. The Eclectic physicians (doctors who used herbs and were active at the turn of the last century) included Lemon Balm in their Joy Tonic, to lift the spirits and offer calming support for the nervous system. And by the way, it's also anti-viral. For one cup of tea, pour boiling water over a teaspoon of dried herb. Or make a pitcher and drink it iced. Fresh Melissa makes a beautiful and effective tincture (dry herb can also be used, but does not produce the same vivid jade green color). 

The calming effects of herbs can also be enjoyed via topical application, in a bath or as a lotion. Often worry and tension can produce a stiff neck or sore back. Nerve Balm salve offers a combination of herbs that provide an analgesic effect to nerve tissue: St. John's Wort, Tamanu, Menthol, Arnica and Chili. This formula is also available as a lotion. 

During stressful times, remember that plants can help.


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