The root of all health is in the brain. The trunk of it is in emotion. The branches and leaves are the body. The flower of health blooms when all parts work together. ~Kurdish Saying
Stress, anxiety and emotional turmoil behave counterintuitively to joyous holiday wishes. The unsettled heart creeps into December activities, sometimes in a sizeable manner, contaminating like metal adulteration of a pure plant extract. Physical, mental, or emotional strain becomes a problem when demands exceed resources; when this becomes overwhelming. The antidote rests in the coping. Calming herbs sit like pretty bows on gifts contributing a special touch to balancing remedies.
An exceptional herbalist named 7song generously offers his botanical perspective. In one social media post, he posed that while seeming contradictory, relaxing herbs ease tiredness. The ability of botanicals to settle the body from a rapid-fire state encourages rejuvenation. I think this applies to holiday season stress, wherever it may be coming or how manifesting. 7Song also points out that the experience of smelling, holding, and drinking warm herbal tea can alone be good medicine. So uncomplicated a remedy even in the midst of long to-do lists when other balancers like mediation, yoga or massage fit not in the plan.
Every day has potential to be overly stressful, but pressures or aggravations in December concentrate in holiday ways. Extra family responsibilities, time consuming decorating and preparations, gift buying even if time and finances do not support it, social pressures, or perhaps the opposite aloneness when everyone else seems to be surrounded. These, my personal examples, surely correspond to other’s unique experiences. Stress throughout the year relates to lifestyle, lack of sleep, aging changes, social and financial pressures, hormonal imbalances especially menopausal, depression and anxiety. The scientist who coined the term stress in the 1940’s, Hans Selye, called it the salt of life. His theory labels stress as making life worthwhile, that it is not something to be avoided and adopting the right attitude can convert negative stress into positive.
Each person has a different aptitude for stress; their reaction to it is what creates problems. Selye’s own stress management involved not fighting if he could not win or at least if he was convinced of that. Instead he gave up, admitted defeat and did something else. Sounds logical but most real life situations cannot just be ignored. The next option could be entrust support to help get through and minimize the overwhelmed, panicky response. In my life, if someone were constantly holding my hand, there to jump in weaknesses, balancing yin with yang, my stress would be much relieved. Without that hand, in the moments before panic if my body can feel calm I am better. I return to 7song’s advice. Without that hand, it is herbs that I turn to daily, first thing.
N=1/Individualizing herbal medicine
David Winston…It is the skillful combining of herbs chosen for the individual patient and their unique symptom picture that defines the true art of herbal medicine.
Categorizing herbs by their actions and effects helps break down the many herb choices to individual matches. The N=1 research model employs the idea that what happens to you and only you is enough of a study population to prove that a remedy is a good or bad personal partner. This is exactly what my teacher, David Winston’s philosophy as he teaches how to match the herb to the person and not the disease. By looking at an action category and all the herbs in it, the best-suited choice can be made, which incidentally changes and evolves with time and circumstance. Additionally, he teaches that it is the thoughtful combining of herbs that help deliver the best effect and taking one herb alone will not likely be as good. His herbal tincture company, Herbalist & Alchemist (H&A) sells thoughtfully designed compound formula tinctures with names like Serenity Compound, Phytocalm, Emotional Relief, Tension Relief, and Women’s Calmpound. Even these few examples show how diverse formula mixtures address different issues. Choosing one of these is a great place to begin if not able to work with an herbalist on an individual basis but want herbal support for stress. H&A even offers a box set to address stress in different situations
Hans Selye…Its not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.
Nervines may be one of the most useful herb categories, especially in today’s high stress world. Which one and how often will differ, but potential need for their calming nature does not. The wide variety offers ammunition against the unsettled state of tension that manifests in unique ways depending on who we are and what we are experiencing.
Nervines support nerves, the fiber bundles that send impulses to all systems in our bodies and so reach far and have wide impact. They strengthen, relax, calm, and restore. In times of stress, nervines are a best friend.
What can nervines do?
• nourish and restore shattered nerves
• provide relief for emotional instability
• restore a sense of peace and calm in overstressed times and for anxiety
• relieve anxiety spawned by hormones as in PMS or menopause
• diminish over-thinking and worry
• assuage agitation especially during withdrawal from substances like caffeine, amphetamines, cigarettes, or sleep medications
• lessen reaction responses for those who may be delicate, touchy and supersensitive, someone who cries easily often in an emotional outburst or gets rattled by small things
• release of stress induced muscle spasm or pain, headaches and nervousness
• soothe “butterflies”, nervous stomach or stress induced indigestion like heartburn, diarrhea, cramping
• alleviate insomnia with middle of the night waking and inability to get back to sleep
Nervine herbs sound too good to be true, but they are real. I have proof in my N=1 experiment. Anxiety is more than my acquaintance, certainly not a friend and without ways to ease it panic can take over. My most anxious time is the morning, thinking about the day ahead. I wake in dread, but by the time I get to the kitchen and sip my herbal formula tea, without my even being aware, my body calms down and I move on with the day.
Perhaps there is no avoiding daily life stress, no changing that it is inevitably with us no matter what we do. If help is needed to get through a time of year that is supposed to be happy, nervine herbs can help and then may continue into the New Year. Herbs are soft, subtle in their action, like a leaf blowing in a gentle wind. The calm of herbs like lemon balm, chamomile, lavender, tulsi, and passionflower, convert unbearable, burdensome stress into ways to adapt and thrive within it, even in spite of it. Equanimity – maintaining calm in periods of stress.
Calming Nervine Herbs
- Blue vervain
- Lemon balm
- Lemon grass
- Lemon verbena
- Rose petals