In case you missed the first two segments of this series by Zen and Tonic's Clinical Herbalist April Cockshutt, please go back and read them. In the first article, April introduced us to two types of herbs- Adaptogens and Nervines. In Article #2, April went into more detail about adaptogenic herbs, outlining two of her favourite types and how to use them.
In this article, she will discuss Nervines more closely.
Nervines are herbs that act therapeutically on our nervous system. With the ability to provide key nutrients to feed our nervous system, as well as provide sedative properties to calm the mind and reduce worry, they are essential during times of anxiety & stress.
Nervine herbs exist in three categories:
This group of herbs strengthen and “feed” the nervous system. During times of debility, chronic stress and anxiety, these herbs are able to restore the body and aid in reducing the overwhelming number of demands on the body. Nervine tonic herbs include: Oat Straw, Borage, St. John’s Worth (*Do NOT use if on anti-depressants), Blue Vervain, Periwinkle and more.
What’s April’s favourite Nervine Tonic?
OAT STRAW (Avena sativa):
Yes, this herb is in fact from one our favorite breakfasts – oats! However, Oat straw offers many more medicinal properties and is much more nutrient rich than our conventional oatmeal, as it comes from the milky green oats tops of the unripen grain.
When it comes to our nervous system, there is no other herb that offers the same support and tonifying effects as does Oat straw.
It is extremely beneficial in cases of depression, (anxiety?), MS, Myalgia, during pregnancy, and many other nervous system ailments.
How to use: Oat straw tea, Oat straw tincture, topically in Oat straw bath salts, similar benefits also seen through consuming organic oatmeal.
When to use: As Oat straw is a very supporting and nutrient dense it is wonderful to use all the time. It is most helpful during times of nervous exhaustion, anxiety and when mind needs to calm down. It is also great to use for connective tissue health, to support tendon repair, recovery after surgery and for skin conditions.
This group of nervine herbs are beneficial in times of tension, overwhelming anxiety and when the mind needs to relax and be at peace. These herbs enable the mind to think more clearly instead of being blinded by anxiousness and other emotions. Nervine relaxant herbs include; Lavender, Chamomile, Passionflower, Linden, Skullcap, Lemon balm and more.
What’s April’s favorite Nervine Relaxant?
LEMON BALM (Melissa officinalis):
This lemony tasting herb is wonderful for some many reasons. As a member of the mint family, Lemon balm has been used for centuries to reduce stress, anxiety, and support proper digestion. Be sure to enjoy a Lemon balm tea or include this delicious herb in many of your recipes to enjoy it’s relaxing and healing benefits for the whole body.
How to use: Lemon balm tea, Lemon balm tincture, added to salads and other meals
When to use: Lemon balm is both a nervous system tonic and relaxant, providing many therapeutic benefits. It is best to use during times of anxiety, depressive moods, hyperthyroidism, headaches, as well as for digestive disturbances such as bloating and flatulence.
These herbs work directly on stimulating the nervous system. During times of anxiety, hyperactivity, depression or tension, stimulants are best avoided as they may heighten these feelings and emotions. Nervine stimulants to avoid include coffee, kola, green & black tea.
As helpful as these herbs can be, their effects vary individually and they cannot be 100% effective unless the cause of the stressors are also reduced. As we introduce nervine tonic herbs to support and strengthen our bodies during times of stress, be sure to also make a point of understanding why you are stressed, the causes and how you can decrease them. Some key stress management techniques to introduce into your weekly routine can include:
Want an easy way to add adaptogenic herbs and nervines into your routine? Try the
Zen & Tonic Unwind & Tonify Tea Recipe
Be sure to check in soon and read Zen & Tonic’s next article on the benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine for anxiety, stress and depression!
Curious or have any questions for the Zen & Tonic team? – ask away [email protected]