5 herbs that can reduce stress and anxiety
Have you been wondering about how to help your stress levels by taking a more natural approach?
You might be wondering what herbalism is, whether it is an effective way to manage anxiety, and which herbs are the best to bring about a sense of calm.
What is herbalism and how does it work?
Growing in the natural world, the word ‘herb’ encompasses every part of the plant, from the flowers back to its roots. Herbalism is the ancient tradition of using herbs for their healing properties. Not only can herbs help with overall health, but plant based-medicine is also a lovely way to connect with nature and its seasonal rhythms.
In her article, How to grow your own well-being with herbalism, Katie Hoare talks about the healing powers of plants. She says, “We share the same ancestors as plants. We have evolved together. This is demonstrated through the interaction of plant compounds with receptors located within the human body, compounds which can be almost identical to hormones or neurotransmitters.”
So which herbs are good for stress and anxiety?
We all feel anxious from time to time, especially during a stressful period or big life change like starting a new job or moving house. We might feel tense, irritated, worried, or nervous – manifesting in both physical and emotional sensations. If it’s been going on for a while, it might start to feel a bit overpowering so you may be looking for some natural ways to relieve these symptoms of stress. There are many herbs that can be of benefit, but let’s have a look at five that can reduce stress and anxiety.
Lavender might remind us of warm summer days and the sound of buzzing bees, but did you know it can be used to improve sleep and reduce blood pressure? Lavender is a flowering plant belonging to the mint family. It can be used to make teas and is also a common essential oil used by aromatherapists to aid relaxation and reduce stress. You could even try growing some lavender in your garden or windowsill. Growing herbs is such a lovely way to connect with plant medicine and the beauty of something blossoming from a simple seed to a flower.
Lavender can be added to a warm bath before bedtime as it’s recommended for those who struggle to drift off. It is best to speak to an aromatherapist for advice on which oils need diluting and if they suit your individual needs. Aromatherapy can help people living with anxiety as a complement to other therapies such as counselling.
This is one of my personal favourites. Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub and can act as a natural aid for stress, sleep, energy levels, low libido, and concentration. So how does it work?
An early study shows that ashwagandha may help those living with anxiety or anxiety-related disorders by reducing the activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. It sounds more complicated than it is – the HPA is basically responsible for regulating the body’s stress response. Some people like to take this herb as a supplement in capsule or powder form but you can even get it in some skincare products.
Known as Earth’s natural valium, you might have already come across the herb valerian before. It’s often used in natural sleep supplements because of its calming effect on the brain. In fact, valerian root has been used for a long time to treat stress and insomnia – even since the Middle Ages.
Even though more research needs to be done in terms of how valerian works in the body, it is thought certain compounds stimulate serotonin, our ‘happy hormone’. High doses of valerian have been linked to drowsiness so just be aware of when you take it and how much.
Just because herbs are natural, it doesn’t always mean it’s safe for you to take them so please always check with your GP before deciding which ones are right for you.
If you need an instant hug in a mug, chamomile can make a calming herbal tea. You can either use fresh or dried but always make sure you have checked to make sure the ones you are using are safe to ingest. If you are using fresh herbs, rinse them first, then add hot water. If using dried herbs, you might find using a strainer a bit easier.
Chamomile can also be used as an essential oil to aid relaxation and boost the immune system. Essential oils are not only used to encourage relaxation but are also used to treat an ailment or illness. Aromatherapy uses essential oils extracted from plants and flowers to support the body’s natural healing abilities. Chamomile is used by aromatherapists to treat anxiety, digestive complaints, inflammation, and insomnia.
Maybe you’ve added a little rosemary to a soup before to bring out some flavour. But did you know it has many health benefits too? Rosemary is an evergreen shrub with a woody aroma known for its soothing properties; it has long been popular in herbal medicine.
Diffusing or inhaling rosemary as an oil can be an effective way to decrease the stress hormone, cortisol. A study shows that rosemary oil may even lessen test anxiety. It showed that graduate nursing students’ pulse rate and test anxiety were reduced after breathing rosemary oil from an inhaler. You can also apply rosemary oil to your skin but it’s best to seek advice from a qualified aromatherapist to find out how to dilute oils. If not applied correctly, you may find certain oils irritate the skin. Rosemary can be used to treat stress as well as cognitive function, mild pain and circulation.
To find out more about herbalism and how it can help you, contact a professional herbalist today.