Sometime we just need a little stress relief, a natural way to relax without having to take OTC drugs or prescription medications just to wind down. There are quite a few effective, safe, and natural ways to relax and calm yourself when faced with extra tension and perhaps anxiety.
Many of these herbal medicine remedies work great when used in the form of a tea – see article below for more details. Know that many of these herbal remedies have been known for years (even centuries) to be effective for natural stress relief. Many are used as sleeping aids – if you look at the ingredients in popular herbal sleeping remedies, you will see various combinations of these herbs.
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Do you ever just feel like you need to take a pill to take the edge off?
Well a lot of us get extra stressed around the holiday season, and if you don’t want to take something that will totally knock you out, try a gentle relaxing cup of sedative tea instead of popping a pill….
I have included a brief blurb so that you can get an idea of the herbs that will work best for your constitution.Please always check with your naturopathic physician before combining herbs with prescription drugs. Do not take sedative herbs during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
#1 Passionflower- The intricate purple flower pictured above was shown to be as effective as sedatives in the benzodiazepine (valium) family, the aerial parts of this herb are great for nervous tension and anxiety. In recent research, passion flower extract at 45 drops daily (tincture) was shown to be as effective as oxazepam (similar to valium). This nervine herb is also “antispasmodic” which makes it great for people with constant nervous twitching.
#2 Ashwaganda- This is probably one of my favorite herbs, which is why it got the award for “Best Herb of 2007.” Unlike most of the herbs on this list that are designed to be taken at night or at least late afternoon, both ashwaganda and schisandra (listed below) are terrific “adaptogenic” herbs that help us tolerate our stressful days that much better. You can make some tea, or grab some capsules of the organic root and take two capsules twice a day.
This herb is specifically intended for those that are exhausted and agitated or debilitated by stress. In ayurvedic medicine ashawganda is a renowned anti-aging and rejuvenating herb.
#3 Schisandra- Referred to as “Chinese Prozac” this herb is commonly unappreciated and underutilized in American herbal practice. Schisandra is a terrific day time adaptogen herb and should be taken as is recommended with Ashwaganda, two capsules with breakfast and lunch, or a cup of tea in the morning and afternoon. The berries can be made in to a nice aperitif for those with a low libido.
#4 California Poppy- The bright orange flowers of the California poppy, leaves and other aerial parts are sedative, anti-spasmodic, and mild pain relievers. This is also a gentle herb used for colic and agitation in children. Do not use this herb or any other sedative herbs in pregnancy.
#5 Hops- No I am not recommending that you drink more beer to calm down. However, the herb commonly used to make beer bitter also works as a sedative. It is extremely bitter though so is best given a small part in your herbal tea formula for insomnia or stress. Do not combine with prescription sleep aids due to an additive effect.
#6 Kava Kava- A well known Polynesian psychotropic sedative, this herb is sedative and “spasmolytic” and thus helpful for chronic pain conditions. Several conflicting studies debate the safety of using this herb with alcohol. Liver damage is thought to occur if used in large doses in conjunction with alcohol. This research however was used to scare many people away from using kava kava for whatever reason.
People need to simply remember that herbs are medicines and that an herb with actions similar to prescription sleep aids and analgesics will of course pack the same side effects. A strong herb demands respect. When used ceremoniously, or occasionally this herb does not run the risks it runs when it is heavily abused.
The best way to safely use kava kava is in an organic tea form. Look for a tea blend that includes kava, or make your own. This herb should not be used in large doses, and large doses should not be used over long term. Do not combine with alcohol, or use during pregnancy or nursing. Chronic abuse will result in a horrible scaly skin rash.
#7 Lavender- Try adding lavender to your favorite baked good recipe. Purple lavender flowers will offer a sophisticated herbal makeover to your favorite shortbread cookies, or white tea cakes.
Lavender is great in your herbal medicine blend, and can also be used to stuff pillows, or as an aromatherapy stress reliever throughout the day. Lavender should not be used in pregnancy due to it’s emmenagogue effect.
#8 Lemon Balm- Also known as “Melissa officinalis” this herbal sedative should not be used by those with hypothyroidism as it inhibits the thyroid and is used to treat hyperthyroidism, however for everyone else it is a common simple herb to grow in your garden and make in to your own calming sedative tincture each summer. Do not use this herb in pregnancy.
I grow lemon balm in my garden and harvest it, rinse it, let it dry and then pack it in a jar with enough room for it to swim around in some vodka. Shake the jar once a day for two weeks. The vodka will extract the constituents and after a few weeks you can strain out the plant part leftovers and put a half a teaspoon of this liquid “anxiety medicine” in a little bit of water when you need something to calm you down.
Traditional Herbal Sedative Use: Establishing a nighttime or daytime tea ritual is a great way to reduce stress, avoid binge eating, and help those that fight insomnia get to sleep at a decent hour.
Don’t forget to have your pot of tea with one of my favorite “Bedtime Snacks for Insomniacs.” Also if you tend to be one of those that gets troubled by having to use the restroom in the middle of the night, be sure to drink your tea at least 90 minutes prior to your expected bed time.
Directions: For most of these herbs simply make a tea with about 1 tsp (milder herbs use a tablespoon) to 8 oz cup of boiling water. Allow to steep covered 15 minutes. Or if you aren’t a tea drinker just look for a pre-made organic herbal formula to take in tincture or capsule form, and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Common Sense Cautions: Please check with your naturopathic physician before combining any herbal medicines with prescription medications or making any changes to your health care routine. Women that are pregnant or breastfeeding should never use any herbs unless prescribed by their naturopathic midwife.