By Gianne Rayandayan Clinical Herbalist
It’s summer and time to chill! Many of us are redefining our relationship to R&R as a necessity, not a luxury. From a health standpoint, it is very important for your body to take it easy– not just on vacation, but regularly! If this sounds more than a little difficult (it is for many of us!) herbs can really come to the rescue! In fact, many people start their exploration into herbal medicine with acute remedies for nervousness. This is totally great, especially if you are needing quick support and are not ready to take on a more involved protocol. Herbs that nourish and support the central nervous system– also called ‘nervines’-- are non-habit forming, and many of them offer long-term benefits in addition to short-term relaxation. Some act as acute ‘relaxants’, some as ‘tonics’ that nourish your nervous system over time, and many overlap these two categories.
Two big ways that nervine herbs differentiate themselves from pharmaceuticals are their safety and their nuance. Not only do herbs exhibit a very low side-effect profile and low potential for habit-forming, they can be tailored to very specific imbalances and presentations.
As-Needed Nervine Relaxants
For example, Calm Restore by Gaia, is well-suited for moments of stressful over-thinking bordering on temporary overwhelm! Its first two ingredients– Scullcap and Passionflower– are GABA-promoting herbs that calm overactive brain signaling. This complements the grounding effects of Vervain, a cooling bitter nervine tonic that relaxes tension and promotes a rest-and-digest state. Lavender, another key ingredient in this formula, has been studied to be highly effective for acute, situational anxiety (like getting on an airplane or giving a speech!) You can even feel Lavender’s fast-acting effects by smelling the essential oil, diffusing it, or taking a clinical-grade capsule. Scent bypasses the gut and blood-brain barrier and affects the brain very quickly. Our Nerve Less Herbal Gummies combine Lavender and Skullcap to settle the nerves, with all the benefits of nutritive tonics like Milky Oat Seed (more on tonics in a little bit!).
For people whose anxiety manifests physically as well as mentally– chest-tightening, a rapid heartbeat, tense muscles, along with a sense of doom and gloom– our Remedy Anxiety-Ease tincture is a fantastic option to try. Unlike Calm Restore, this formula highlights the herbs’ antispasmodic action-- relaxing muscles and supporting the parasympathetic nervous system. Night Blooming Cereus and Pulsatilla are both potent nervine relaxants. Serious Relaxer is another great formula geared towards relaxing cold, tense states by bringing circulation and relaxing skeletal muscles.
Tonics and Adaptogens
If, after a while, you find yourself leaning heavily on nervine relaxants, it may benefit you to begin incorporating nervous system tonics. These are herbs that provide essential trace minerals and nutrients to soothe and strengthen your nervous system over time. What’s more, working with adaptogens is a must for anyone looking to truly manage stress. If you are unfamiliar with the idea of adaptogens, we recommend checking out our Adaptogens 101 blogpost!
A classic nervous system tonic herb is Avena sativa, or Oat! The fresh milky tops and straw are rich in nutrients like Magnesium, Calcium, B vitamins, all of which strengthen and soothe a depleted nervous system. In fact, drinking Oatstraw in tea form is an excellent way to benefit from these minerals daily. The longer the steeping time, the better! We actually combine Oatstraw with several nervine relaxants like Skullcap, Chamomile, and Passionflower in our Remedy Rest RX tea blend! You can also find this herb in our Zzzzz sleep tincture which, like our tea, features tonics and relaxants acting in concert with one another.
To bring it all together, Natura Tranquility blends all of these wonderful herbs we’ve discussed (and more) into one of the highest quality nervous system tonics we carry. In this formula, Western herbs work synergistically with Traditional Chinese Medicine Herbs like Magnolia Bark, Saffron, and Jujube Seed. The latter is shown to promote GABA and serotonin– two key components of any anxiolytic formula! This would be excellent as a daily supplement to chill out even the most stressed of folks.
To Consider…Lastly, CBD is certainly up there in terms of ‘Herbs for Chill’! That being said, not all CBD is created equal and everyone responds to it differently. CBD may work incredibly well for some people, while also having little effect on others (this goes for all herbs, by the way!) If you know that CBD works for you or you’d like to start your journey with this particular herb extract, stop by the pharmacy and we can help get you started on a dose that suits your needs! We stock a clinical-grade full spectrum extract by Ananda, which is the only CBD company that does regular batch-testing and has whitepapers to support their products’ efficacy! For more general info on CBD, check out our CBD 101 and FAQ blogpost!
In addition to any of the herbs we’ve discussed, supplementing with a good quality Magnesium, B-complex, and/or omega-3 fatty acids are a golden ticket for true nervous system support. Lifestyle adjustments also go a long way– unplugging from electronics as much as possible, getting natural light and sitting on bare earth are good places to start. We encourage you to be present with whatever moment of ‘chill’ you happen to be in!