Feeling stressed? Aren’t we all! Thankfully, there are herbs that can come to our aid. These herbs help to soothe stress naturally and support our body through short- and long-term forms of stress.
In this article, I’m going to share 6 different herbs that can help you soothe stress naturally. You can call upon these herbs individually to see how they help you on their own. You can also try some of them together in one of the 3 herbal recipes I’ve included in this article.
Now before I tell you about the herbs and share the recipes with you, let’s first briefly talk about stress. Understanding stress is important because stress isn’t simply a mental state but something that affects your entire physical body.
In a Nutshell: Stress in the Body
Stress is a double-edged sword — meaning, it’s not always a bad thing. In fact, it can be a very good thing in certain situations. It can help us to react quickly, making a fast-paced decision, or even saving a life. However, for most of us living in the modern world, stress is an all too familiar companion. A companion that is often worn as a badge of productivity, and unfortunately, it’s damaging our body!
You see, stress has an effect on multiple body systems. The primary systems affected by stress are the nervous and endocrine systems.
These systems involve the brain, nerves, and various glands in the body. Once these systems are triggered, they, in turn, trigger other body systems, such as the digestive and cardiovascular systems. All these systems work together during times of stress to bring the body back to a balanced state.
Our body is generally able to handle fluctuations in these body systems. However, when the body is under a constant state of stress, damage can eventually occur in these systems. Thankfully, there are plants that can come to our aid on a regular basis. These plants not only strengthen and tone these body systems but also soothe stress naturally as well. These benefits both assist the body to better handle the demands that stress puts on it.
When it comes to using herbs to soothe stress naturally, there are several categories of herbs that are used.
- Nervines: Herbs that nourish the nervous system
- Adaptogens: Herbs that support the body’s stress response as a whole
- Sedatives: Herbs that physically relax the mind and body
Below, I’ll share a couple of specific herbs in each category and explain how they work for natural stress support.
Using Nervine Herbs to Soothe Stress Naturally
Nervines are herbs that have a direct effect on the nervous system. Most times, these herbs are nourishing in nature. When you look at nervines as a whole, this group of herbs can be further broken up into three other categories — tonic nervines, relaxing nervines, and stimulating nervines. When using nervines for natural stress support, herbalists typically only use the first two groups.
Two of my favorite nervine herbs that soothe stress naturally are oats and chamomile. Both of these herbs can be used in a variety of ways and for long periods of time.
Milky oat (Avena sativa) tops (the immature seed of the oat plant) and oatstraw (what’s leftover after the mature oat seed is harvested) are both excellent for nourishing the nervous system, with milky oats being the stronger of the two. Milky oats are trophorestorative which means they are tonic-like to the nervous system, helping to restore normal function. This plant is also high in vitamins and minerals. Not only that but it’s specifically indicated during times of exhaustion and prolonged or chronic stress.
Chamomile (Matricaria recuita) flowers are a well-known nervine, but they differ from milky oats in that they are more of a relaxing nervine than a tonic nervine. Chamomile should be used during stressful times when you feel tense, irritated, or restless. Studies have shown it is very useful for those struggling with anxiety as well. Chamomile is often thought of as a children’s herb due to its gentle action in the body. But don’t let its gentleness make you feel less of it! It’s a potent herb that works well for even the strongest adults.
Both oats and chamomile can be used in teas or tinctures to help you soothe stress naturally.
Adaptogens for Natural Stress Support
Adaptogens are a newer category of herbs. These herbs have always been around, but the term “adaptogens” is a modern term. This term defines specific herbs that work to support the body’s stress response as a whole. These herbs are non-toxic. They help the body manage stress responses triggered from a variety of sources, such as emotional, physical, or environmental stress, stress from illness, etc. They also help to bring the body back into a balanced state of health.
Two of my favorite adaptogen herbs are licorice and holy basil.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root is an herb I always have on hand. It has so many uses, and when it comes to stress, it’s invaluable. Licorice has a tonic effect on the endocrine system and adrenal glands. It also has a regulating effect on the HPA axis and the immune system. Both of these systems play a role in the stress response. As a whole, licorice is indicated during times of stress where digestive ailments (like stress ulcers) and a weakened immune system (resulting in an increased chance of developing other illnesses) are common.
Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is an excellent herb! It’s indicated for periods of stress when you feel stuck or restless and don’t know what to do. At first, the herb has a stimulating effect that eventually leads to a very relaxed, grounded, and balanced feeling. Sounds perfect for getting a person out of a rut, right? I think so. Holy basil also helps create a sense of calm and focus — perfect for individuals who tend to worry a lot.
Both of these herbs can also be used in teas and tinctures. However, I personally prefer to use holy basil in tea form while using licorice in tincture form.
Using Herbal Sedatives for Natural Stress Support
When most people think of herbs for natural stress support, they think of sedatives. However, sedatives are rarely the first herbs that an herbalist uses when approaching stress. Sedatives are herbs that have a substantial relaxant effect on the body. They depress the nervous system to various degrees and help to produce a state of calm in many individuals. Herbal sedatives are mostly used in small doses and for short periods of time. This dosing guideline isn’t because sedatives are addictive like many pharmaceutical sedatives. It’s because long-term nervous system sedation isn’t good for one’s health.
With that said, two of my all-time favorite sedative herbs are passionflower and valerian root.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is for nervous, irritable individuals who are exhausted and find it difficult to relax. These individuals often have trouble getting their thoughts under control and falling asleep. This trouble creates a cycle of stress, leading to even more uncomfortable symptoms. If an individual is wound up and can’t focus, passionflower can increase a person’s concentration. It does this by cutting out excess thoughts that disrupt the ability to focus.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a well-known mild herbal sedative that is often used to help a person who can’t sleep or suffers from headaches. Studies have also shown it to be very useful for persons with obsessive and compulsive behaviors as well. In most people, valerian creates a calming effect. However, in a small percentage of people, it can have the opposite reaction. Instead of relaxing the mind and body, it can excite it. Not sure how valerian will affect you? Test a small amount out on yourself (preferably before bedtime) to see.
I prefer to use both of these herbs in tincture form, but you can use them in teas also. Just keep in mind that valerian has a strong, perfumy scent and come often overpower a tea. Personally, I like the smell and flavor of valerian, but I am familiar with the strange flavors of herbs! 😉
A Couple of Easy Recipes to Help You Soothe Stress Naturally
Below, are a few recipes you can use during periods of stress.
“Stuck In A Rut” Tea Blend
Do you ever feel stuck in life? Maybe you find yourself stuck in a particular place and can’t seem to get out of it. Perhaps you keep winding back up in the same place over and over again.
This happens to me on the regular. When I find myself in this situation, the following tea blend, which I lovingly refer to as my “stuck in a rut” tea, comes to my aid. This simple herbal blend is the best for helping to calm my heart and mind when I’m overthinking things.
After drinking a cup or two of this tea, I often find that I can think from a more logical place — either about how to get out of the rut I’m in or to find the positives of being stuck for the moment. Both being equally important!
- 1 teaspoon chamomile (Matricaria recuita) flowers
- 1 teaspoon holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) aerial parts
- 8 ounces boiled water
Combine the above ingredients together in a glass mug. Steep for 3-5 minutes (no longer as chamomile will become bitter). Strain, and enjoy as is or sweetened with a bit of honey. You can also combine these herbs in equal parts to make a tincture. You can use the tincture regularly throughout the day to help relax the mind and body when dealing with stress. You can even use it over long periods of time (3-6 months)! You can make your own tincture, or simply buy each herb as a tincture (chamomile/holy basil) and combine them into one.
“Keep Calm & Carry On” Tincture Blend
This is hands-down the most frequently used herbal stress blend in my home. It combines some of my favorite nervine and sedative herbs to help quickly calm my mind. This combination helps me to feel more settled, restful, and at peace with the world around me. I use it regularly on days where everything has me agitated and on edge. I use it if I’m having trouble sleeping. I even use it if I can feel the tension in my muscles leading to a headache. This herbal blend is my go-to formula to help me soothe stress naturally.
- 3 tablespoons chamomile (Matricaria recuita) flower
- 1 tablespoon lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) aerial parts
- 2 teaspoons passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) aerial parts
- 1 teaspoon valerian (Valeriana officinalis) root (optional)
Blend herbs and store in an air-tight, labeled container. You can also increased or decreased the measurements of this herb blend to suit your needs.
Combine 1/2 ounce by weight of your herb blend with 2 ounces by volume of brandy in a clean, glass canning jar. This will make a 1:4 ratio tincture. Cover with a piece of parchment paper and lid and label the jar. Let this sit for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily, if possible. When time is up, strain the herbs through layered cheesecloth and bottling the liquid in a labeled, glass dropper bottle. Adults take 30 drops at a time in a small amount of water 30 minutes before bed. Repeat as needed.
“Stress Balancer” Honey Butter Bites
If you’re looking for overall stress support, give these “stress balancer” honey butter bites a try. They’re quick and easy to make, and they taste great. You can even make the herbal powder blend in bulk. Simply store it in the freezer until you’re ready to make your bites.
- 2 tablespoons maca (Lepidium meyenii) root powder
- 1 tablespoon ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root powder
- 1 tablespoon astragalus (Astragalus propinquus) root powder
- 1 tablespoon eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) root powder
- 1 teaspoon licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root powder*
- Nut butter
- Raw honey
Combine your powdered herbs in a bowl and gently mix the powder until combined. Add just enough nut butter to the powder to make a dry mix that crumbles easily. Sweeten to taste with honey to moisten the dough so it sticks together. Roll the balls into 1-inch balls and refrigerate them in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks. If the balls are too sticky, simply add more of the powdered mix to them until they’re the perfect texture. Eat 1-2 tonic bites a day.
*If you are pregnant, have heart or kidney disease, or struggle with any kind of fluid retention, omit licorice root powder and replace it with cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) bark powder instead.
Stressful Times First Call for Herbal Measures
So let me ask you again — feeling stressed?
If your answer is “yes” at any point, my hope is that this article has opened your mind to some incredible herbs (and recipes) that are available to aid and help you soothe stress naturally.
These plants are (mostly) gentle and can be used on a regular basis. Of course, this is no excuse to go crazy with the dosages. One should always be mindful of taking the recommended amount each day. However, it does offer you a bit of freedom to explore these herbs to see how they work for you as an individual. Not only that but herbs are an excellent first step when it comes to stress management alongside other lifestyle changes.