Like any good mom, Mother Nature always has a solution to offer us as we navigate through life’s rocky times. When stress takes over, we can lean on her for support. People have turned to plants to help them cope with stress for centuries. And many of us still do.
Using natural herbal remedies to help us keep calm and relaxed seems to be more and more popular every year. Maybe it's because life as we know it seems to get more and more hectic all the time. And in the past couple of years, new health concerns have affected everyone. So it's no wonder why people are looking high and low for ways to keep stress levels to a minimum.
Not to mention that these latest concerns have kept many of us from doing some of the things that make us happy. With all of this going on, having options at our fingertips like natural herbs to ease our stress can be so empowering. (Always check with your doctor before adding a stress supplement to your regimen.)
You’ll notice when you visit your local health food store that the shelves offer various herbal options to consider for a whole host of issues. If you’re wondering which herbs to look for to help you deal with stressful times, check out this list of seven of the most common.
The chamomile flower looks like a daisy and is part of the same family of plants called Asteraceae. It’s most commonly found as a tea either by itself or blended with other calming herbs. There are two types, German and Roman, which have similar properties and uses. Both plants have been used medicinally for sleep and stress support since the days of Hippocrates in 500 B.C.
Valerian is a perennial plant whose root has been used for stress relief and to treat insomnia, among other uses, for thousands of years. The name has often been confused with the drug Valium, but they’re unrelated. The powdered root and extract are made into capsules, tinctures, and teas and are often blended with other calming herbs in supplements. However, be careful not to mix valerian with St. John’s wort, kava, or melatonin because they don’t interact well.
Lemon Balm is an herbaceous perennial that is part of the mint family. It doesn’t have invasive roots like other mints, however. It is known traditionally to treat toothaches, fainting, and anxiety. The official name is Melissa Officinalis because of the magnetic attraction bees have to it ("Melissa" meaning bee or honey in Greek). It’s popular in tincture form and teas and capsules. Research suggests it can help to calm, reduce anxiety and improve sleep.
The Piper methysticum (“intoxicating pepper”) plant, also known as kava, is mainly grown in the Pacific Islands. Traditionally, people took it as a drink popular for its calming and euphoric effect and used it for other medicinal and ceremonial uses. Studies show that kava helps reduce anxiety and insomnia. Be careful, though, kava has been linked to liver damage in some studies, so it should be used with caution.
Lavender originated from the Mediterranean region and has been around since ancient Greek times. People have prized it for its beauty, lovely sweet flowery scent, and ability to calm and relax. As a hardy and versatile plant from the mint family, it’s found in so many products like cleaners, skincare, and food. Medicinally, it’s used to reduce anxiety, improve mood, help sleep and ease nervousness. Lavender is most commonly used as an essential oil in aromatherapy but is also found as a supplement. The supplement form is suggested as the best choice to help with anxiety. And it’s also an excellent addition to the garden.
The climbing vine called passion flower (or passionflower) is native to the U.S. southeast and Central and South America. Native peoples have used it for its sedative properties, and it was eventually brought to Europe, where it was cultivated for medicinal uses. Though research is lacking, passion flower is said to help with anxiety and sleep. You'll find it in supplements and teas. Some use it for other purposes, like ADHD, heart rhythm problems, pain, and menopausal symptoms, but there isn’t much evidence to support this.
Hops are most well known as an ingredient in beer, but they may also help reduce anxiety, sleep, menopause symptoms, and general restlessness. The plant is a vine and is part of the hemp family, Cannabinaceae. The chemicals in hops have properties similar to weak estrogen and can also cause sleepiness. You can buy hops as a supplement, often in combination with other calming herbs like valerian and passionflower.
Herbal remedies for helping you relax are not hard to find these days. Hopefully, this list steers you in the right direction and helps you choose. You might need to try a variety before you find one that works for you, but at least you have some information to get you started. But also, remember to slow down every once in a while and give yourself a break. You deserve it!