Updated: Apr 14
The past several years have been super stressful for many of us. Thankfully, there is a world of healing plants that can help. In herbalism, there are herbs referred to as adaptogens and nervines that can both be very beneficial during times like these.
An adaptogen refers to an herb or mushroom that contains components that support the neuroendocrine systems and help with resiliency in dealing with physical and emotional stress. They can help combat fatigue, depression, insomnia, and brain fog. Adaptogens are typically used to help support the body. Which can be a big help when you are exhausted or dealing with stress.
Let's talk about nervines, they are herbs that can aid in relaxation. They have been found to have a positive effect on the nervous system. Nervines also have been found to have health benefits in helping musculoskeletal pain. Our bodies are so complex, and herbalism can seem overwhelming, and almost endless options to pick from. Here are some of my favorite herbs:
First up is Tulsi (a.k.a. “Holy basil”). Tulsi can be an excellent supportive herb during times of stress. It is highly regarded in Ayurveda as an adaptogenic herb. It tastes delicious on its own but also goes nicely with other herbs in a blend. I like to add it to my tea, but it can also be taken as an extract or in capsules. I’ve personally found Tulsi to be a great ally when I’m feeling exhausted or burned out from stress. It is also helpful when I am feeling worried or anxious. It has a nice, calming effect.
Similarly, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) can be a great support for anxiety and depression. This is an herb that is in the mint family. It has an uplifting lemony taste. It is helpful for sleep and also supports digestion, which is a great combination especially to take near bedtime. It is quite gentle and can also be taken throughout the
day. Many mothers find this herb to be helpful in getting their kids to wind down when they are over-stimulated. It is known to also have some anti-viral properties. It is one of the favorites that I grow annually in my garden. I love it as a tea and in the form of a vegetable glycerine tincture (also known as a glycerite, made without alcohol).
Skullcap (Scutellaria Latiflora) is a wonderful and gentle nervine. This herb is often used for insomnia, nervous exhaustion, and calming worrisome or circular thoughts. I have also seen it used in formulas for people who are recovering from addiction. Excellent as either a tea or a tincture.
Eleuthero root (sometimes referred to as “Siberian ginseng”) is an adaptogenic herb. It can be a nice alternative to taking ginseng, which is an endangered plant. It is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). People who suffer from chronic fatigue would benefit from using this root. It supports stamina and endurance. In Chinese medicine, it is said to “invigorate qi (chi or energy).” In western herbalism, Eleuthero is commonly used to support overall health and energy levels. This is also excellent when recovering energy after convalescing. I have taken it in powdered form and added it to a smoothie though it can also be added to tea or simmered as a decoction.
Let's talk about mushrooms. There are so many benefits to eating mushrooms as well as taking them in extracts. But for the sake of this article, I will narrow it down to discuss one mushroom in particular (even though I really just want to shout from the mountaintops about how so many mushrooms are amazing.
Cordyceps mushroom is an adaptogen that has been found beneficial to support energy and support the respiratory system. A great combination would be combining cordyceps and reishi mushrooms in a tincture. Don't get me wrong cordyceps can be beneficial on its own. I personally have used cordyceps during times when my energy was feeling very low, as a result of STRESS.
The thing to be aware of with adaptogens is that they work best for bringing the body into balance. They do not necessarily need to be taken indefinitely. Let me compare it to drinking coffee. Let’s say you drink a cup of coffee and you then decide you want to drink more throughout the day. What happens? You end up super caffeinated and likely will have trouble falling asleep. Similarly, with adaptogens, moderation is key. Especially if what you ultimately need is rest.
One more thing to mention while herbs are helpful, make sure you always look at your daily habits. For example, are you drinking enough water throughout the day? What are you eating? Are you getting enough sleep? Sometimes the solutions are right in front of us. In the meantime, it is nice to know the different natural herbs that can offer a benefit to our overall well-being.
This article is only for educational purposes and is not intended to be used as medical advice. Before taking and/or using any of the herbs or mushrooms mentioned in this article please contact your doctor first.
A special thanks to Lyra owner of Spiral Moon Herbcraft https://spiralmoonherbcraft.com/ for writing this blog.