By Teresa Boardwine
It is my belief that there is a physiological and emotional aspect to each symptom, imbalance and disease. Our nervous system is taxed with the busy “things to-do” list, sleep deficiency, stress of jobs and relationships or lack thereof. How can herbal medicine, nutrition and supplements help? Plants and nature can aid the body, mind and spirit to rejuvenate, provide inspiration and balance the demands of our lives.
Herbs are plants that provide vital nutrients, phytochemicals and energetic support of humans to balance, support and tone. The herbs for the nervous system vary from a gentle nervine like lemon balm to the more intense anxiolytic herb like kava. Lemon balm (melissa officinalis) offers its aromatic lemon volatile oils to our brain promotes joy and productivity, it grows easily and make a delicious tea which “gladdens the heart”.
The herb I like for anxiety is kava (piper methysticum), grown mostly in Hawaii and the South Pacific, works wonders to quiet anxiety and promote peace and euphoria. There are many herbs known to relieve tension and offer support to stressed lives, like passion flower (passiflora incarnate). Passion flower is one of my favorites to enjoy in the evening before bedtime to release the tension in the shoulders and promote restful sleep. Skullcap (scutelaria laterifolia) is useful for busy minds that need a rest and it also rejuvenates the nerves.
There are deeper diagnosed conditions and symptoms of depression, lack of focus, excessive thoughts and insomnia that are challenging to any individual. Herbs may not be the cure but can certainly be of help to balance the physical, emotion and mental imbalances.
When there is a dark cloud hanging over our heads, we can look to a wonderful herb known to us casually as black cohosh (actea racemous), used for rheumatism, hormonal imbalance but it also helps relieve the pressure from congested cervical vertebrae, compromised by whiplash. Released, the congested cerebral spinal fluid may be the headache or depression remedy specific to an individual who was rear-ended. Others may be best served by an anti-inflammatory nervine that I use for sciatica, shingles and fried nerves, St. John’s wort (hypericum perforatum). It may not be the best for depression but it will help to repair the nerves. To boost well-being, raise spirits and generally promote a happier nervous system, I like to include damiana (turnera diffusa), known as the happy herb and lemon balm, the gladdening herb and bacopa. Bacopa is an ayurvedic herb that is said to stimulate memory and generally feed the brain. It works with antidepressant herbs well and increases a sense of well-being.
For anyone dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or have long-term stress, adrenal adaptogens may be needed to build resistance to stress. Adaptogens have been used in many cultures to build support, boost vitality and promote chi. Siberian ginseng, now known as eleuthero (eleutherococcus senticosus), was studied by Russian scientists in the 1950s. They discovered that it fortifies the individual and takes them out of fight-or-flight mode.
These herbs combine easily into teas or tinctures to provide support to an individual finding herself frayed from the worries of the world. Several herbal supplement companies make capsule formulas which target letting go of stress internally. As always, look for quality products. When you find yourself in need of nervous system support you may just want to find a local herbalist to consult. However you proceed, you might want to look up the herbs, read about them and always buy quality. May you find relief from the stressors of life by reestablishing your health and balance with plant medicine.
Teresa Boardwine teaches and conducts clinical consultations at Green Comfort School of Herbal Medicine. She is a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild and has lectured throughout the country on a variety of topics related to herbs and healthy living. For more information, call 540-937-4283, email Green.Comfort@gmail.com or visit GreenComfortHerbSchool.com.