Five lesser-known herbs for STRESS & ANX­I­ETY

You've heard of laven­der, chamomile and lemon balm, right? Well, here are five herbs you might not have heard of that also help to melt away stress.

Herbs & Superfoods - - Herbs For Sleep & Stress -

Ash­wa­gandha

Ash­wa­gandha ( Witha­nia som­nifera), some­times called In­dian gin­seng, is one of the best herbs for com­bat­ing stress. It's used as both a tonic and a cal­ma­tive. It helps strengthen the body's re­sponse to stress, and en­hances our abil­ity to cope with anx­i­ety and fight fa­tigue. It helps the body to ‘adapt' to sit­u­a­tions, main­tain­ing a ‘nor­mal­is­ing' in­flu­ence on the body.

While the leaves and fruit do have ther­a­peu­tic prop­er­ties, it's the root that is most com­monly used in Western herbal remedies. The dried root is used in teas (via de­coc­tion) and tinc­tures.

Grow it: Ash­wa­gandha is an ev­er­green shrub that grows 30cm-60cm high. It's frost ten­der but in cooler cli­mates you can grow it in con­tain­ers and move the con­tain­ers un­der shel­ter over win­ter. Ash­wa­gandha likes full sun to part shade and fairly dry con­di­tions.

Although it is a peren­nial, in In­dia plants are grown as an­nu­als as the fresh root is har­vested af­ter a year's growth. The root is then dried in the sun.

Ver­vain

Ver­vain ( Ver­bena of­fic­i­nalis) has a calm­ing ef­fect on the ner­vous sys­tem. It also has a positive ef­fect on mood. For this rea­son, it's com­monly used to treat stress and anx­i­ety, and con­di­tions caused by stress such as pain, mus­cu­lar ten­sion, in­som­nia, de­pres­sion and headaches.

It is also used as a restora­tive for ner­vous ex­haus­tion and fa­tigue, es­pe­cially af­ter bouts of emo­tional stress.

Ver­vain is an an­ti­spas­modic, which means it helps to ease mus­cu­lar spasms, cramps and con­vul­sions. It ben­e­fits women who have pre­men­strual or menopausal anx­i­ety, or is­sues re­lated to hor­monal fluc­tu­a­tions.

Ver­vain can be taken as a tea, or by tinc­ture, but should not be used while preg­nant or breast­feed­ing. Ver­vain in­fu­sions can in­hibit iron ab­sorp­tion and stim­u­late the uterus.

Grow it: Ver­vain is a hardy, herba­ceous peren­nial that grows to 1.2m high. Plant in well-drained soil in full sun. It will ac­tu­ally grow on fairly poor soil and needs no main­te­nance once es­tab­lished. Bees love its li­lac-blue flow­ers.

Har­vest the aerial (above-ground) parts just be­fore the flow­ers open.

Skull­cap

Skull­cap ( Scutel­laria la­t­er­i­flora) is a great herb for peo­ple who eas­ily snap over mi­nor is­sues. It suits uptight, an­gry peo­ple, in­clud­ing teenagers.

Skull­cap acts on the nerves, so is used as a nervine re­lax­ant and restora­tive, help­ing to al­le­vi­ate anx­i­ety and stress, and re­viv­ing those with ner­vous ex­haus­tion. It is of­ten taken to re­lieve mus­cle ten­sion or ner­vous tics, and it is ex­cel­lent for sleep.

Skull­cap is fre­quently used with passionflower as an over­all herbal mind-body seda­tive, and helps peo­ple who have too much en­ergy and who have not man­aged to com­pletely ex­haust them­selves be­fore they hit the hay at night.

Skull­cap can be taken as an in­fu­sion of dried plant parts (tea), though bear in mind it's not par­tic­u­larly pleas­ant. Many peo­ple pre­fer to take it in tinc­ture form where it can be taken quickly – though this is also not so pleas­ant tast­ing.

Grow it: This hardy, herba­ceous peren­nial, also known as mad dog skull­cap, pro­duces at­trac­tive blue-pur­ple flow­ers that grow on up­right stems that reach 30cm-60cm. Plants pre­fer moist, fer­tile soil. In hot, dry ar­eas, grow in shade. All parts of the plant are used and har­vested late in flow­er­ing.

Kava

De­rived from the root of Piper methys­ticum, kava, or kava kava, mostly acts as a re­lax­ant, and is of­ten used as a rem­edy for sleep.

How­ever, the plant re­ceived bad press and, in some coun­tries, out­right bans when it be­gan to be overused and then was linked to some liver dis­or­ders.

New Zealand al­lows it, thanks in part to the Kiwi herbal­ists who lob­bied against its ban. A sub­mis­sion to the medicines clas­si­fi­ca­tion com­mit­tee stated that a num­ber of re­views of kava's tox­i­c­ity to the liver by prom­i­nent herbal ex­perts found that the risk was at best very low, and there was lit­tle con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence of a causative link.

Like any­thing, it's about sen­si­ble use. Used re­spon­si­bly, kava is ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial for com­bat­ing sleep and anx­i­ety is­sues. It can be taken as a root de­coc­tion, or the pow­dered root can be taken in cap­sule form. You can buy empty veg­etable cap­sules from re­tail or online health stores and fill your own.

Check with your doc­tor first be­fore us­ing kava. Avoid while preg­nant.

Grow it: As a trop­i­cal plant, kava is hap­pi­est be­tween 20˚C and 25˚C. In its nat­u­ral habi­tat, it grows un­der jun­gle canopy, so it likes par­tial shade in moist, free-drain­ing soil, and some hu­mid­ity.

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