Reduce your stress DIY RECIPES
Create relaxing teas, calming bath salts and therapeutic massage oils to help lift your mood and calm your nerves.
Relaxing Herbal Tea
Herbalist Richard Whelan’s relaxing tea will take the edge off a stressful day. Use it daily to reap the full effects.
Ingredients • 25g skullcap • 25g lemon balm • 25g chamomile • 15g passionflower • 10g lavender flower
These ingredients make 100g of dried herb; enough for a few weeks of daily use. They are given to show the proportions, so you can make according to your preference.
For a more pronounced effect, you can add 2-3 heaped teaspoons to one large cup of boiling water. Cover the cup for a good 10 minutes, then strain and drink.
Add honey if desired.
This traditional recipe allows you to get a powerful effect from withania quickly. The drink nourishes and supports the nervous system, allowing for a calming effect.
For one person, take 1 heaped dessertspoon of cut or powdered withania root and put into a small saucepan.
Add a little over half a cup of milk. Add about the same amount of water so you end up having about 1½ cups of liquid in the pot.
Add about 1 teaspoon raw sugar, but be prepared to experiment with the amount. Sugar affects the taste, but more importantly, it also helps the body absorb withania.
Sprinkle in a little black pepper (pepper helps blend everything together).
Bring this mixture to just about boiling point and stir for about 5 minutes.
You should have about one large cupful. Strain into a cup and drink.
Calming chamomile and lemon balm bath
The skin readily absorbs the healing properties of herbs in a therapeutic bath. Throw a handful of lavender, chamomile flowers and Epsom salt into your bath water to help you destress. If you do not wish to have your herbs floating around you, place them in a muslin bag, or even a pair of old pantyhose.
Lavender massage oil
Lavender has a natural relaxing scent, so it’s an ideal ingredient in massage oils.
Fill a 1-litre glass jar three-quarters full with fresh lavender flowers (half full for dried petals). Before placing in the jar, allow freshly picked flowers to dry for 12 hours after picking to remove most of the moisture. Too much moisture will cause the oil to go rancid. Fill the jar with sweet almond oil (or olive oil), stopping about 3cm from the top. Stir, screw the lid on tightly, then place the jar in a warm spot for 4-6 weeks. Gently shake once a day. Strain, pour the infused oil into a glass bottle and store in a cool, dark cupboard.
Sleep-inducing bath soak
For insomnia and nervous fatigue, add 5 drops of sweet marjoram essential oil and 2 of sweet orange essential oil to your bath. Or place 1 drop of each oil on a tissue and inhale.
Beat-the-blues massage oil
To alleviate depression and aid sleep, add 2 drops each of the following essential oils to 30ml of sweet almond oil: benzoin, jasmine, lavender, neroli, petitgrain, rose, rosewood, vetiver and ylang ylang. Use it as an uplifting massage oil. Or try it as bath oil, or put a few drops in a diffuser to inhale.
Relaxation massage oil
To calm the nerves, add 5 drops of lavender and 3 drops of sandalwood to 30ml of sweet almond oil. You can also substitute mandarin or rose oil for the sandalwood if you prefer.
Try this tincture for when nerves are shot. Place two parts St John’s wort, one part skullcap, one part motherwort and one part lemon balm in a glass jar. Cover with vodka and seal the jar with a tight-fitting lid. Place in a brightly lit spot (not direct sunlight) and let the herbs soak for eight weeks. Turn and gently shake the jar once a day. Strain the herbs from the liquid and pour into a clean glass jar. Store in a cool, dark place.
Slow a racing heart
Anxious, hot or flushed? Experiencing a racing heart? Motherwort ( Leonurus cardiaca) might be the answer. This sedative and cardiac tonic is used by herbalists for the treatment of a racing heart caused by nervous disorders and anxiety attacks. It’s often used for menopausal women who are hot and anxious, and have heart palpitations. Motherwort can be used as a tea, though bear in mind that its leaves are bitter.
To make a tea, pour a cup of freshly boiled water over 1-2 teaspoons dried herb. Steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink up to two cups per day. You can add honey, spices or another, sweeter, herb to disguise the bitterness.
To make a tincture, pick the leaves and flowering tops in summer and coarsely chop. Pack a jar with the fresh material then top with vodka. Proceed as for the Calming Tincture above. Motherwort should not be used by women with heavy menstrual bleeding, or pregnant women.
Gotu kola ( Centella asiatica) is an important herb in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s valued for revitalising nerve and brain cells, promoting calmness and clarity, and helping reverse a lack of concentration. The leaves contain a cocktail of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A,B, C, D and K as well as calcium, chromium, magnesium, selenium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, potassium and silica.
To benefit from this herb’s nutrients and therapeutic properties, eat two to three leaves of about 3cm in diameter a day.
While some texts recommend taking it at night to promote a restful sleep, it’s best eaten in the morning or for lunch mixed in with your food; otherwise you may experience a burst of energy that keeps you awake.
Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Suffering from seasonal affective disorder? Make a tincture, as per the Calming Tincture, using one part St John’s wort and one part lemon balm.
Calming bath salts
These fragrant bath salts not only soothe aches and pains, they help ease tension and relax muscles.
Ingredients • 1 tablespoon sweet almond oil • 10 drops chamomile essential oil • 5 drops lavender essential oil • 3 drops tea tree oil • 1 drop lemon or mandarin oil • 3 cups Epsom salts.
Mix the sweet almond oil and essential oils together. Combine with the Epsom salts and store in a glass container. Add ½ to 1 cup to a warm bath.