|Posted on August 20, 2015 at 12:10 AM|
It seems more and more people are becoming very stressed out from day to day life, and many of them are turning to prescription medication for help, but drugs may be unpredictable and a potentially dangerous choice. Especially in Europe, scientists are taking a look at a safer alternative—herbs.
Herbalists use a class of herbs called nervines to help with many kinds of nervous disorders and physical nerve damage. The term nervine is a catch-all that refers to any herb with a beneficial effect on the nervous system. There are several categories of these time-tested herbs, and they work best when used in conjunction with other natural healing methods such as adequate sleep, deep breathing, exercise, and dietary changes.
As with most herbs, the fresher the better. Herbal sedatives in particular lose their strength as they age. Herbs such as valerian, hops, and passion flower retain more of their medicinal properties when they are extracted fresh or freeze-dried. Look for an expiration or manufacturing date on the bottle.
Liquid extracts (tinctures) retain properties longer than other types of preparations. The next best choice is a freeze-dried, powdered extract or a freshly dried powdered herb. Whole or cut-and-sifted herbs in the bulk bin are least reliable for medicinal purposes because they begin to degrade when exposed to air.
There are four categories of nervine herbs: stimulants, sedatives, tonics, and antispasmodics. Although many herbs fit into each category, we’ll look at some of the most widely used and effective ones.
Sedatives are taken to ease anxiety, overexcitement, and sleep disorders. The premier sedative herb is valerian. This is especially good for anxiety and is the most well-known and best-studied herb for insomnia. Unlike sleeping pills, valerian won’t knock you out cold. What it does is help you fall asleep faster and have a sounder, more restful sleep.
Another herbal sedative is hops. Although herbalists consider valerian to be a better sleeping herb than hops, the two combined are even better in many cases. Besides its sedative effect, hops’ bitterness stimulates the digestive system. That make it especially good for people with nervous digestive disorders, such as colitis. Hops also eases the type of anxiety that leads to headaches, sleeplessness, a racing heat, and indigestion.
A third herbal sedative is passion flower. If your mind races when you lie down or you are apprehensive, passion flower should be a part of your formula.
Stimulant herbs offer a gentler way to get going than that cup of java. Rosemary is the best kind of stimulant because it also nourishes and heals the nerve endings that can become physically irritated by stress. It is particularly effective for someone who is run-down from stress, especially mental strain. When you’re feeling run-down and need some energy, theobroma extract is a stimulant with a kick but no bite. Although related to caffeine, it is milder and doesn’t leave you with that jagged caffeine feeling.
One notch up the stimulant scale is ma huang, commonly called ephedra. Because it contains ephedrine, it also dilates the bronchial tubes, bringing more oxygen to the lungs and drying up the mucous membranes.
A few herbs really stand out in their ability to repair and nourish the nervous system when it is damaged or weakened by things such as drug abuse. Sow your wild oat if you are withdrawing from drugs, caffeine, or cigarettes. Take it for a few weeks during the initial stages, and after that you might add an herbal sedative. St. John’s wort is one of the best herbs for preparing damaged nerves. If a nerve is severed, pinched, or bruised, rub St. John’s wort oil on several times a day, and take the tea 3 times a day. Women in a German study reported St. John’s wort improved their symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia and anorexia. For this purpose, it is best to take the standardized extract tablets, since they have reliable amounts of hypercin, the active antidepressant ingredient.
Contrary to the name, these are not for leg cramps. Instead they quiet spasms that occur in the smooth muscles, such as those in the digestive system, lungs, or uterus.
Europeans have long known that the culinary herb thyme, made into a syrup or tea, is one of the best remedies for persistent coughs. For the digestive system, chamomile reigns supreme as an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory herb. In spastic colitis, chronic gas and chronic diarrhea, you may get results as soon as 10 days to two weeks. In stubborn cases, you might have to take it for up to three months. Chamomile is so gentle and pleasant tasting that it can be fed to babies to ease colic (add 1/3 more water). Breastfeeding mothers can drink the tea, but the babies will only get a tiny amount that way.
Peppermint is an excellent herb for occasional stomach aches or gas pains.
Vitex, also called chaste tree berry, is the most popular women’s herb in Europe. German studies show that it works on the pituitary gland to balance the hormones that cause cramping. Besides helping cramps, vitex also eases premenstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms, and helps irregular menstrual cycles or profuse periods.
Nervines are safe and effective medicines when taken in the right dosages and in high-quality preparations. Please remember that herbal remedies must be tailored to a person’s unique constitution and condition. No one herbal nervine is a panacea for a given problem, and again, herbs combined with lifestyle changes give the best results. ▲
Note: This information is not intended to replace standard medical care. Always see a physician for any physical problem.