Calming Herbs and Relaxing Teas

Calming herbs and relaxing teas are important natural remedies for holistic healing and well-being. These herbs for stress and anxiety relief take the edge off the health damaging distress that results from feeling nervous, stressed out, and overwhelmed. These jewels of the plant kingdom help you face anxiety and stress provoking situations with a bit more ease. They are the perfect complement to stress reduction techniques.

What are Calming Herbs?

Herbs that help relieve stress and anxious feelings are called nervines because they nourish and strengthen the nervous system. Some act directly to restore tissue. Others have a more general effect - they help you relax or oxygenate your blood, which directly aids your nervous system. 

Nervines ease some of the more immediate and negative feelings and effects of stress and anxiety. Many have additional health benefits because they contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or other beneficial properties that do more than affect the nervous system.

Unlike adaptogenic herbs, which primarily help your body be more resilient in times of long-term stress, calming herbs have noticeable immediate effects that last a few hours.

Adaptogens may be taken daily for months at a time as tonics, while nervine herbs are generally taken a few times a day during stressful times when relieving symptoms of stress or anxiety is called for.

Which Calming Herbs Are Best for You?

Herbs for anxiety and stress relief are commonly available in grocery and health food stores as single herbs or combination remedies. You can use them in a variety of ways based on your needs and interests. Feel free to experiment and see what works best for you.

If a cup of relaxing tea is for you, look for names such as Tension Tamer by Celestial Seasonings or Kava Stress Relief by Yogi Teas (one of my favorites for nervousness in social settings). Or make your own brew from loose herbs. Slowing down to make a pot of tea is very relaxing and centering in and of itself.

Because herbs act in different ways based on the compounds they contain, it is best to match your symptoms to an herb's actions or choose blends. The closer you match your needs to a specific herb, the better it will meet your needs. 

Good herb books and herbal profiles found online provide this information. (Search the name of the herb plus herbal profile.) Always follow dosage instructions and safety precautions for best results. 

12 Relaxing Nervine Herbs

When you feel butterflies fluttering in your stomach and your heart pounding a little faster than usual, reach for herbal calming remedies and relaxing teas made with one or more of these popular nervine herbs. 

Lemon Balm - Melissa officinalis

calming herbs

Melissa is a cooling herb. If you (or someone you know) are angry or raging, let Melissa help you cool off.

Melissa soothes an acid stomach and is used to ward off oral herpes. It lifts your mood and relaxes the nervous system.

Lemon balm has a lovely taste and fragrance. If you are lucky enough to have this herb growing nearby,  let it's light lemony scent brighten your day. Crush a fresh leaf in your hands and inhale deeply. Its pure volatile essential oil molecules will waft into your nose and work their magic. 

A tablespoon of dried lemon balm leaves make a delicious cup of relaxing tea.

Combined with chamomile, this calming herb is good for 'tantrum-throwers'. With motherwort it can be helpful for stress induced palpitations.

Fresh Oat - Avena sativa

Avena is a good choice if you are stressed or stretched to the limit and feel emotionally frayed. It is also good for people who fly off the handle and need emotional grounding.

Avena helps symptoms of stress such as mental fog, muscle pain and high blood pressure caused by tension. It soothes the gastro-intestinal tract. Fresh oats are helpful for controlling cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Oats takes the edge off caffeine, nicotine and morphine cravings. It has a mild anti-anxiety effect.

Avena sativa makes a lovely herbal infusion that is truly a food for the nerves.

This slow-acting calming herb builds benefits over several months. Fresh oats can be combined with stronger herbs as needed. The tincture or extract must be made from fresh white milky tops.

Do not use Avena sativa if you have celiac disease.

Chamomile - Matricaria recutita

Chamomile has long been a beloved medicinal herb of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Today, it is a favorite the world over as a mild sedative and deep sleep aid.

My sister, a Type A personality who is always on the go, grinds her teeth furiously while sleeping. When she has a cup of chamomile tea before bed, she does not grind her teeth. 

Use chamomile alone or combined with Hops when you feel like you have a nervous stomach. This calming herbal remedy works by easing smooth muscle spasms in the stomach and intestines. It is also reduces inflammation and wards off bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Always cover your chamomile tea while brewing to keep the volatile essential oils from leaving with the steam. Or, if you prefer, breathe in the steam deeply for an aromatherapy treatment.

If you are allergic to ragweed or are pregnant, it is best to avoid chamomile.

relaxing tea

Astragalus - A. membranaceus

Astragalus root has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. It is best known as an adoptogen, or tonic herb.

As an adaptogenic herb, astragalus helps your body cope with the effects of stress in several ways. When you are stressed, it is natural for your immune system to be suppressed, inflammation to flare, and your cortisol production to spike. Astragalus is an excellent herb for strengthening the immune reservoir and rebuilding depleted endocrine and immune activity. It supports cortisol production and has anti-inflammatory effects.

You may find this tasty, mild flavored dried root in Oriental markets. Add chopped pieces of root right to the soup pot or add finely chopped root pieces to foods and beverages.

Talk to your doctor before using astragalus if you are on immune suppressing drugs or lithium as it may interact negatively with these medications.

Scullcap - Scutellaria lateriflora

Scullcap is a helpful calming herb for nervous exhaustion and strengthening a depleted nervous system. This calming herb is a good choice if you are experiencing spasms. It helps relax a nervous stomach, controls tremors, restless legs and relieves diaphragm spasms.

If you clench or grind your teeth, scullcap may help. It has a mild anti-anxiety action. It is also an anti-inflammatory herb. It shows promise for controlingl Parkinson's symptoms over time.

Only fresh or freeze-dried scullcap is useful. Be sure to purchase your scullcap from a reputable source because it may be mixed with other herbs. Other species may be substituted, which may or may not provide the same benefits.  

If you suffer from stress related insomnia, a tincture or tea of equal parts scullcap, hops and valerian or chamomile makes for a a mildly sedating nightcap. 

Wood Betony - Stachys officinalis

herbal stress relief

Wood betony, or Bishopswort is a gentle acting herb often used in combination with other herbs. It is commonly found as a liquid extract or tea.

This mildly calming herb is known for easing head pain, neuralgia, hysteria, and insomnia.  Wood betony relieves chronic muscle pain and headaches resulting from tension, stress and anxiety.

It relieves pain and spasm in tired, sore, overworked muscles. If you have various groups of muscles that stiffen up when you feel stressed, especially in your shoulders, neck and face, wood betony may be for you. 

Kava kava - Piper methysticum

Kava has a long history of use as sacred plant in the Pacific Islands where it is enjoyed as a strong drink for its medicinal and social benefits.

When it comes to herbal anxiety relief, kava meets the challenge. It helps people feel at ease in social situations without compromising mental clarity. Standardized Kava extracts have shown promise in several studies as a treatment for anxiety disorders. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kava)

Kava relieves pain and stiffness associated with body armoring with anxious feelings. It acts in the brain's amygdala where the stress response is initiated.

It also helps cool hot flashes, eases joint pain, muscle tension and menstrual cramps.

You know you have the good stuff if it makes your mouth feel a little numb. Be sure to read the precautions and follow the directions when using Kava. Yogi Teas makes an excellent Kava Stress Relief tea. I always keep some on hand.

Passionflower - Passiflora incarnata

Passionflower is weak sedative that is stronger than most calming herbs. It can be helpful if you have insomnia because you lay in bed thinking the same anxious thoughts over and over.

Use passionflower for tension, back pain, nerve pain, headaches, and gastro-intestinal symptoms caused by stress.

California Poppy has similar uses but is stronger acting.

Motherwort - Leonurus cardiaca

calming herbal remedies

Motherwort is especially helpful to women who are irritable, anxious and emotionally volatile. This is one of the calming herbs that grow wild in my area. My husband wanted to mow it down until I told him it had a reputation for easing menopausal rage. Needless to say, he didn't touch it.

Motherwort can reduce hypertension and relieve heart palpitations caused by anxiety.

Combine Motherwort with blue vervain for PMS, cramps, and anxious feelings. Combine with pulsatilla for herbal anxiety relief or constant worry and fear.

Motherwort has a strong, bitter taste so you may prefer it as a tincture or extract rather than in tea.

Valerian - Valeriana officinalis

Valerian is a stronger acting sedative that also helps relieve gastro-intestinal symptoms caused by stress including IBS and diarrhea. Mix Valerian with catnip or chamomile if you internalize stress in your gut. Valerian doesn't taste very good and has a strong odor.

Some people find Valerian to be stimulating rather than relaxing.

Linden flowers - Tilia spp.

If your upset leads to headaches and higher blood pressure, this may be the calming herb for you. Linden is a mild acting herb that can help with general stress.

Linden mildly reduces anxious and/or depressed feelings, lowers blood pressure and eases headaches. It can help you sleep. Linden flowers are an excellent remedy for upset stomachs in both children and adults.

Europeans use Tilia for atherosclerosis and to improve blood flow to the brain.

Linden flowers make a delicious infusion. Steep a teaspoon or two in a cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Strain and drink.

Reishi (Ganoderma) and Maitake (Grifola frondosa)

Reishi mushroom is a nervine that eases insomnia. It is tonic to the cardio-vascular system.

Maitake mushrooms help protect and detoxify the liver and assist with hypo-immune conditions such as cancer, AIDS and chronic fatigue as well as hyper-immune conditions including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease.

Dried reishi and maitake are available at some grocery stores and Asian markets. Add to soups, stews and other foods. Or make a decoction by brewing two teaspoons in 12 ounces of water for a few hours. For therapeutic use, mushrooms are sold in capsules.

Need a source of high quality herbal products? Check out Mountain Rose Herbs.

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