Calm & Cool -- Herbally-Part I
What are your top 3 herbs for helping me to stay calm?
My top 3 "stress managing herbs" are lemon balm, ashwaganda and oats (milky oats or oat straw). I have to be clear in saying there are so many medicinal plants that I love but here is a quick overview of my top picks and why! First of all, all of them taste great which is a huge plus when you're eating and drinking your "medicine". Second, these versatile plants are all calming to the nervous system and healing to the skin in different ways, when applied topically. Including any one of these herbs into your herbal home pharmacy will help you look and feel better naturally when life get’s real. Like with all herbs that suit your constitution, you may find yourself feeling a little more shiny, a little bit better, and a lot more empowered just by creating the rituals of self care. As a bonus each herb has multiple clinical and traditional uses. To an herbalist, plants are nature’s value meals minus all the bad stuff.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family of plants. The main constituents are hydroxycinnamic acids (rosmarinic, p-coumaric, caffeic and chlorogenic acids), and an essential oils composed of more than 40% monoterpenes and more than 35% sesquiterpenes. Native to the Mediterranean, parts of North Africa, Asia, and Europe this superstar herb smells and tastes like lemon. It should come as no surprise, that lemon balm is a welcomed ingredient to many culinary dishes, liqueurs, and cosmetics and I’m a fan of all things inexpensive and versatile. I use lemon balm in formulas with clients dealing with anxiety and depression, seasonal affective disorder, insomnia, Herpes Simplex Type 1 (applied topically esp. with St. John’s Wort oil), and to treat G.I. issues characterized by spasms and intensified by stress. A combination of lemon balm, chamomile and fennel tea is a lifesaver to me whenever my stomach and spirit feel anxious and jumpy. This go-to herb is like a cup of sunshine on a dreary day.
Lemon Balm should be used with caution if you have hypothyroidism and may enhance the sedative effects of people taking barbiturates.
Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) is a member of the Solanaceae family, is native to India, Africa, and the Mediterranean and is a popular herb in Ayurvedic medicine for 3,000 years. The magic is in the root of the plant and can be decocted as a tea, or taken in the form of tinctures capsules, and powders. When I’m taking my own advice, I use ashwaganda to help me deal with insomnia associated with an inability to quiet my racing mind. Luckily it doesn’t leave me feeling drowsy or sluggish the next morning and can get on with the show. Known, as ‘Indian Ginseng’ ashwaganda it helps with endurance, stress, and sleep. When I find myself in ‘beast mode’ I like adding the powdered herb to smoothies in the morning for a mental and physical energy boost along with maca root and cinnamon powder. I consider this herb for clients who are beat down, depleted, sleepless, stressed, and depressed. Ashwaganda will step-up your beauty routine, too! Applied topically as a poultice it has shown to heal minor wounds. It has also shown to help protect the body against the effects of aging, while increasing collagen in the skin and help reduce hair loss, and premature graying. Ashwaganda improves strength and endurance, cognitive function, inflammation and its associated states of dis-eases, iron deficiency, male sexual dysfunction, cardiovascular dysfunction, diabetes, hypothyroidism, cancer and skin diseases.
Ashwaganda should be taken with caution during pregnancy.
Ashwaganda is safe when taken within the recommended dosage.
People allergic to plants in the Solanaceae family should use with caution.
Oats (Avena sativa) is a member of the Poaceae family. This herb comes from the same plant as oatmeal however it is harvested at an earlier time and processed a bit differently. The flowering plant is used as medicine. This superfood is rich in calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, manganese and zinc, vitamins A, B-complex, C, E and K and amino acids. Dietary oats are excellent for cardiovascular health and have a significant amount of heart healthy soluble fiber. Oats aka ‘milky oats’ has a host of health benefits such as healing skin diseases, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, calming the nervous system, regulating blood sugar (which stabilizes weight, mood and energy levels), and has been used as a sexual tonic for men and women. I like to enjoy a tincture of oats, skullcap, and motherwort when I feel like I’m losing at life but the show must go on! Also, I recommend oatmeal baths which are easy to make at home for people seeking relief from itchy and inflamed skin conditions. Often times less is more, which is why a simple oat straw tea is a nutritive and soothing to the nervous system after an intense day. As a nervine tonic, this herb is ideal for folks burning the candle on both ends and doing the most. Food is medicine and thanks to the internet there are tons of healthy oatmeal recipes to try right at your fingertips.
Oats should not be used by people with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. Dietary oats should be avoided in cases of intestinal obstruction.
Being stressed out is not cute, it’s not cool, and it will wear on your health and complicate any current health issues.
Breathe + Keep Cool + Be Well