Herbs to Reduce Stress and Tension
Lavender is a beautiful perennial that helps soothe stress.
All of the herbs listed below have been shown to help reduce stress. They are all easily grown in full sun either in the garden or in a container. Growing lemon balm in a container may be a good idea due to its tendency to be somewhat invasive. Brew them individually or as a mixture — one tablespoon of fresh herb to one cup of boiling water. Let the tea steep for fifteen minutes, then drink it as a hot tea or iced tea.
- Lemon balm: This member of the mint family has a fresh lemon flavor. Like all mints, it is fairly easy to grow — in fact, it may become invasive if it’s happy. Consider growing lemon balm in a container if this is a concern.
- Lavender: Use fresh lavender buds in teas. They are most potent before they open fully. You can also harvest and dry the buds to use in teas.
- Chamomile: Chamomile is easy to grow in a garden or in containers. There are two types: German and Roman chamomile. German chamomile is used most often for teas. It has a light, almost apple scent and flavor.
The herb passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) was used as a folk remedy for anxiety and insomnia.
Two studies involving a total of 198 people examined the effectiveness of passionflower for anxiety. One study found passionflower to be comparable to benzodiazepine drugs. There was also improvement in job performance with passionflower and less drowsiness with passionflower compared with the drug mexazolam, however, neither was statistically significant.
Massage therapy, shiatsu, and other forms of bodywork are widely used to diminish muscle tension, relieve stress, and improve sleep.
- Mind/Body Techniques
Mind/body breathing exercises, physical exercise, yoga, tai chi, self-hypnosis, meditation, and biofeedback are just some of the stress reduction techniques used for anxiety. Try different techniques and determine which routine you can stick to with a hectic schedule.
The herb valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is best known as a herbal remedy for insomnia. Valerian is also used in patients with mild anxiety, but the research supporting its use for anxiety is limited.
Native to Polynesia, the herb kava (Piper methysticum) has been found to have anti-anxiety effects in humans. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, has issued an advisory to consumers about the potential risk of severe liver injury resulting from the use of dietary supplements containing kava. To date, there have been more than 25 reports of serious adverse effects from kava use in other countries, including four patients who required liver transplants.
- Gamma-aminobutyric Acid (GABA)
GABA is an amino acid that is known to play a role in the physiology of anxiety. Some prescription drugs for anxiety work by affecting GABA receptors in the brain. The degree to which orally ingested GABA supplements can reach the brain, however, is unknown.
Plant essential oils can be added to baths, massage oil, or infusers. Essential oils that are used for anxiety and nervous tension are: bergamot, cypress, geranium, jasmine, lavender, melissa, neroli, rose, sandalwood, ylang-ylang. Lavender is the most common and forms the base of many relaxing blends.