Everyone experiences anxiety at different points in life—stress, and worry are natural parts of being human. Even though it’s not unusual (anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. today), anxiety can be isolating and hard to confront when it gets out of hand.
Most days we’re able to bounce back from stressful events, but for those who struggle with anxious feelings, daily life can feel like an uphill battle. Raising twins and running a Pilates studio taught me the true meaning of anxiety and burnout a few years back. After months of sleep-deprivation, I began studying to become a women’s herbal educator, hoping to get to the root of my struggle with anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
I quickly learned that nourishing my body with botanicals—specifically adaptogens and nervines— is key to keeping anxiety and burnout at bay.
Adaptogens are a category of herbs that help us “adapt around stress.” Their anti-fatigue effects make them particularly potent when you’re up against mental exhaustion, frequent illness, or chronic stress. If you’re burning the candle at both ends, treating yourself with any of these seven herbs will help you feel relaxed, balanced, and healthy again:
1. Ashwagandha (withania somnifera)
This is the first adaptogen I turned to when I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, and it’s still a personal favorite. Ashwagandha is “known to give you the strength and stamina of a stallion”, but still gentle enough for anyone coping with anxiety. When taken regularly, it can ease shot nerves and improve sleep.
My favorite Ashwagandha product is Adrena Soothe by Dr. Aviva Romm. Try 2 dropperfuls in¼ cup of water two times per day, to reduce your stress.
2. Reishi (ganoderma lucidum)
Do you find you get sick when you finally go on vacation? The relationship between stress and illness is complex. One study shows that chronic stress can raise the risk of viral infections, eventually manifesting in full-blown illness. Try reishi if you’re under the weather frequently, or just feel stressed out and run down. Taken regularly, reishi can reduce the likelihood that your stress will literally make you sick– so you can enjoy your vacations, rather than spending them out of commission.
Reishi has an earthy taste. I prefer Reishi Extract by Host Defense. Follow the directions on the label for dosing.
3. Milky Oat Tops (avena sativa)
Filled with vitamins and minerals, milky oat tops are a great herbal remedy that nourishes your nervous tissue and promotes relaxation. Pairing milky oat tops with stinging nettles is a perfect combination to boost your daily energy without spiking stress or anxiety. Due to cross contamination, you may want to avoid milky oats if you have celiac disease.
My favorite way to enjoy milky oats is in a cup of blended tea. Combine equal parts of dried milky oat tops and stinging nettles. Add 1 tablespoon of the blended herbs to 1 cup of boiling water. Cover and steep the herbs for 20 minutes for a medicinal infusion, then strain and add a little raw honey for flavor.
4. Chamomile (matricaria recutita)
Just one cup per day of this well-loved tea can reduce menstrual cramps, shift your mood, and ease digestion. Safe for children, our family enjoys a cup of chamomile tea most nights to reduce our collective stress.
My favorite recipe for the whole family: Blend dried chamomile, lemon balm and milky oat tops together. Then add 1 tablespoon of the mixed dried herbs to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes. Add honey for flavor and double check the tea has cooled before serving to children.
5. Lemon Balm (melissa officinalis)
If you’re prone to ragweed allergies, skip chamomile and enjoy a cup of lemon balm tea. This delightful citrus-flavored tea is known as the “gladdening herb”. As a nervine and mild anti-depressant, lemon balm promotes relaxation and reduces nervous energy.
To enjoy: Add 1 tablespoon of the dried herb to 1 cup of boiling water and let steep for 10 minutes. Add milk and honey for flavor.
6. Motherwort (leonurus cardiaca)
From motherhood to menopause, Motherwort is a true gift for women. It shouldn’t be used during pregnancy but should be your first go-to-herb after birth. Motherwort’s calming qualities can help with everything from heart palpitations to extreme anxiety. Taking motherwort throughout the day can release tension and reduce panic attacks, and it’s a great solution for falling back to sleep if you wake up frequently during the night.
Motherwort has a bitter taste, so I find it’s best taken as a tincture. Follow the directions on the label for your dosing.
7. Lavender (lavandula officinalis)
My favorite way to use lavender is as an essential oil. Tap diluted lavender essential oil on your wrists or spray it in the air to soothe stress immediately. Lavender is known to help induce sleep, which makes it a perfect remedy for unwinding before bed.
To enjoy: Dilute lavender essential oil with water and add to your body products, spray on your pillow, or tap on your wrists as an organic, soothing perfume.
Have you used botanical remedies before? Which ones work for you? Share in the comments section!
Obsessed with natural remedies, Tara Gregorio is a Certified Women’s Herbal Educator located in Cold Spring, NY. She loves helping women reduce their medications with botanicals. Her favorite herbal recipes can be found on Pinterest and Instagram.
This article was featured in the Icon in March 2019.