Herbs For Peace
By Suzy Gonzalez
Herbs for Peace
Many of us have grown closer to prioritizing self-care, mental health, and rest throughout the pandemic. Unfortunately, the harsh realities of the world can still take a toll on our inner sense of peace. In a reality that includes war, violence, and exploitation, it remains vital that we choose hope so that we may sustain lives full of beauty, joy, and peace. One way to practice grounding ourselves towards inner peace is through herbal medicine. If you’re feeling as though something is missing in your healing journey, plant medicine is always there for us to pick up where our ancestors left off. Here are some plant relatives that can provide calm and peace to our systems during anxious times.
Herb Staples for Stress
Adaptogens help to resist stress and stress-induced dis-eases in the body.They increase our body’s capacities to adapt to situations that cause us stress. These are best enjoyed as preventative measures, increasing our abilities to adapt to certain conditions. They naturally help us to resist anxiety and are good for those who are overworked or who take on too many tasks.
Nervine herbs support the nervous system, and most provide relaxing effects (although a few are stimulating, like coffee and peppermint). They reduce overactive stress responses by allowing the body to rest. These can be great for those who tend to worry, overthink things, or who are restless sleepers. Nervines can also relieve muscle tension, loosening up any tightness in the body.
Anxiolytic herbs have the ability to reduce anxiety. They affect the Central Nervous System by increasing the production of brain chemicals that help to ease stress and calm the body and mind. They can be particularly beneficial for those that struggle with worrying.
Sedative herbs are known to produce a calming effect on the body by relieving irritation and anxiety via the brain and Central Nervous System. They reduce brain activity and prepare the body for the winding down process, thus increasing sleep quality at night.
Relaxant herbs help to relax the body’s muscles and are helpful in reducing anxiety, tension, and stress by producing calming, and soothing effects.
Peaceful Plant Medicines
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that grows in India, the Middle East, and Africa. It helps reduce anxiety and stress and improve one’s quality of sleep. It can regulate responses to stress by lowering the hormone cortisol. Studies have shown that it helps treat depression, anxiety, insomnia, and schizophrenia symptoms. Ashwagandha works to help balance fatigue, exhaustion, and nervous tension. This herb is an excellent plant medicine for feelings of burnout and a need for relaxation.
Holy Basil or Tulsi is an adaptogen, sedative, and relaxant herb native to India with benefits related to stress, anxiety, and depression. Research shows that it may help to reduce symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It enables the body and mind to relax, providing calming energy and a sense of well-being. It has been recommended to those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a daily practice. If you’re someone who experiences moments of high anxiety, consider bringing some holy basil tea in a thermos if you know you’re going to be in a space that might hold anxiety triggers for you. Holy Basil may also be helpful for those who experience forgetfulness, exhaustion, or have issues with sleep.
Lemon Balm is a nervine and sedative herb in the mint family and has the most refreshing citrus fragrance. This herb can increase neurotransmitters in our brains to achieve balance. You may consider working with it to uplift your overall mood and decrease stress levels and anxiety. It may even be helpful for those in cold areas who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. Lemon Balm also increases sleep quality, efficiency, and duration. If one is recovering from physical bodily trauma, drinking lemon balm tea can reduce the anxiety surrounding that pain and provide a better quality of sleep throughout the healing process. If you grow lemon balm in your garden, simply rubbing a leaf between your fingers and inhaling its oils can uplift the mood.
Skullcap is a nervine and anxiolytic herb with benefits that help to reduce behavior tied to anxiety and nervous conditions. Its properties activate relaxing effects on the central nervous system, promoting relaxation and sleep. It may also work well for stress tension, headaches and migraines, panic attacks, restlessness, and premenstrual pains.
Passionflower is both an anxiolytic and sedative herb effective in reducing symptoms related to Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It can reduce the effects of anxiety for those who are about to have surgery or a dental procedure. If there is an anxious thought lingering in the back of your head about an upcoming event, try passionflower teas or tinctures as the day nears to reduce your stress levels. Passionflower is also a popular sleep aid for those with insomnia.
Chamomile is a relaxant and sedative flowering plant native to Europe and Asia, and shown to significantly lower symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It acts as a natural antidepressant, with findings that it reduces symptoms for those experiencing depression, anxiety, or both. Chamomile can also be a great calming companion to those with insomnia or racing thoughts. Try a cup of chamomile tea if you have a big day coming up and want to get a good night’s rest the night before. It aids in sleep, and its muscle relaxing properties can also give relief from stomach and menstrual cramps.
Lavender is a nervine, anxiolytic, sedative, relaxant, and beautifully fragrant plant with leaves and flowers used to calm the nerves and alleviate anxiety. When consuming in tea form, I would recommend mixing it with other herbs as it can be fairly bitter. My favorite way to enjoy the virtues of lavender is through my aromatherapy diffuser. Studies have shown that lavender aromatherapy helps to reduce anxiety in postpartum stages.
It can be challenging to stay informed on current events and also maintain care for ourselves. Let this be a sign to take time for yourself, to play with plants, and to be proactive with resting your mind, body, and spirit. Some other herbs to consider for destressing and to provide peace to your systems are blue vervain, kava kava, cannabidiol (CBD), turmeric, and valerian root. The earth has gifted us with so many plants that we can work with to enhance our quality of life. Each interaction with each plant you come across may differ, and it may take some time before the connection or benefits are felt. Have fun trying new things, being conscious of how they affect you personally, and leaning towards those plant medicines that your body feels most at peace with. While some of these can be found at certain grocery stores, botanicas/herbolarias, or in our gardens, others may take a little more digging. Consider stocking up on herbal teas and sharing them with those around you that you think could use some peace in their lives. Try some of these online suppliers to get your plant medicine cabinet started:
It is advised that any herb that may aid with sleep should not be taken with alcohol or prescription sedatives. Adaptogens should not be taken if one has a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. Always take care with what you’re putting in your body and practice caution if you are pregnant, taking other medications that may interact with herbal medicines, or have a chronic illness. Research to make sure your personal needs are being met. Remember, this is about
practicing care for yourself.
A Meditation with Tea
Take the time to make yourself a cup of tea, trusting that the plant relative(s) you’ve selected will provide you with a sense of peace. While it steeps, think or speak about your intentions on making space to relax and care for yourself with plant medicine. Put on some calming music, light incense, burn some of the selected herb(s) in a sahumador, or involve an aromatherapy diffuser or room spray. When it’s time to drink your tea, close your eyes and inhale its aroma.
What does it make you think of? Reflect on any memories that may come up for you. Notice the color of the tea. Take your first sip and hold your mug with both hands, letting it provide warmth to your body. What does it taste like? Do any memories, words, or images come up for you? Take deep breaths as you enjoy the medicine, feeling its benefits. Consider the possibility that somewhere far back in your ancestral lineage, a relative sat down with the same cup of tea that you yourself are sitting down with today. Imagine this relative and enjoy your cup of tea in their presence. Spend time thinking about how this plant has survived and endured through various cycles of human, animal, and climate interactions. Remember, too, that your ancestors resisted and survived so that you may exist and thrive here today. Give thanks to these human and plant relatives for this mode of nourishment that the earth has gifted us. Enjoy your tea, knowing that you can always turn to these relatives to stay grounded in rest and peace.