You might have heard about adaptogens, a class of herbs that does quite a lot, yet renewed in our modern life for their ability to relinquish stress out of the body. But have you heard of nervines yet? Nervines are a class of herbs that can deeply restore and decompress the nervous system — herbs that can actually chill you out.
There are different categories of nervines: Those that are mild and deeply nourishing and round out the edges, like fresh milky oat and chamomile, or stronger relaxants also called “hypnotics”, such as valerian, kava kava and hops. Those that can help cope with depressive energy, confusion and anxiety, such as blue lotus, albizzia and lemon balm.
When combining nervines, to master herbs like adaptogens, you can generate a truly powerful and effective formula to cope with stress and anxiety build up. Calming adaptogenic herbs, like ashwagandha, complement exquisitely with herbs like albizzia and passionflower if you’re, lets say, dealing with insomnia, or racing anxiety-rich thoughts before bed. Within a simple combination like that you can tackle the damaging effects from stress (ashwagandha) that is probably triggering the anxious thoughts (blue lotus), to then restore and settle into a gentle and deep sleep (passionflower).
How does it work?
With nervines you might feel the effect more instantly, in comparison to adaptogens for example. They are used to help relieve a wide array of symptoms that directly affect the nervous system (muscle tension, insomnia, anxiety, depression, circular thoughts, worry, pain, etc.). Which is one of the main places that we store stress. Nervines primarily assist the nervous system, and adaptogens for example assist our HPA axis (Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Adrenal glands); it is the glandular system that is our central stress response system, and helps us regulate the stress response on a multi organ level.
Here are some must-haves:
ALBIZZIA | (Albizia julibrissin) Known as the tree of happiness, both the bark and the flowers have been traditionally used for hundreds of years as a calming sedative. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is used to anchor the spirit for those who struggle with worry, anxiety, confusion and depression. The flowers have been used as a treatment for insomnia, amnesia and melancholy. Albizzia is thought to enhance all aspects of neurotransmitter secretion and regulation, making making it a terrific anti-depressant and anti-anxiety herb with no known side effects.
ASHWAGANDHA | (Withania somnifera) Known in Ayurveda as a rasayana, a class of herbs known for their deeply rejuvenate and restorative effects. Ashwagandha is used for a wide kind of dis-eases, physically and psychologically. It has shown to greatly reduce the symptoms of anxiety, and to improve cortisone levels by reseting adrenal-related stress. Overall assisting with the body’s predisposition to anxiety and depression.
BLUE LOTUS | (Nymphaea caerulea) Blue lotus is a flower that has had a majestic stretch of limelight back through thousands of years of history across cultures such as the Egyptian, Mayan, Syrian and Thai. It’s a flower of such beauty, intoxicating scent and inebriating effect that it has spread from culture to culture steeped in ritual and adoration. On a physical level is soothes and replenishes the nervous system. It was used by the egyptians to calm anxious thinking, depression, confusion, lack of motivation, and to increase meditative energy.
SKULLCAP | (Scutellaria lateriflora) An excellent anti-spasmodic, relief for muscle tension, anti-inflammatory, and used to stimulate blood flow, assist with chronic headaches and for relaxation. It has been used to treat hysteria, insomnia, anxiety and epilepsy. It is used in European eclectic medicine and by Native Americans to soothe the nerves and help from body pain recovery.
MILKY OAT | (Avena sativa) It is not necessarily noticeably relaxing, but it’s an incredibly nourishing food to the nervous system. For one week out of the common oats growing cycle, the immature oat seed is filled with a white “milk.” It is harvested quickly and made into a fresh tincture, becoming an excellent trophorestorative — a deeply nourishing food that brings about deep restoration. This remedy has been crafted for over 150 years by eclectic physicians as an excellent tonic remedy that calms shattered nerves, relieves emotional instability, reducing the symptoms of drug withdrawal, helping restore peace and tranquility to over-stressed and chronically upset people.
PASSIONFLOWER | (Passiflora incarnata) This beautiful flower is a gentle anti-anxiety, anti-spasmodic , anti-inflammatory and mild sedative herb. It was traditionally used by Native Americans for bruises and to ease muscle pain. One compound in particular has been studied within Passionflower (quercetin) for its exceptionally effective ability in ridding the body from damaging free radicals while inhibiting various enzymes that cause inflammation. This particular compound has also been found to relax the nervous system, helping to relieve nerve related pain.
MULUNGU | (Erythrina mulungu) And for those of you seeking the extra punch, this South American tree might be your new favorite. It’s not as common in the Western world, but it is certainly a beloved tree particularly within Brazilian and Peruvian indigenous medicine. Traditional folk have used Mulungu for hundreds of years for mood disorders (depression, anxiety, stress, panic, trauma, etc.), liver disorders, high blood pressure and heart palpitations. Scientific studies now demonstrate all of the indigenous uses were on point, demonstrating significant pain relieving, anti-spasmodic, anti-convulsive, neuro-protective and anti-inflammatory actions.