Herbs to Soothe the SoulSep 30, 2020 07:37AM ● By Kathleen Gould and Madalyn Johnson
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During these unprecedented times, it is no surprise that we are seeing a huge increase in stress, anxiety and depression. Thankfully, there are some wonderful herbs to both help soothe our bodies and prevent or lessen these emotions, as well as herbs that help to bring us back into balance.
Taking time to slow down our thoughts and breathe goes a long way in helping these sacred plants do their job. Plants are living beings, and all living beings have a spirit. The spirit of these plants came in this form with the express intention of helping and healing our minds, bodies and spirits. The more we can slow down, breathe and connect to their healing essence, the more benefits we will experience from them.
Socialization is also such an important part of the human experience―talking with friends/family, hugging, cooking together, sharing a meal, laughing together and loving. Be kind to each other, and remember that we are one human family.
Now, on to the herbs.
Over the last few years, we have been hearing more and more about adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants that help us respond to stressors, and work to restore and protect our minds and bodies from these stressors. They also seem to have a marked effect on supporting the adrenal glands.
There are many wonderful adaptogens to choose from, and, of course, the internet is host to a wealth of information on all of them. Having said that, let’s examine a few to help get you started on deciding which one(s) will work best for your specific situation.
Ashwagandha is a wonderful Ayurvedic herb that has been used in Indian culture for thousands of years to relieve stress and provide calm while at the same time improving energy.
Eleutherococcus is also used to relieve stress and manage energy levels, but is usually a bit cheaper and more available than other adaptogens.
Reishi mushroom, also called the “mushroom of immortality,” has a plethora of healing properties for the whole body. In addition, it is a wonderful antioxidant and seems to enhance the immune response.
Another important family of herbs are nervines. These beautiful healing herbs tone, relax and strengthen the nervous system. Some of the first herbs that may come to mind in this family are chamomile, catnip, lemon balm, valerian and passionflower.
Each of these herbs helps in its own unique way. Valerian, as an example, helps quiet the mind and relaxes the body. If you are having trouble getting to sleep because your mind won’t quiet down, then valerian may help you to relax and get to sleep. Passionflower is a primary nervine, anti-spasmodic and herbal sedative, so it often helps you stay asleep.
Catnip is a wonderful choice, especially for children, as they often hold stress within their digestive system (“Mommy, my tummy hurts”). Catnip is a gentle carminative (relaxes the digestive system) and a great relaxant for insomnia, so it soothes, relaxes and calms the child. Mothers use this both during the day to calm the child and at night to help the child sleep. Because a stressed child creates a stressed parent, herbalists usually suggest both mommy and child drink their catnip tea. Chamomile can also be added to the tea for enhanced flavor, relaxation, and again, to soothe the tummy.
Children are needing a little extra love these days with the new way of schooling. From parents to teachers to the students, we are all looking for ways to calm ourselves. Here are a few suggestions for little ones.
Chamomile tea is always a perfect choice, but not all kids will drink it. So, make that chamomile tea into popsicles and have that as a treat before bedtime. Chamomile is a wonderful herb for kids that are overly tired, just can’t seem to relax after a day of playing, or are learning at a computer. Add a little honey or a drop or two of vanilla extract to enhance the flavor to their liking. Dream pillows are always a nice touch. Add whatever herbs you like to a small muslin bag and slip inside your child’s pillowcase or tuck away next to his or her crib mattress. You can also diffuse an essential oil of your choice in a kid-friendly oil diffuser.
This is a fun choice for children that use their “lovies” to hold onto at bedtime. If they have an old, small stuffed animal or doll, use this as an herb holder. Fill a large tea bag with your herb of choice: chamomile, catnip or lavender (a very popular choice). Seal it up. Take your holder piece and with a box cutter, slice one of the seams until you have a large opening. Take out a bit of the stuffing and replace it with this bag o’ herbs. Then reseal the seam with glue or stitching. Now, when they cuddle these lovies, the “essence” of these herbs will help them to relax and enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep.
Cheers to calmer times!
Kathleen Gould, registered herbalist, and Madalyn Johnson are proprietors of SW Herb Shop and Gathering Place. Gould has been an herbalist for 30-plus years and has extensive experience in herbal medicine. For more information, call 480-694-9931, or visit SWHerb.com or Store.SWHerb.com.