Nervines:  Herbs to Take the Edge Off

by Joan Haynes, NMD

Life can be stressful (sometimes overwhelming) and when we come home from our demanding work day to our demanding home life, lots of us reach for an alcoholic beverage to help us relax.  But instead, consider a cup of tea that accomplishes the same goals, but without the long-term negative side effects on your body.  In fact, nervine herbs would be good through out the day, not just at the evening.

Nervines are a category of herbs that help support the nervous system.  They can relieve muscle tension, calm anxiety, and some can help us sleep.  They can be taken in capsules, tincture or tea.  You can mix and match combinations to get the effect you want.  Many are also good for children.

Here’s a list of nervines from Mountain Rose Herbs:

Common Nervines

  • Oat tops – Very gentle tonic herb that helps support the nervous system without a perceptibly calming action. Can help reduce fatigue and support nerve functioning over time. Great for anyone who is overworked or relies on caffeine to get through the day.
  • Skullcap – Wonderfully gentle and nourishing to the nervous system. Helps relieve occasional tension and stress, circular thoughts, and nervousness. Can be used throughout the day during stressful situations or at night before bed to calm worried thoughts.
  • Chamomile – A classic, relaxing nighttime tea, this nervine herb is also helpful for relieving mild daily mental stress.
  • Lavender – Calming herb that is often used in aromatherapy applications for its mild calming action. Lovely when used in the bath, massage oils, pillows, room sprays, or body fragrance to uplift the spirit.
  • Lemon balm – Sunshine in plant form, this herb helps with nervous exhaustion, gloom, and restlessness while also providing pure aromatic pleasure. Simply rubbing a leaf between your fingers and smelling its citrusy oils can elevate the mood.
  • Catnip – Gentle, calming herb for sleeplessness in children and the elderly.
  • California poppy – Used for its calming properties, this plant helps promote relaxation in those seeking rest.
  • Passionflower – This stunning plant is helpful for relieving general tension, occasional nervous restlessness, and supporting restful sleep.
  • Hops – With a distinctive flavor and action known well by beer drinkers everywhere, this plant supports relaxation (although the effect can be considered hypnotic) and helps calm a nervous stomach.
  • Valerian – When sleep seems impossible thanks to nervous energy at night, this potent herb can support relaxation for many busy-brained folks. For some people, however, valerian can have the opposite effect of relaxation, causing more anxiety and stimulation, so if this happens to you, we recommend seeking another herbal ally.