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5 Calming Herbs for Anxiety, Sleep and Stress

Lavender herb

A nice massage. A long walk. A warm bath. A cup of hot milk. More often than not, natural stress relievers can be far more effective and enjoyable than their medicinal counterparts.

But in todays fast-paced society, we often look for a quick fix. We have a headache, so we take an aspirin. We cant sleep, so we take a sleeping tablet. Were feeling stressed, anxious and depressedwell, look here, theres a pill for that, too!

But have you ever considered the side effects of these fast cures? They can be a lot more damaging than whatever ailment youre taking them for!

How I found the natural route

Around a year ago, I had this problem with my sinuses that I couldnt shake. I was getting really bad headaches and there was so much pressure building up, at times it hurt to even open my eyes.

Then a friend recommended rubbing a drop of peppermint oil on my temples when I felt a twinge. And, lo and behold, the headache was gone! I started adding a drop of it into some hot water and lemon in the mornings too, which proved to be great for those blocked sinuses. Suddenly, my mornings looked a lot brighter!

It all took off from there and I became a total convert to the natural route. Now I think theres a lot to be said for non-Western medicine; whether its in the form of essential oils or alternativetreatments like acupuncture and reflexology.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

In fact, as Ive since learned, there are even herbs out there that can help the conditions that so many of us suffer from anxiety, stress or an inability to sleep (if its the latter, you can also check out some tips from the folks at The Sleep Advisor).

And since the world would be a better place if everyone was less stressed all the time, I thought Id share them with you!

Here we go…

My favorite herbs for dealing with stress and anxiety

1. Lavender

So you probably know that this aromatic herb is linked to relaxation; youll have smelled the incense and the candles before! But did you know that it also has proven effects of reducing irritability and anxiety? The clever purple plant induces a sense of calmness and therefore, helps your frazzled mind get to sleep faster. Oh, and it smells awesome, too. Bonus.

How to use it: Sprinkle a couple of drops of the essential oil onto your pillow, add it to your night cream, diffuse it beside your bed or look for it in the form of herbal tea. Youll also be able to find those candles and incense I mentioned earlier pretty easily!

Whatever form you use it in, lavender is one of the best herbs out there for helping you to relax. So make sure to make it your new best friend.

Photo by Vero Photoart on Unsplash

2. Kava-kava

This famous anti-anxiety herb also has a sedative effect. This means its great if you suffer from insomnia or sleep deprivation as it causes drowsinessbut not so great if you take it just before giving that big presentation at work. Drool does not an impressive pitch maketh.

How to use it: Try kava-kava in a tea around 3 or 4 times per week. Note: Avoid this if you have liver problems, as recent studies have suggested that over-consumption of kava-kava may cause damage to the liver. Id really only use it if the others on this list arent working for you and you need something a bit stronger.

3. Turmeric

This golden wonder of spices comes with a heap of health benefits and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Also known by its more science-y name of Curcuma longa, its hailed for its anti-inflammatory properties plus its high levels of antioxidants, which can improve blood flow. With better circulation comes improved heart and brain health, and a less stressed you. Good news all around.

How to use it: Its recommended that you take half a teaspoon a day of organic turmeric mix it in your favorite smoothie, sprinkle it into your salad dressing, add a spice kick to warm up a winter soup even morewhatever way you want to enjoy it! My favorite use of turmeric is in a golden latte. Instead of a caffeine or sugar-loaded drink in the evenings, I add 1 tsp of turmeric with 1 tsp each of cinnamon and ginger to a cup of warm almond milk. Its a delicious, healthy and comforting prelude to bedtime!

Photo by Osha Key on Unsplash

4. Passionflower

Passionflower is another mild sedative that can help to promote sleep; however, it is less drowsiness-inducing than kava-kava, so it could be a better alternative if you need to get things done! Still, this tasty herb packs quite a punch in fact, a study undertaken by The University of Maryland Medical Center showed that passionflower can work as well as some of the benzodiazepine medications out there (usually prescribed for treating anxiety).

How to use it: If youve been experiencing feelings of anxiety, irritability, agitation, and depression, try one cup of passionflower tea 23 times daily. Alternatively, take 2040 drops of the liquid extract every day, mixing it with a little water or juice if you prefer.

5. Basil

If youre familiar with the British classic sitcom Fawlty Towers and its highly stressed protagonist, Basil Fawlty, you may be surprised to learn that basil is, in fact, an awesome herb for reducing stress levels. With its natural immune-boosting functions and its high nutritional content, it can improve overall cognitive function faster than you can say hey pesto”. (Sorry!)

How to use it: Add fresh basil to hot water for a refreshing tea (combine it with mint and lime for added zing). Or go all Italian and incorporate it into any tomato sauces you might whip up, from spaghetti sauce to chili con carne. Yum. And dont worry if you cant always find the fresh version; organic dried basil has heaps of benefits, too!

Finally, remember to eat right.

As well as the above herbs, theres another way you can incorporate some stress-busting magic into your diet by watching what you eat! Cut back on the sugar and caffeine, for one. And try to eat some magnesium-rich foods, like bananas or almonds, in the evening. The magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant, ridding you of tension and setting you up for a better sleep.

So next time youre tempted to scrounge a doctors scrawl for whatever ails you, why not look to Mother Nature instead? Theres bound to be a herb out there that can work its magic charms; one that will cost less, taste better and leave you feeling like a healthier, happier you without any nasty side effects.

Happy foraging!

Author bio:

Hi, Im Sarah West Coast vegan gal whose dog is (sadly!) her best friend. I also love yoga, surfing and whipping up weird and wonderful concoctions in my other best friend (my blender!)

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