Home Feature Herbs To Manage Stress; Herbs For The Soul

Herbs To Manage Stress; Herbs For The Soul

11 min read

by Patricia Loh, Clinical Herbalist

“When human beings lose their connection to Nature, then they do not know how to nurture their environment. They destroy their ecology; whilst at the same destroying one another. From that perspective, healing our society goes hand in hand with healing our personal elemental connection with Heaven and Earth”.CHOGYAM TRUNGPA

Plants have been valued as medicines as well as food since the dawn of human civilization. However, with the coming scientific age, Mankind has tended to separate the physical from the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects. Over the last 100 years or so, we have limited the usage of herbs to purely healing on a physical level. Whilst the validation of herbal medicine through scientific methods has increased the credibility of this healing system, it has also overshadowed the potential of herbal medicine to actually heal deeper than just the physical level.

I have my teachers in herbal college to thank for. My herbal education was not just about biochemistry, pharmacology and pharmacognosy of the herbs, but also how every herb had a specific life-force that calms, strengthens, nourishes and balances the qi. As we seek a more holistic approach to healing – one that returns harmony to the body, mind and soul – we can look back at the traditional usage of herbs to help us appreciate the true essences of herbs.


We live in a fast, demanding and over-stimulating society, with continuous pressure to succeed financially. Family life is often a precarious balancing act. Under chronic stress and strain, the body functions sluggishly, the mind works on over-drive, the heart full of negative emotions and the spirit becomes weary. We lose track of life and inner peace.


“It is in the silence of the heart that God speaks”. MOTHER TERESA


Most of us will, at some point in our lives, find ourselves in a state of exhaustion. Whether this is due to overwork or chronic illness, it is a body sign letting us know that we have not been living according to Nature’s principles. Taking a vacation, switching jobs or changing our mind sets might be a start towards the road to healing. Nutrition, relaxing massages, acupuncture, chiropractic and other natural therapies can also often help. So, too, can the many gentle herbs that allow the body to cope better with stress, helping to ease tension and replenish the nervous system. Nervine Tonics are herbs that calm the body without causing drowsiness, hangover or addiction. It is probably a good idea to use these herbs over an extended period of time rather than wait until anxiety or depression strikes. Which herb works best and how much to take depends very much on the individual. Most of these herbs exhibit synergistic effects when taken together. So don’t be apprehensive about combining them.


Agricultural plant oat isolatedOat – one of the most widely applicable herbal remedies to strengthen the nervous system. Oat leaves may be taken in the form of liquid extract, combined with other indicated relaxant herbs. Oat seed can be simply eaten in the form of porridge. Rolled oat is the choice, not instant oatmeal. Oats overcome weakness, poor memory and exhaustion. They are particularly safe for young children and will build their health in every way. Start your day with a bowl of oats porridge and experience for your self its hearty, nourishing effects – for your body and soul!


Skullcap – a nourishing tonic to the entire nervous system. Skullcap lifts the spirit and help pacifies daily tensions. From experience, Skullcap is useful for all kinds of stress-related complaints and one of the most widely used herbal treatment for tension headaches, agitation and panic-attacks. It is often included into many herbal formulae to encourage deep, restful sleep.


Lemon Balm – this herb has a wonderful lemon scent, hence its name. It has been described as “making the heart light and joyful”. True to this description, Lemon Balm harmonizes the soul, gently moves the qi and brings clarity to the mind. The English herbalist, Culpepper, assigns Lemon Balm under the astrological sign of Cancer, governing the heart, pericardium and stomach – our emotional roots of mothering and childhood. Lemon Balm nurtures a sense of security and peace by reaching deep into the psyche, the inner child of our emotional well being. A most gentle restorer of harmony, it is a wonderful herb for modern kids who are often feeling pressured at school, rushed and overworked.


Zizyphus – known as suan zao ren, it is a sweet-tasting Chinese herb. It is highly reputed for treating insomnia due to nervous exhaustion, restlessness and anxiety. The Chinese also have a long traditional use for Zizyphus to help heart palpitations, excessive sweating and poor quality sleep due to repeated awakenings, eg. during menopause. It is a good example of a herb that nourishes the spirit.


Ginsengs – There are many forms of ginsengs, so it can be tricky to use a suitable one if you are not experienced with herbs. However, Siberian Ginseng and Ashwaghanda (also known as Indian Ginseng), are effective and easy to use. You won’t go wrong choosing them as they are mild and gentle. These herbs restore balance and nourish over-stressed adrenal glands.



Other herbal tonics such as Passiflora and Vervain, are helpful for tension associated with sleeping problems. Yet others, like Motherwort and Chamomile, are great for stress accompanied by rapid heartbeats and digestive complaints respectively. The herb St. John’s Wort comes highly recommended as well. While more commonly used for depression, it is really a tonic for the entire nervous system and would benefit those with nervous, anxious and panicky tendencies too. I’ve prescribed these herbs at my clinic for years and they appear to work in the majority of cases. If you are already on medication and wish to try herbs, it is important to develop a schedule for making this transition. Never stop prescribed medications by yourself.



Patricia Loh is an educator, writer and consultant on natural and holistic health care. She is a qualified herbalist and is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Herbal Medicine. Inquiries on this article can be forwarded to pat.herbz@gmail.com

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