Top 10 Herbs To Reduce Stress and Restore Well-Being

“Top 10 Herbs To Reduce Stress and Restore Well-Being” by Lori McCarthy

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Did you know that in the United States today, 1 in 4 people suffer from anxiety or depression?  It’s true.  Most of us know that stress is a normal part of life, and most people are capable of dealing with certain amounts of stress.  But how do you cope when you start feeling anxious every day or having anxiety attacks? What do you do when the occasional blues turn into debilitating depression?

Chances are if you are reading this right now then you or someone you love may suffer from anxiety or depression.  Well, I can certainly empathize. As a young adult of 21, I began to experience anxiety attacks.  Finally I went to see a shrink.  My psychologist did what she could for me and even recommended a special diet consisting of all natural, unprocessed foods and no sugar.   I also went to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder and prescribed me Xanax.  Then it was discovered that over time people build up a tolerance to Xanax, so then they need a higher dosage of the drug to do have the same effect.  Eventually people can even become dependent on the drug, so they switched me to Tranxene.  Tranxene was very ineffective for me, so after a while  I just stopped taking it and stopped going to the psychiatrist.  Years later during a very stressful time in my life I started having problems again, so I asked my regular family doctor to prescribe something.   By this time, some other drugs came along which were supposedly better, so they switched me to Lexapro.  However, I began to experience troublesome side effects which, I believe may have been due to the Lexapro. Then finally after being on the medication for a couple of years, I decided it was time I take matters into my own hands.  In addition, I always hated being on medication so I was always searching for a better way.

Years ago when my children were still toddlers I met an herbalist named Sandra.  She told me how God had cured her of cancer by teaching her about various herbs that would help her body heal.  Fast forward twenty years later and now I am a Certified Herbalist!  I am no longer on any anti-anxiety medications and I have discovered that medicinal herbs are more effective when it comes to alleviating stress and restoring feelings of well-being.  For one thing, they are all natural, have no dangerous side effects, and get to the root of the problem better than prescription medications.  Instead of synthetic drugs which may alter chemicals in the brain, I sip on an herbal tea three times a day which I specifically designed for what ails me.  I also use essential oil therapy and have begun changing my diet.  When I’m feeling particularly anxious, I know what to do.  Same thing when I’m feeling depressed or if I’m having trouble sleeping.

As someone who has suffered firsthand from an anxiety disorder for many years as well as bouts of depression, I have personally found that one of the absolute best ways to keep stress at bay and to improve overall mental health and well-being is to use medicinal herbs.  Since I began using herbs I have found it unnecessary to continue taking prescription medication and have now gotten off of them completely.

Now please understand, I am not a medical doctor, and I am in no way suggesting that you go off of your meds!  However, what I am saying is that, just like me, you may find the use of herbs extremely helpful in your situation also.  In addition, I recommend that everyone consult with their doctor before using any herbs and also before discontinuing any medications.  I say that for three reasons.  First of all, some herbs can actually interact with certain medications.  That is why I advise you to always consult with your doctor before taking any herbs to make sure that they don’t have any dangerous interactions with the medications you are currently taking.  Secondly, just as drugs do, some herbs also have certain contraindications.  For instance, if you are pregnant or nursing, there are certain herbs that you should avoid altogether.  Finally, if you are currently on prescription medications, there may be withdrawal symptoms or other side effects involved when stopping them completely.  In my case, I cut way down on the dosage months before I actually stopped taking them completely, and I was already drinking my “De-Stress Tea” to counteract any withdrawal symptoms from the anti-anxiety medication I was on.

Now just for some basics on herbs that are best used to reduce stress and promote overall well-being.  Soothing herbs which are used to work with the nervous system and help with its ailments are called nervines.  They can often help soothe and ease pain. There are basically two types of nervines. There are nervine relaxants and nervine stimulants. Nervine relaxants calm the nervous system and make you feel more relaxed.  Some examples of good nervine relaxants are Lavender, Chamomile, Skullcap, and Hops.  Nervine stimulants help stimulate the body to do something, whether it be to boost your energy level or to elevate your mood.  Examples of nervine stimulants are coffee, black tea, and peppermint.  Nervine stimulants may also be addictive, so be careful.

Now obviously it has taken me many years to learn about the various herbs, their preparations, indications, and contraindications and some trial and error to finally find what works best of me. Therefore, to shorten the learning curve for you I have come up with a list of the top ten herbs which I feel are the most beneficial for managing stress and anxiety.

  1. Valerian Root – Valerian has a wide range of uses, but is especially helpful for anxiety, nervous sleeplessness, and the bodily symptoms of tension such as muscle cramping or indigestion. It may be used safely in situations where tension or anxiety are causing problems.  This may manifest in purely psychological and behavioral but also with bodily symptoms.  It may also be useful as a mild pain reliever.

  2. Chamomile – Chamomile is a very effective nervine relaxant and is known for its strong soothing effect on the mind and body.  It can be used to treat nerve, headaches, insomnia, and menstrual disorders.  The oil is mild enough to be used for the very young to the aged.

  3. Lavender – Lavender, and especially Lavender essential oil, has been used extensively in aromatherapy and is often used in personal care and household products due to its’ calming and pleasant fragrance.  The dried herb can also be prepared as a tea with Chamomile, made into a tincture, used as a steam inhalation, and can be used in soaps and potpourri.  It is also an aphrodisiac, an antidepressant and nervine relaxant and can treat insomnia, nervous stomach, and anxiety as well as migraines due to menopause.

  4. Motherwort – Motherwort is well-suited for “mother’s tension”, or tension of the heart.  It is useful especially in cases of tachycardia (or heart palpitations) when brought on by anxiety.


  5. Hops – Hops has an obvious relaxing effect on the central nervous system.  It is used for the treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders. It will relieve tension and anxiety and may be used where this tension leads to restlessness, headache, and possible indigestion.

  6. Kava Kava – Kava can help calm anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, sleeplessness, and stress-related symptoms and lessens the hot flashes associated with menopause.  It may also relieve muscle tension and spasms and prevent convulsions.  However, it does not interfere with mental sharpness although should not be used with other anti-anxiety medication or alcohol.  Its effects decrease over time, so it is only for short-term use.

  7. St. John’s Wort – St. John’s Wort has a sedative and pain reducing effect.  It is useful in the treatment of depression, anxiety, tension, and similar problems.  It is also used to treat sleep disorders, and neuralgia.  It is said to work by increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine.

  8. Passion Flower – Passion Flower is a terrific herb often used as a sedative for promoting calmness and relaxation and to relieve insomnia.  The chemicals in it have a calming, sleep inducing, and muscle spasm relieving effect.  It can be especially helpful for people who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).  It relieves gastrointestinal upset related to anxiety or nervousness.  It can also be used to relieve symptoms of narcotic withdrawal, ADHD, seizures, hysteria, nervousness and excitability, heart palpitations and irregular heartbeat, hypertension, fibromyalgia, and pain relief.

  9. Bergamot – Bergamot essential oil is a nervine relaxant but also an anti-depressant. It is also said to ease grieving and helps uplift self-esteem with its fresh, invigorating citrus fragrance.  Just be careful as it may increase sensitivity to sunlight.

  10. Skullcap – Skullcap is a nervine relaxant that makes a wonderful nervine tonic and is very effective for stress.  It is also useful in treating insomnia and other sleep disorders, epilepsy, headaches, nerve pain, and recovery from addiction.  It supports, nourishes, and strengthens the nervous system and treats a wide variety of nervous conditions.


As mentioned above, I have come up with an herbal tea formula specifically designed to restore balance and well-being in my own life.  Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and what works for me may not work for someone else.  Therefore, it may take a little experimentation to find the right herbs that work in your particular situation.  If you don’t know very much about herbal preparations, that’s okay.  Simply make an herbal tea or “infusion” by using hot water and allow the herbs to steep for 20 minutes.  Then drink it 2-3 times a day.  Some of the dried herbs I use are from my very own herb garden, such as Lavender, Rosemary, and Chamomile which I grow and dry myself.  The rest of my dried herbs I buy from Mountain Rose Herbs at and I highly recommend them.  I have also invested in various essential oils such as Lavender, Chamomile, and Bergamot for various aromatherapy purposes which also helps keep me calm, happy, and well-balanced.  Most of my essential oils I order from either Mountain Rose Herbs.

Lori McCarthy

The Herbal Advocate

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