Learn how these well-known herbs you might already have in your kitchen or garden can help you safely wind down.
After a stressful day, there are many ways to wind down and let go of tension. Reading, conversation, gentle exercise, meditation and prayer are all time-honored ways to encourage relaxation. You can further enhance your relaxation routine by adding in herbs.
These five herbs from the Western tradition will complement any home-relaxation ritual.
This herb native to the Mediterranean is treasured for its calming and soothing effects. The essential oil is inhaled for its pain-relieving, anxiety-reducing and mood-stabilizing effects. In a 2012 study in European Neurology, lavender essential oil was found to significantly reduce the severity of migraine headaches. In another study, lavender essential oil as aromatherapy was shown to decrease agitation in patients in nursing homes.
This plant could be the most widely used relaxing Western herb. Among its many properties, it calms nerves and muscle spasms, aids in digestion by relieving gas and bloating, helps with dizziness and motion sickness, and can safely be used for children and infants to promote restful sleep, according to 2010 research published in Molecular Medicine Reports.
This mint-family plant has a pleasant citrus taste and reduces anxiety, calms digestion and elevates mood. Lemon balm is traditionally indicated for restlessness and nervous indigestion. It has also been shown to enhance cognitive performance through its actions on acetylcholine receptors in the brain, in a 2002 Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior study.
The leaves, flowers and fruit of this plant are often used to strengthen the cardiovascular system and relax blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, according to a 2010 article in Pharmacognosy Review. In traditional Western herbalism, hawthorn is also used to soothe emotional stress of heartache and facilitate healing by opening the heart and inviting forgiveness. As it can alter the need for certain heart medications, any cardiac patient taking hawthorn should be monitored by a physician, as noted in a 2002 research review in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy.
The beautiful flower of a vine native to the tropics and sub-tropics, passionflower promotes restful sleep and relaxation. According to a 2010 study in Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology, passionflower works chiefly by affecting gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors and other neurotransmitters in the central nervous system.
As with all natural products, choose herb sources that are high-quality, organic and sustainable, to help ensure plant medicines will be available for future generations. If you take medications, have a health condition, or are pregnant or breast-feeding, consult a health care professional before you take herbs.
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