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Top 11 Herbs that Help Fight Stress and Calm the Mind

linden flowers

Let’s face it, stress is an everyday occurrence. But there are different levels of stress.

It’s the toxic high doses of stress that are bad for our bodies and can cause health issues.  

For example; depression, trauma, money problems, constant state of anger, overwork and a large transition in life such as moving or a new job are all high measures of stress.

Some of the best ways to relieve stress is through yoga, tai chi, walking, mediation and socializing with friends and family. Ventures that keep your mind and body active are also good de-stressors such as ceramics, photography, bicycling, hiking and other favorite activities.

Now some people unwind in other ways that can have undesirable consequences when used excessively — midnight ice cream binges, sleeping pills, alcohol or drugs.

Although herbs may not replace social and emotional support, they are a great way to help your mind and body deal with high level of stress. Regardless if you carry stress in your mind, muscles, stomach or heart center; there is a traditional herbal therapy to minimize the effect.

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Two Main Types of Stress Relief Herbs

Throughout history, people have used herbs to relieve various types of stress. They are an effective and gentle way to relieve every day and prolonged anxiety. Basically, there are two types of herbs used for stress; relaxing herbs and adaptogens.

Calming Herbs

Nervines or calming herbs are good for the nervous system. They are said to decrease anxiety, nervousness and stress.

Calming herbs include chamomile, lemon balm, passion flower and others.

Lavender is also a calming herb that is a favorite among many. It is a quick acting stress reliever. To reduce anxiety, use lavender essential oil in an infuser or grow a plant so you can snip off a few leaves or flowers when needed.

Chamomile: An apple-scented flower that supports digestion and has a mild calming effect. It is also a great anti-inflammatory, has restorative effects and is a proven mild relaxant that is even safe for kids. Caution: Chamomile should not be consumed if you have a ragweed allergy, you may have a negative reaction.

green hop budsHops: Flowers of the Humulus lupulus vine have been used for centuries to promote sleep, reduce anxiety, nervousness, restlessness and tension. It is a mild sedative without the typical drowsiness the next morning.

Hops are great as a tea with lemon and honey. They can also be used in making a sleep pillow for better rest at night.

Caution: Hops are considered safe. But people who are sensitive to hormones should avoid hops because some chemicals in hops act like estrogen. As well, hops should not be taken before surgery. It may cause too much drowsiness when combined with anesthesia and other medications.

Lemon Balm: This herb has a calm relaxing effect on the central nervous system. Generally used to lower anxiety, fight stress and lessen sadness. A nice refreshing tea and a great change from the typical mint teas. Caution:  Not recommended in large does if you have an under-active thyroid.

passion flower

Passion flower: Considered a mild sedative and to help promote sleep.

Passion flower is also used for insomnia,  depression, nervousness, anxiety and excitability.

Caution: Possibly safe if taken short-term as a tea (less than two months).

It is said to be  possibly unsafe when taken by mouth in large amounts. Side effects include irregular muscle action, confusion, dizziness and inflamed blood vessels.

lavenderLavender: The flowers of lavender can reduce anxiety and irritability, promote relaxation and help combat sadness. It is typically used as an essential oil as in aromatherapy.

Caution: When taken orally, lavender can cause headache, constipation and increased appetite. Also, lavender can sometimes cause irritation when applied to the skin. Plus, if you are a scheduled for surgery, stop using lavender at least 2 weeks prior.

Linden Flowers: Also called Tilia, lime flower and basswood. The flowers can be made into a flavorsome tea or used as a tincture. It is said to reduce anxiety, support the circulatory system, and help with insomnia and headaches including migraines. Caution: Linden flowers might cause itching if used on the skin. In addition, frequent use of linden tea has been linked to heart damage. Consult a qualified health specialist before using if you have heart disease.

St Johns Wort

St. John’s Wort: Used during the Victorian and Renaissance periods and even in Hippocrates time. Although it is said to be unassertive, studies show that it is a promising herb for treating major depressive disorders. The extract is said to help mild to moderate depression, improve mood and decrease insomnia and anxiety related to depression.

Caution: Contact a qualified healthcare specialist before taking. St. John’s Wort can interact with many drugs. It may also make symptoms worse if you have ADHD, bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia and major depression. St. John’s Wort is likely safe when taken orally for up to 12 weeks. Possible side effects include restlessness, trouble sleeping, dizziness, diarrhea, anxiety, headache, irritability, fatigue, stomach upset, dry mouth, skin rash and tingling.

Adaptogenic Herbs 

Adaptogenic herbs protect your body from the damaging effects of distress. They act as a tonic and support the organs and systems that are imbalanced by stress. Adaptogens can also help your body and mind to be more resilient during times that are more stressful. Herbal adaptogens include ashwagandha, Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng), schisandra and many others.

Panax Ginseng for stress

Asian (Panax) Ginseng: This medicinal has been used for thousands of years.

It is one of the most valued and least expensive herbs.

Asian ginseng is said to effect metabolism within individual cells to help the body withstand stress.

Moreover, the herb is thought to restore and strengthen the immune system, enhance growth of normal cells, fight against some cancers and promote longevity.

Caution: Some researchers feel that Panax ginseng may have hormone-like effects that could be harmful with prolonged use (more than 6 months). The most common side effects are insomnia. Less common side effects include high or low blood pressure, increased heart rate, mood changes, dizziness, headache, menstrual problems, breast pain, vaginal bleeding, and diarrhea, loss of appetite, rash and itching. Ginseng is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Siberian Ginseng for stress

Eleuthero or Siberian Ginseng:

This herb in traditional Chinese medicine is used for fatigue, insomnia, joint pain and muscle spasms.

Eleuthero is also said to help with impaired concentration, mild depression and improve memory.

Caution: Considered safe. Side effects are rare which include anxiety, drowsiness, and changes in heart rhythm, muscle spasms and sadness. In high doses, it may increase blood pressure.

Ashwagandha: An Ayurvedic medicine used for thousands of years. It is said to increase energy, endurance and stamina, vitality, promote longevity and strengthen the immune system. It is also used to treat insomnia, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue syndrome and exhaustion due to mental and physical strain. Caution: Should not be taken if you are sensitive to the nightshade group of plants or if you are pregnant or taking sedatives. Ashwagandha may lower blood sugar level. Be careful and consult a healthcare professional if you are diabetic. In addition, avoid if you have a thyroid disorder, stomach ulcers, and an auto-immune disease like MS or lupis or will have surgery within 2 weeks.

Rhodiola Rosea red flower

Rhodiola Rosea: This amazing plant grows just about anywhere; from the Arctic and Central Asia to Baffin Island and the mountains of North Carolina. It thrives in colder climates such as the Alps, Carpathian Mountains, Pyrenees, Iceland, Scandinavia and Ireland.

Rhodiola Rosea is so well known throughout history that it is legendary. In 77 A.D, Dioscorides (a Greek physician) documented the medical uses of the plant. Dioscorides called the plant rodia riza in the archetypical medical text De Materia Medica. Chinese emperors sent expeditions to Siberia to transport “the golden root” for medicinal purposes. Even the Vikings relied on the herb to increase their physical strength and endurance. The Mongolians used it to treat cancer and tuberculosis. Central Asian peoples felt that brewed tea is the most successful treatment for the cold and flu.

Today the plant is known to help many ailments. However, there is not enough research about the plant to make any health claims. Still, many believe that Rhodiola rosea is good for stress-related heart disorders, anxiety, depression, fatigue, improving athletic performance, Tuberculosis and bladder cancer. And like the Vikings believe, many feel that it increases stamina, energy and mental aptitude. Caution: Rhodiola rosea is possibly safe when taken orally and short term (up to 6-10 weeks). The safety of long term use is unknown. As well, there are no probable side effects known.


It is highly recommended that you consult a physician, a health professional or dietary expert before starting any healthy diet detox or exercise routine. This article is not intended as medical advice.

dried hop buds

Picture credit

Chamomile: Macro of german chamomile via photopin (license)
Dried hop buds on bush: hops @ 2008 fresh hop festival, portland or via photopin (license)
Green hop bud: Spalt hops ready to pick via photopin (license)
Passion flower: Passion via photopin (license)
Passion flower close-up: closeup on passion via photopin (license)
Lavender: Lavendel via photopin (license)
Linden Flowers: Linden flowers via photopin (license)
St. John’s Wort: interior world like a fair ride : st. john’s wort flower macro, sacramento (2015) via photopin (license)
Panax Ginseng with flower-like modules: IMG_3751 via photopin (license)
Panax Ginseng on cheesecloth: Fresh Korean Ginseng via photopin (license)
Siberian Ginseng: IMG_3773 via photopin (license)
Rhodiola Rosea (red flower): Ledge Stonecrop 02 via photopin (license)

Panax Ginseng on cheesecloth


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