8 Cheap Calming Herbs as Powerful as Adaptogens
Adaptogens are touted as the herbs à la mode through powdered blends, incited by their anti-oxidant & -stress properties. We have covered them since the inception of the site—est. 2014—alongside Rachelle Robinett and in the book. However, as there are a plethora of other herb classifications with their respective balancing properties. These categories include astringents, which dry or shrink tissue to create a barrier such as witch hazel on skin; bitters, which stimulate appetite and digestion such as orange peel and dandelion; and the topic of this list, nervines, which support the nervous system.
A Primer on the Nervous System
Th nervous system operates either on a sympathetic or parasympathetic mode. These nervous systems are part of the autonomic nervous system, which controls the involuntary functions of our internal organs and glands. Specifically, the sympathetic nervous system helps our body deal with stress and is known as the “fight or flight” system. Think of it as the body having sympathy towards you during a stressful situation. The parasympathetic system, on the other hand, balances out the system when the stressor is removed and allows our body to rest. This system is known as the “rest and digest” system.
How does the sympathetic system become stimulated?
The central nervous system perceives a wide variety of events as stressful, from losing a grocery list to being chased by a vicious animal. Our modern lives have conditioned us to perceive many events as life-or-death as well as the lack of evolution in our body’s perspective of these situations. These events cause the sympathetic system to kick into action. This is the system attempting to keep you alive and hence doesn’t care about eating, excreting waste, reproducing since these are not necessary for survival.
Some signs & Symptoms of the Parasympathetic System:
Slower heart rate
Decreased blood pressure
Increase gastric motility, causing bowel movements
Contract bladder: voiding
Some signs & Symptoms of the Sympathetic Nervous System
Elevated heart rate & blood pressure
Pupils dilate: cells of the radial muscle contract
Increase in blood sugar
Contraction of sphincters: no bowel movements
Causes kidney’s adrenal glands to activate, allowing the sympathetic response to continue and cause adrenal fatigue in the long run
Back to the original topic at hand, adaptogens have and continue to garner attention because of their stress-reducing and even cancer-inhibiting properties. However, recent research suggests that tinkering or, in the case of many in the wellness sphere, obsessing with the body’s stress response could incite cancer growth, too. Until now, many scientists believed that oxidative stress contributed to cancer cells while antioxidants had chemo-preventative effect or quelled their growth. Yet a multitude of large clinical trials in people have shown that mega-doses of antioxidants, specifically betacarotene and retinol (vitamin A), may induce cancer growth rather than inhibit it.
This is not to say that antioxidants, from adaptogenic herbs to supplements, cause cancer. It’s a reminder to take information with a grain of salt, in moderation, and not to rely on it as holy-grail solution. Adaptogens are not panaceas for the stress of paying bills or reading the news. Take them along with eating a whole-foods diet, but the true panacea or rather one close to it is facing the cause of stressors, whether it’s financial instability or immobilising anxiety from consuming news.
In the meantime as you do explore these root causes, support yourself with more accessible nervine herbs. These have an immediate effect of calming down the nervous system and work especially well for stress-induced insomnia. As always, if you’ve been experiencing chronic stress and the symptoms above, pease consult with your healthcare provider.
What are Nervines?
Click on the herb to shop
½ tablespoon of culinary lavender
6 ounces of hot, plant-based milk, we prefer coconut
4 ounces of chamomile tea steeped in hot water
Sweetener, such as raw honey, to taste
Pour the steeped chamomile tea, along milk, lavender petals, and blend on high. Serve and enjoy immediately.
About the Author
Almila Kakinc-Dodd is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief of The Thirlby. She is also the author of the book The Thirlby: A Field Guide to a Vibrant Mind, Body, & Soul. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Nursing as a Dean’s Scholar at Johns Hopkins University. Her background is in Anthropology & Literature, which she has further enriched through her Integrative Health Practitioner training at Duke University. She lives in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area, where she regularly contributes to various publications. She is a member of Democratic Socialists of America and urges others to join the movement.