Bit of advice: get a dog in winter or spring when there's less going on. There is not loss going on in the fall, which I'll confess I forget. Every. Single. Year. But I love her to pieces and she's been pretty great, so I'll never be able to complain too much...
|FUN fall things. I love making garlic braids this time of year.|
And for me, this time of year brings a certain amount of anxiety, that is to say more as this whole year I've been pretty stressed and have been coping with this without break the last 8 or so months. The tightness of breath, jelly limbs, sudden stutter and even full-blown panic attacks have really forced me to take a step back this year (or try my best to) and re-evaluate how I deal with stress, and find ways to manage my anxiety on a day-to-day basis.
I first developed general anxiety in college, where I was regularly taking 18 or 19 credits a semester, striving for A's, and managing two research projects (big deal for an undergrad; one was published in Herpetological Review). My sleep suffered- at one point I didn't get more than four hours of sleep a night for SEVEN MONTHS. I struggled to remember my mom's name for paperwork and when I brought it up to my doctor her only response was "If it doesn't get better in a couple more months, come back and I'll prescribe you an antidepressant." My diet suffered, and I couldn't bring myself to go out and enjoy social events because the stress would be too much and I'd end up curled up in bed trying not to hyperventilate.
That was wholly unacceptable so I set out to fix it for myself. You can hear about my methods and tricks here from my YouTube channel where I've hashed it all out.
But here on the blog I wanted to discuss my use of herbs and share my favorite recipes. Everything shared here is grown, prepared and used by your truly, so it is an incomplete list of herbs for anxiety, but one I look forward to expanding in the future.
*****Please do your own additional research if deciding to try any of my recommendations. All are pretty safe but individual responses can be different so exercise caution and a solid pinch of common sense when taking your health care into your own hands and use the advice of folks from the internet*****
Motherwort is such a supportive herb and my favorite for anxiety with nausea. I carry a half-ounce dropper bottle with me everywhere I go- it's saved me several times this summer, especially at farmers markets where talking to people for hours at a time can make me stressed and woozy.
Three to five drops of this elixir under my tongue and I'm right as rain again. On it's own in a tincture I find motherwort to be unpleasant, especially since I don't always have a beverage to mix it in, so an elixir is preferred. My recipe is below.
1 cup dried motherwort tops, 2 cups if fresh
1 cup local honey
1 cup vodka
Bring all ingredients together in a jar of choice. Label and store in a cool cupboard, shaking daily or so for a month. Strain well and take 3-5 drops under the tongue as needed.
Please note: motherwort is a gentle herb but contains compounds that stimulate the uterus, and so should be avoided if pregnant unless under guidance of a clinical herbalist. Motherwort can also help those with stress-induced heart irregularities, however I have not had a chance to work with it in this fashion, so please consult a clinical herbalist for advice.
Moldavian balm (Dracocephalum moldavica), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Soothing and uplifting, I'm not sure there's much nicer than a cup of lemon or moldavian balm tea. Different names, different genus's but they can be used interchangeably (and I actually prefer Moldavian Balm for drying and long term storage- the flavor and scent remains longer than Lemon Balm. Lemon Balm on the other hand is easier and more productive to grow in the home garden.). There are two ways I use these herbs- as a tea or as an infused honey (electuary experiments happening this winter!), but tinctures are also commercially available.
1 Tbsp. dried balm, 2 Tbsp. if fresh
8oz boiling water
Honey and squeeze of lemon to taste
Add the herbs to your water and steep for 5-10 minutes. Add honey and lemon juice as desired and enjoy!
Lemon Balm Honey
1 cup finely chopped lemon balm tops
1 cup local honey
Pack the lemon balm into a jar of choice and pour the honey over it. Stir with a chop stick to thoroughly mix the two and remove any air bubbles Store in a dark cupboard for two to four weeks before straining. If the honey gets thick after the storage just heat the jar up in a pot of hot water for a few minutes and it should be pourable again. Couldn't get all of the honey off? Spoon chucks of the herbal matter into a mug of hot water and enjoy!
Please note: both are contraindicated in cases of hypothyroidism, and please consult a clinical herbalist for use during pregnancy.
I didn't learn about this wonderful plant until 2015 when I was working on a farm in Northern California. These small and strong little orange and yellow flowers captivated me and I buy seed every year to grow a little patch for myself here in the Salish Sea.
Unlike most poppies, California poppies are non-addictive and safe for most people, including children. These beauties are ideal for restless, sleepless nights when you can't seem to stop thinking in circles. I take a dropper full of tincture before bed as needed, and it is a part of every sleep-related formula I make.
A fairly bitter herb, I only take California poppy as a tincture.
Please note: they contain uterine-stimulating compounds and should be avoided during pregnancy unless guided by a clinical herbalist.
~*~LAVENDER & ROSE
Lavendula spp., Rosa spp.
Subtle and gentle but effective and safe. Lavender and rose are both great employed in aromatherapy for dealing with stress and anxiety, and energetically I have found both to be very supportive herbs. Widespread and easy to use, the moon's the limit with how to bring these two plants into a holistic management plan.
Ways to use lavender and rose
- Include in tea blends
- Infused in bath salts / Epsom salt foot soak
- In body oils (I defer to Amber Hill of Mythic Medicinals HERE)
- Essential oil diffuser
- Rose water face and room spritzer
- Delicate infused honey (see Lemon Balm infused honey above)
Please note: lavender can bring on menses, and excessive internal use should be avoided during pregnancy.
~*~TULSI (Holy Basil)
Often attributed to all kinds of diverse life-changing, healing miracles I have found tulsi to be the most effective as a gentle, strengthening relaxant. It's amazing what lowering your stress levels, and giving your body a chance to respond better to stress can do. Tulsi is considered an adaptogen- an herb that is safe to use over a long period of time and strengthens/improved the bodies response to stress.
There is some choice when it comes to adaptogenic herbs, but I like to work with tulsi because I enjoy the taste, it's easy to prepare in teas, food, tincture or body oil and I can get it to grow where I live. It is widely available in tea blends, and I find a nightly ritual of a hot mug-full every night to be a great way to wind down before bed, thereby improving my sleep which is one of the main limbs I've found for combatting anxiety.
And there it is, one farmer's favorite herbs and recipes for managing anxiety. Mind you- herbs are merely a support to the main tenants of managing anxiety and stress, they will do little if you aren't taking care of yourself on the most basic levels (Read: sleeping enough, staying hydrated, and being mindful of your diet). And again, please use common sense and do plenty of research before deciding to treat yourself with herbal medicine.
Until next time, Sabrina