Next time you feel anxious or can't sleep, you don't need to take drugs. Herbs are a safe and effective alternative to tranquilizers and sleeping pills.
Proof of this came from a four week study conducted at the Salzburg University in Austria. Researchers gave 102 depressed patients either St. John's wort or the antidepressant drug, maprotiline. Although St. John's wort was slow to act, it didn't cause the mouth dryness, tiredness and "heart problems" found among some who took maprotiline (1). My only caution, if you decide to try this herb, available as a tincture, is that some fair-skinned people occasionally experience photosensitivity after taking large doses of St. John's wort. If you have this problem, consult with an herb-wise practitioner.
As is the case with most herbs, St. John's wort doesn't just cure the blues with its relaxing and tonic properties. It also treats viral and bacterial infections, heals burns and wounds, and helps lung and kidney problems. Some heart conditions are aggravated by stress and anxiety. Because herbs often solve more than one problem at a time, you should be able to find a plant that cares for both your frayed nerves and ailing heart. Herbs can also be blended to enhance their activity.
The group of herbs that affect your nervous system are called nervines of which there are several types: tonics, relaxants and stimulants. Nervine tonics are botanicals that nourish and generally restore nervous system function. Included among the tonics are oats, skullcap and St. John's wort.
My favourite nervine tonic is oats, known to herbalists as Avena sativa. Besides uplifting the depressed, oats is a gentle convalescent herb for individuals suffering from nervous exhaustion or just recovering from a long illness. Oats help protect you from stress and let you sleep at night. I find it very appealing that a steaming bowl of oatmeal or oat bran, found in most kitchens, strengthens the nervous system. Some doctors add oats to their stop-smoking tinctures. Kicking cigarettes is always a good idea for heart patients.
Korean ginseng and Siberian ginseng, collectively known as ginseng, enhance health by bracing you against stress, fatigue and disease. Korean ginseng achieves this by orchestrating the activity between your adrenal glands, pituitary and hypothalamus. The roots of Korean ginseng are rich in ginsenosides, responsible for intercepting physical, biochemical and chemical stress on your body. Once you understand how ginseng works, its reputation as a cure-all makes sense.
If you try ginseng, select capsules or tablets with these caveats in mind. Both ginsengs are only as effective as the concentration of their active ingredients. Most commercially available ginsengs vary greatly in strength because the government doesn't regulate ginseng quality. Ginseng plants vary in age, the root parts used, dilution procedures and preparation. Poor manufacturing methods can destroy all active ginseng compounds, leaving a worthless product.
When standardized techniques are used to prepare ginseng and reasonable dosages taken, side effects are rare. If you do happen to experience anxiety, rashes, diarrhea, irritability, insomnia or melancholy while taking ginseng, discontinue taking it. If you decide to take ginseng for a long period of time, consult with your health practitioner.
Plants that Relax
For people with heart disease or high blood pressure, relaxation is vital. Nervine relaxants, herbs that calm and sedate you, can play a role in controlling stress.