One way to show your love and help someone find peace this holiday season is to share a gift of healing herbs. Whether you grow and dry your own herbs or buy them in bulk, put together an herbal tea blend and give it in a basket decorated with your unique touch. Herbs such as chamomile, lavender and passionflower can help your-self and others relax during the holiday season. Many of the herbs chosen for relaxation are referred to as nervines. Nervine herbs have the ability to affect the nervous system and can be either stimulating or calming. Taken in tincture or tea form,herbs such as chamomile or lavender work internally to aid relaxation. The essential oils of these herbs — when used as aromatherapy — work by stimulating the hypothalamus to release different chemical messages to the body.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) has long been used to calm anxiety — in fact, in the 1800s, it was used to calm hysteria, restlessness and nervousness. Taken during the day, chamomile calms stress without disrupting mental capabilities such as concentration. Taken an hour before bed, it relaxes the body and mind in preparation for sleep. This herb is especially valuable when stress begins to affect your digestive system since it helps expel gas, soothe the digestive tract and quiet spasms and a nervous stomach. You may take chamomile orally in capsule, tincture or tea form: Tinctures are sometimes more effective than teas. Add chamomile tincture to a warm bath to help soothe overwrought nerves.
Lavender (Lavendula officinalis) has historically been proven to ease insomnia, anxiety and to improve mood and relieve headaches, especially those associated with fatigue and nervous exhaustion.
In addition to easing headache pain and inducing sleep, lavender is a gentle strengthening tonic for the nervous system. The essential oil of lavender works especially well in a compress, poultice, diluted in massage oil, or added to a warm bath to ease sleeplessness or to relax tense muscles, he claims. Taken in tincture form, it acts as a mild sedative and nervine.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) has primarily treated restlessness and insomnia resulting from mental worry, nervous exhaustion or overwork. This herb is stronger
than chamomile and specifically counters nervousness and unrest due to a hyperactive mind. If you can’t stop worrying about all you must accomplish, passionflower is a
good choice for you. In addition, it acts as a hypotensive, meaning it helps lower blood pressure.
Always Carry Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) on hand in tincture form during the holidays, especially if you plan to travel. Stress can interfere with sound sleep,
which is necessary for rejuvenation. Valerian induces sleep without side effects or addiction, unlike benzodiazepine medications such as Halcion and Valium, which aid sleep by blocking the arousal of brain centers and causing side effects such as morning hangover, addiction and decreased mental capabilities.
In addition, herbalists recommend valerian to protect against emotional stress, muscle pain, tension headaches, nervousness and restlessness.
Use an aromatherapy mixture of essential oils of pine, fir, cinnamon and peppermint added to a diffuser to fill the air with the essence of holiday festivities.
Special scents can inspire special memories and remind us of what the holiday season truly means.
Herbs can also be used to help ease the discomfort that comes from overeating. Serve a tea of carminitive herbs such as peppermint or ginger after meals to aid digestion or use umeboshi, a Japanese plum paste, as a digestive aid. It eases discomfort from ailments such as flatulence, indigestion and even hangovers.
Don’t forget to give to yourself in the bustle to give to others. Take time for yourself, whether that means taking a solitary walk or soaking in a therapeutic bath scented with the essential oils of rosemary and lavender to lift the spirits and relieve anxiety. Indulge in a spa retreat or an hour of healing treatments such as massage. Exercise is also essential. Perhaps you don’t have the time or energy to hit the gym, but plan a snowshoe trek with family members and take along a Thermos of spiced cider.