Womankind has been using medicinal herbs for thousands of years. Chinese medicine and Ayurveda are approximately 3,000-5,000 years old. Even the Ice Man, who is estimated to have lived in 3,300 BC was discovered carrying medicinal mushrooms and fungus believed to aid with parasitic infections.
Herbs tend to have less severe side effects than pharmaceutical drugs and are more subtle. We know quite a bit about herbs since we have been using them for close to a millennia, whereas pharmaceuticals are new by comparison. Herbs, however, can have side effects, contraindications and can interact with the effects of other drugs. It is always important to speak with your doctor and/or pharmacist prior to taking herbs if you are on prescription medication(s).
When it comes to anxiety, women generally have two options, a) attend talk therapy appointments or b) try medication – or a combination of the two. However, if you’ve already gone through talk therapy or given medication a try, there may be alternative methods, such as ingesting herbs, that can help with anxiety.
After all, research shows that while psychotropic medications may be effective in the short-term, they aren’t as effective in treating conditions like anxiety long-term. And when we receive our prescription plan, our practitioner may not remind us of lemon balm’s effects on mood and cognition (Scholey et al., 2014) chamomile’s benefits for mild to moderate generalized anxiety (Amsterdam et al., 2009) or how we might use passionflower, kava, or L-lysine to treat anxiety conditions (Lakhan et al., 2010).
In addition, many herbs offer added nutrition and other benefits – rather than annoying side effects. For example, calendula has more carotenoids per weight than a sweet potato and rose hips are very rich in Vitamin C and bioflavanoids. These added nutritive benefits can certainly help with anxiety as well.
I work with clients in my coaching programs to slowly integrate herbs into their daily routine. Many times this involves learning how to make medicinal herbal tea. Generally speaking, a heaping teaspoon or tablespoon of herb added to a hot cup of water will create the perfect blend. The longer you allow the herb to steep – the more “medicinal” your tea becomes (Steep is just the Loose Leaf Goddess’s way of saying soak). Tea tends to absorb into the bloodstream much faster than pills or drugs which take much longer to dissolve and can also do damage to the liver over the longer term.
Herbal teas can be created for long term health and immune building or for acute conditions, such as colds. A super infusion is great for colds, whereas more chronic conditions might call for drinking normal doses of a plant for longer periods of time, such as stinging nettle – for allergies or menstrual cramps. In addition, tough plant parts like roots, barks and seeds may need to be decocted to truly draw out their medicinal properties.
Now a days, herbs are very easy to come by. You can find them at any grocery store and most cities have herb stores. You can also visit online retailers, such as The Healing Spirits Herb Farm.
Herbs to try for anxiety include: Holy Basil (Tulsi) and Passionflower. They can easily be brewed into teas, elixirs or taken in capsule form.