June sees the hedgerows growing madly and showing lush depth and beauty. Just taking a small patch of say one square foot you can see many different varieties of grass all vying for the top position to facilitate distribution of the seeds with the help of the wind, animals, insects or birds. What a feast for the eyes and how clever nature is!
This month I am focusing on sedative and anti anxiety/relaxant herbs and plants. The main reason for this is the realization that so many of our clients who come to our student clinics are suffering from anxiety and restlessness in one form or another – not being able to sleep, circular thoughts disturbing return to sleep of those that wake in the night, inability to “switch off”, headaches and general tension, including my own mother!
What are sedative herbs and how do they work? “Sedative is an agent or drug having a soothing, calming or tranquilizing effect.” (Free Medical Dictionary)
Sedatives work in the body by acting on the brain by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which then decreases brain activity producing a relaxed and sedative effect by calming nerves and relieving tension. Some would say I can do that with a good glass of wine or similar!
Sedative herbs, also known as relaxants and nerviness have been used traditionally for many centuries in many cultures for sleep and anxiety disorders such as social phobia, OCD, panic disorders and restlessness. Overall, disorders that affect the brain and central nervous system where slowing down is needed.
The beauty of relaxant/sedative herbs is that they vary in strength from mild, such as German Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) and Lavender (Lavandula officinalis) to much stronger relaxants for example, Wild oats (Avena sativa).
Looking in the garden as well as the hedgerow we can find some very useful and beautiful relaxants:
Lavender (Lavandula officinalis) - found in most English gardens whether in a pot, or herbaceous border. Add several drops of Lavender essential oil to a base oil, such as sweet almond and rub this into your feet before retiring to bed. Dry the flowers and make a Lavender pillow to promote relaxation and sleep. If suffering from a tension headache massage a few drops of essential oil into your temples.
German Chamomile (Chamomila recucita) - we all know this flower as Chamomile tea, drunk before going to bed to relax body and mind. This herb flowers profusely at this time of year creating a yellow and white carpet. Pick the flowers and make an infusion, drinking a cup last thing at night. It is also very useful put into the bath to relax fractious and overtired children. Infuse 4 teaspoons in 500ml water and strain into the bath.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) - a very common herb found in our gardens for flavouring salads, fish and vegetables. Just rubbing the leaves in your fingers and then smelling your fingers can bring about a feeling of relaxation and wellbeing. Traditionally this herb was taken to lift the spirits. Using the leaves to make an infusion or tea will calm the mind and relax any nervous tension. When taken regularly it will reduce feelings of anxiety, reduce palpitations of nervous origin and is also beneficial when the nervousness is causing digestive problems - bloating, indigestion and acidity.
Enjoy the joys of June!