Let’s face it – modern life can be pretty darn stressful. Crazy work expectations, noisy traffic, bright lights after sunset. If you aren’t careful, our senses can be constantly assaulted by all kinds of stressors. Many of us are aware of this, and take daily steps to reduce and address the effects of this stress: yoga, better sleep hygiene, eating whole foods, meditation… And luckily, mama nature provided us with a whole plethora of herbs called “nervines” that want to help us, too!
What is a nervine?
Let’s start by clarifying what an “herbal action” is. From the perspective of Western Herbalism, herbal actions are the complex ways in which herbs interact with our physiology. These actions generally correlate to a specific system of our body or a type of tissue (i.e. the digestive system or mucous membranes).
Simply put, a nervine is an herb that influences our nervous system. They help to restore, balance, and strengthen our nervous system. There are a few classes of nervines, including tonic nervines, calming nervines, sedative nervines, and stimulating nervines. Because easing the stress response is something that just about all modern folk need, let’s talk calming nervines and tonic nervines.
Calming + Tonic Nervines
A calming nervine does just that: it will soothe and relaxes the nervous system, by increasing parasympathetic nervous system activity. A healthy parasympathetic nervous system means a body that can function well. We cannot be restful, at peace, properly digest or think with an overstimulated sympathetic nervous system! Calming nervines can help to take us out of that sort of “fight or flight” mode, helping nudge us back into a state of ease or at least function.
A tonic nervine will strengthen the function and integrity of the nervous system. After long periods of stress, trauma, exhaustion (who hasn’t been there?) these plants coax our body back into a state of equilibrium. They are also known as “trophorestoratives”, meaning that they restore a worn-down nervous system that is depleted and burnt out. This is a wonderful, powerful class of herbs that we all could benefit from getting to know and working with!
Ready to meet a few of our favorite nervines? Here’s a few that we include in our Town Farm Tonics products:
Lemon Balm: Calms, uplifts, and restores nervous system function. It’s well-suited to ease daily nxiety and nervousness.
Lavender: A bright herb that uplifts the spirit and quickly eases the nerves.
Passionflower: Known for relieving general tension (physical and mental), nervous restlessness, and restoring healthy sleep cycles.
Chamomile: Known to ease anxiety and tension. Its mild bitter flavor suggests digestive function and emotional processing.
Milky Oats: A gentle tonic nervine that restores nervous system function over time, reducing fatigue and supporting a mild calm.
Hops: Not just for beer, hops is a sedative nervine, so a great ally for deep sleep and intense restlessness. It’s also soothing to a nervous stomach and menstrual cramps.
Skullcap: Gently promotes well-being and relaxation, especially when stress is associated with over-thinking and head tension.
Ready to befriend nervines? We suggest giving our Unwind tea blend a shot! It’s packed full of nervine herbs: Lemon Balm, Lavender, Passionflower, Rose, and Milky Oats. YES! It’s light, floral, and hard not to love with a scoop of honey! We suggest sipping 2-4 cups of Unwind daily; this is the recommended way to enjoy a “tonic” tea to strengthen nervous system function over time. You will feel the nervous system calming effects from just a single cup of Unwind, and after 2-4 weeks of regular use, you will begin to notice the deeper rejuvenation of nervous system function.
For those with deep sleep on their mind, reach for SNOOZE. It’s another beautiful combination of herbal nervines, with a focus on sedative nervines that encourage deeper relaxation and solid sleep. It’s refreshing, herbal and just what your body, mind, and belly need before bed!
What we at TFT love most about plants is that, they aren’t doing the work for us. They aren’t forcing our body into function, leading to an array of side effects that require further medication. Rather, through their vital force, herbs remind our body of what it already wants to do. Herbs carry the information that says: “this is what health and wholeness feels like – let me help you.” It’s pretty incredible stuff! We wish you all the best as you connect with plants on your wellness journey. As always, reach out directly to us with any of your herbal questions – we’re here for you!