You’ve just walked in the door after a hectic day at work. Maybe you’re worried about a sick family member. Maybe your spouse lost a job. The kids are fighting, and the dishes are dirty. Some days seem to have no end to the stress.
A nationwide survey of US adults found that 75% experience stress-related symptoms. People feel overwhelmed, irritable, and tired. Stress also contributes to mood disorders, like anxiety and depression. Estimates suggest that as many as 18% of adults in America struggle with anxiety disorders.
If you are overwhelmed by stress, struggling with mood changes, or feel worried about any unusual symptoms, it’s important to seek professional care. Regardless of whether you feel the stress is enough to seek help, however, there are things you can do for yourself. Lifestyle and nutrition can support a more adaptive stress response. When your body responds better to external stressors, the consequences are less dire.
Herbs have been used for centuries for their abilities to strengthen the body’s resilience to stress and calm an anxious mind. Some are called adaptogens because they help us adapt to stress. Others are called nervines because they soothe the nervous system. Many herbs have multiple actions and act as both adaptogens and nervines.
The five herbal teas listed here support a healthy stress response and promote a sense of calm. Their effects are gentle and subtle. If you are looking for a natural and nutritive way to relax in the evenings, these herbal teas are an excellent place to start.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a flower in the daisy family. Its flowers are dried and used in tea. Two clinical trials have shown that chamomile supports a healthy mood in people who struggle with anxiety or depression. Those clinical trials used an extract of chamomile, which would be more concentrated than tea. Still, evidence over the years suggests that chamomile tea supports healthy sleep and mood.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) grows on a climbing vine. Passionflower is the name of the plant itself, and the tea is actually made from its leaves and stems. Passionflower may modulate the activity of a calming compound in the brain, called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Passionflower has demonstrated in clinical trials to support healthy sleep and mood.
3. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a lemon-smelling plant in the mint family. Its leaves are dried to make tea and other herbal preparations. Many people grow lemon balm in their herb gardens and don’t realize that it has a long tradition of medicinal use. Recent studies confirm its calming effects, and clinical trials have shown that lemon balm supports a healthy stress response and balanced mood.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogenic herb to support a healthy stress response. The name of the plant means “smell of a horse,” and some say that it gives you the energy and stamina of a horse. It both energizes and calms the body—offering balance. A recent clinical trial showed that ashwagandha extract reduced stress and anxiety in adults.
5. Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is commonly called tulsi, which means “incomparable one.” It grows natively in India and has a long tradition of use in Ayurvedic medicine. Holy basil is an adaptogen that is thought to promote longevity as well as physical and spiritual health. It has a calming effect on the nervous system. Clinical trials show that extracts of holy basil are helpful for managing stress and anxiety. Although these studies used a concentrated extract, tea has been a traditional way to consume holy basil for thousands of years.
Concluding Thoughts about: 5 Herbal Teas to Stop Stress
The herbal teas that are listed in this article are not substitutes for medications or any other advice from a healthcare professional. If you are taking any medications, be sure to ask your doctor about potential interactions.
Teas offer a gentle way to support a healthy stress response and a calm mind, despite what life might throw your way. Next time you are in the aisles of the grocery store, take a moment to scan the herbal teas. You might find these herbs alone or in combinations. Brew some up at home, snuggle on the couch, and let your tension melt away.
By Sarah Cook, ND, instructor at NTI