After going through emails I’ve received over the past few years, I realized a pretty clear trend – people consistently ask me how to use herbal tea to deal with stress, worry, anxiety, and fatigue. These four issues are the topic of more than half the messages I respond to each week, so I’d like to explore them in detail and give you some great information, ideas, and recipes along the way. This marks the beginning of a 4-part series that will cover stress, worry, anxiety, and fatigue in their own dedicated posts.
What Is Stress?
While most of us associate stress with negativity, the fact is that stress is essential for our survival. Feedback from our minds and bodies helps us know when it’s time to make a change, helps clarify our emotions, and gives us the inspiration and energy we need to get out of potentially harmful situations. Consider a muscle repairing and rebuilding itself after being worked out at the gym. This is actually stress causing the body to make a change most of us are pretty happy about in the end. What about someone swerving into your lane of traffic on the road? It’s stress responses that help you make that snap decision that so you can avoid a wreck.
The stress we’re talking about in this post is the stress that’s out of hand, disconnected, or based on pattern. This is the stress that comes when it shouldn’t, stays longer than it should, and causes problems instead of helping us create a better life.
The stress we want to work on here is the stress that causes some of these frustrating symptoms:
- Pains, aches, and stiffness in muscles and joints
- Digestive troubles
- Rapid heartbeat or chest pains
- Worrisome, racing, and negative thoughts
- Mood swings, irritability, temper flares, and bouts of sadness or despair
- Fatigue, loss of energy, or lack of sex drive
- Nervous, scattered, or anxious behaviors
As you can see from the list above, stress causes physical and mental/emotional issues at the same time – in fact these are both linked together in very intricate ways. It’s a belief of plant medicine that when we soothe the body, the mind follows, and vice-versa. In this article we’ll be focusing on working with the physical manifestations of stress so that the body can relax and the mind and emotions can let go. Often times the body provides a constant state of negative feedback to the mind which keeps stress cycles active. If we can quiet and calm the body, the mind has a lot less to worry about!
Why You’re Stressed
Chances are the reason you’re stressed is simply that there’s more going on than you have been able to process in a healthy way all at once. We live in a world where we’re often bombarded with things endlessly: work, relationships, health, politics, social media, friends, finances, and that’s just the beginning. While we’re equipped to handle pretty much anything life throws at us, there’s a point where we just stop feeling as good as we deserve to.
Stress hits different people at different levels of overwhelm. Some of us might thrive when work and exercise wear us out to the core every day, while others may be ready to sleep for a week by Wednesday. We’re all unique, so part of dealing with stress is learning how to recognize where our limits are – then honoring them. Learning when to say no, when to sleep, when to rest, and when to ask for help are some of the best forms of healing therapy we can offer ourselves to combat the negative effects of excess stress.
As you heal your stress using herbal tea and other therapies, try to identify where your ‘triggers’ are, and what seems to push you over the edge. Use that information to take better care of who you are in the future, and to craft a life that works with your authenticity – not against it. Stress is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of energy being put in the wrong places in the wrong ways.
How Herbal Tea Can Help With Stress
One of the most amazing aspects of working with plant medicine is that the herbs can help us on a variety of levels all at once – often in profoundly complex and orchestrated ways. The herbs we’ll be talking about here are those which help the body find balance, calm, and resilience in times of stress so that it can relax and heal while allowing the mind and emotions to do the same. If you feel like your stress is entirely ‘in your head’, I encourage you to work with some of these more body-oriented herbs and see how they make changes for you. Often times we forget how much we actually think and feel with our bodies – and how many stress, worry, anxiety, and fatigue patterns can be stored in the living tissues that make our bodies what they are.
With each sip of herbal tea you are providing a comforting, empowering, and healing power your body. Herbs delivered in the form of tea bypass the digestive system mostly and are able to get to work fast where they’re needed most. The simple act of brewing tea can be deeply calming and offer us some time to remember how much we deserve to be cared for, healed, and protected. The herbs shared below are those that have been used by herbalists across the world for ages to help soothe stress and protect us from its negative effects. I base my findings off of personal experience and the empirical evidence of herbalists in the past – and I think you’ll enjoy the list of herbs and recipes I’ve created for you here.
Herbs For Stress
While many of these herbs can be used in any form, we’re specifically talking about using them in the form of herbal teas in this post. Get to know these herbs, then see the recipes section below for some ideas on how to bring them into your life in delicious and simple ways!
Common Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Sage, as ‘common’ as it seems to many of us in the West thanks to its prolific growth in gardens and fields, is one of my favorite go-to herbs for stress. I consider sage, in almost every regard, to be the king of muscle relaxers. It’s super gentle but gets to work fast – and the flavor does really well with just about any blend you might add it to!
Sage is a warming herb that brings a sense of comfort and centeredness. It is often used to help with colds and flu – a testament to its cleansing abilities. It also dries up excess perspiration, so it shouldn’t be used by anyone who has a fever since perspiration is essential in regulating body temperature.
I find that sage relaxed the center and solar plexus area while providing quick and deep relaxation to all of the muscles in the body. It provides a grounded, earthy energy to herbal tea blends and the aroma alone seems to have a deeply calming and soothing affect.
Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis; Matricaria chamomila)
Many of my friends and clients have been surprised when I suggested chamomile herbal tea to help deal with the aches, pains, clenching, and locking-up of stress on the body. Chamomile is a five-star relaxant that works from the center of the body outward. It brings a warmth to the body that encourages ‘letting go’ in the various muscle tissues and fibers. Many herbalists soak a towel in strong chamomile tea and apply it to joins and muscles that are sore. Chamomile also seems to affect the fascia – the tissue that wraps the body up and holds us together – very important for dealing with nerves!
As a tea, chamomile helps soothe the body and calm the mind. It has bitterness under its apple-like flavor – something you’ll discover if you steep it longer than 4-5 minutes. This delicate bitterness activates the parasympathetic nervous system which puts a check on the ‘fight or flight’ actions of the sympathetic nervous system. By doing so it relaxes the stomach and digestive system; another great boon to anyone dealing with the common digestive woes of stress.
Chamomile tea can be enjoyed on its own throughout the day to deal with stress, or used as a simple and afforable base to add other stress-healing herbs to.
Valierian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian root occupies a nearly famous position in the world of herbalism for its calming properties. This root is both relaxing to the body as an antispasmodic, and calming to the nerves and ‘mental body’ as a nervine.
A small amount added to a stress blend will help with aches, pains, cramps, areas of tension, and all kinds of pain. It is best used by people who have a cold, introverted, pale, nervous disposition as it is a very warm herb that can be too stimulating to people who ‘run hot’ (use Skullcap and/or Passionflower if this is you – see below). If you deal with phases of fatigue, Valerian may just make you more sleepy. It’s best for when we’re so wound up we nearly fold in on ourselves.
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
Skullcap is another herb that I simply cannot suggest enough to people who deal with stress, worry, and anxiety. The name of this beautiful flowering herb comes from the purple flower itself which resembles a type of bonnet or skull cap. Interestingly enough, it has a similar effect on the mind and body – capping stressful energy and helping us stay in our grounded center.
When stress turns into nervous tension in the body and mind that seems to feed itself, Skullcap is the go-to herb. It helps calm these anxious cycles and ‘cools’ the hot energy of stress and strain. After even just a few sips of Skullcap in an herbal tea blend you will likely feel a sense of deep calm and restfulness. It’s a wonderful herb to work with for those who can’t get to sleep – or those who find that their sleep is just as stressful as their waking hours.
Skullcap works best as a supporting herb in a blend as opposed to being used on its own. It has a very meek flavor, so it can be added to your favorite calming tea, like chamomile, with good results. Many people who sell Skullcap are actually selling a blend of various herbs which may not be a good idea in treating stress.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Perhaps one of the most beautiful flowers in the world, Passionflower has been a go-to remedy for dealing with stress for ages. Passionflower is antispasmodic, nervine, and hypnotic in nature. This means that it works on stress in the body, mind, and emotions. It’s one of the stronger herbs for dealing with stress and is best used at the end of the day when there will be no driving, working, or going out as it can cause very pronounced states of relaxation and fatigue.
If you feel that there is stress in your body preventing you from getting to sleep or resting while you sleep, this may be the herb for you. Passionflower will help you calm down enough to get the deep, restorative sleep your body and mind needs to break stress cycles. Often times a few nights of deep sleep is all it takes to help your body help itself.
Passionflower is best added in small amounts as an ingredient in larger blends. I like to put just a tiny pinch in my favorite stress recipes for a nighttime tea.
California Poppy (Eschscholzia california)
Another wonderful herb that promotes relaxation, relieves tension, and helps unwind stress patterns. For me, California Poppy is a summer flower – so I like to use this herb when I feel like a little ‘light’ would help the situation. This herb is cooling and calming, and it makes a wonderful all-around addition in small amounts to stress tea blends.
Ashwagandha Root (Withania somnifera)
I am ending this list with my personal favorite herb to offer to people who deal with recurring stress, anxiety, or worry.
Ashwagandha is one of the most important tonic herbs in India’s Ayurvedic healing system, and it deserves every accolade it receives. This root, in the family of our tomato plant, help the body deal with the stress we’re feeling now while helping our bodies and minds learn to deal with it in a healthier way in the future. As a true tonic herb, it helps tonify the nervous system so that we can be calm instead of reactive, centered instead of frazzled, and strong instead of stressed.
I use ashwagandha 5 days per week in whatever tea I happen to be enjoying. It’s good to take a couple of days off each week to give the body and mind time to process what they’ve learned from the herbs. I add a pinch of Ashwagandha to my tea and brew as usual. Simple! You may also want to try using it in tincture form if you are working hard on healing your stress and want some fantastic support.
A few drops in your juice or on your tongue and you’re done!
Herbal Tea Recipe For Stress
Try this simple, affordable recipe in your own kitchen and experience just how much herbal tea can help with stress!
Note: A ‘part’ can be whatever you choose. If you’re making a large batch of tea, you may want to define a part as 1/4 cup. If you’re making a smaller batch, a part could be 1 Tablespoon. If a recipe calls for 3 parts, you’d add 3 Tablespoons of that herb.
Josh’s Go-To Herbal Tea For Stress
Note: A ‘part’ can be any volume measurement you choose. For a big batch, 1 part might equal 1 cup. For a smaller batch, 1 part might be 1 Tablespoon. For example, 5 parts would be 5 Tablespoons if that’s the measurement size you chose.
5 parts Chamomile
1 parts Skullcap
1 part Sage
1 part Valerian (cold types) or Passionflower (hot types)
1 part Ashwagandha Root
1 part Licorice Root
Optional: add any of these herbs for different flavors
1/2 part Peppermint
1 part Orange Peel
2 parts Cacao Nibs
Combine all herbs well. Steep 1 heaping Tablespoon in 8-10 ounces boiled water for 5 minutes. Don’t steep too long or the tea will have a noticeable bitter taste from the Chamomile and Skullcap.
Enjoy 3-6 cups per day as needed, warm or iced!
Supportive Therapies For Healing Stress
In addition to herbal tea, here are a few other things you can do to help yourself deal with stress and find new ways to work alongside it…
- Breathing exercises.
- Positive visualization.
- Positive affirmations.
- Working on making sleep and rest a priority.
- Making dietary changes – especially removing stimulant foods like refined sugar, caffeine, and heavily processed or preserved foods.
- Getting gentle exercise every day – walking is a great start!
- Avoiding TV that’s stressful, overly-emotional, or too stimulating – especially several hours before bedtime.
- Spending more time outdoors.
- Choosing to spend more time with friends who are relaxed, happy, successful, and authentic.
- Taking time to do great things for yourself and the life you are creating.
- Talking to a qualified counselor or mental healthcare provider – there are some amazing tools out there!
To our peace…
Resources & References:
HelpGuide.org : Stress Symptoms, Signs, and Causes
National Institute Of Mental Health : Fact Sheet On Stress