Three Herbs to Soothe the Soul


With all of the challenges that 2020 has held for us so far, I don’t think I’ve yet to meet one person hasn’t gone through some profound, often demanding, personal challenges.

In my experience, with upheaval of any kind, there are few of us who couldn’t do with a little help. And since it’s available, where better to turn than to the natural world around us?

Enter adaptogens. Adaptogens are herbs especially suited to helping our bodies adapt to the stress of changing situations. Little by little, adaptogens taken on a regular basis can “coat” our nerves (so to speak). The result? We’re less stimulated by small changes, and our ability to acclimate to upheaval increases. Riding unexpected waves of stress becomes, if not effortless, then surfed with a little more grace and less anxiety.

  1. Try ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), an adaptogen which not only mitigates the effects of stress on the body, but can also give you more energy and the ability to power through whatever situation you’re in. Ginseng soothes and strengthens the adrenal glands (the glands pumping out the stress hormones), offering a bit more of a cushion between your nervous system and the world around you. Note: try taking ginseng for a month, then give the body a two week “rest” before resuming the supplement.
  2. Lavender (Lavandula officinalis) is an especially lovely stress-relieving herb. Research has found it helps anxiety, postnatal depression, and even may help improve PTSD Try aromatherapy—add lavender essential oil to your bath, pillow, or pulse points, and inhale the scent when you’re feeling especially keyed-up. Or, try a teaspoon of dried lavender blossoms in a cup of tea (especially lovely mixed with chamomile or black tea). Lavender helps mitigate stress, insomnia, nervous stomach, and anxiety. It is entirely safe for everyone (for best taste, though, before you brew, let the just-boiled water cool four to five minutes to protect lavender’s delicate blossoms, then pour over the herb; cover and steep five minutes).
    lavender plant
    Lavender in bloom
  3. Finally, you can also try rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), an exceptionally balancing remedy. Rhodiola can help calm a racing heart, soothe the nervous system, boost the immune system, mitigate burnout, and stimulate the release of dopamine and serotonin. A couple of notes about rhodiola, though: in small doses, this herb is a stimulant; in larger doses, it’s a sedative. While helpful for depression, it is not recommended for bipolar disorder. Avoid if pregnant. Also: feel free to experiment with rhodiola OR ginseng—just don’t take both at the same time. Usually one or the other is better suited to you; a little trial and error will tell you in no time.

With or without 2020’s challenges, we can always benefit from a little help. In addition to these adaptogens, be sure to keep up lots of variety in your diet—oodles of culinary herbs, lots of colorful veggies, some plant-based proteins, and plenty of sleep. Institute changes now and, come 2021, you’ll be ready to take on whatever the universe has in store with grace and ease.


~Amy Holt, Writer/Editor