Herbs That Curb: Anxiety and Stress

By Tiffany Renee

There is something that is a little unforgiving about this time of year. Winter has arrived and the holiday season is in full swing. These two factors alone are often responsible for spikes in anxiety, depression and anger. They bring about a unique display of disconnection and isolation. And this year we’ve hit a whole new level of distress.

Upping your coping strategy does not have to be a long and complicated process. It doesn’t work for me when I am constantly saying that I need to stop staying up so late, stop being so negative, eat less junk food, drink less coffee. While those are great goals, my glass-half-empty mind doesn’t respond quite as well to terms such as “No,” “Lesser,” and “Don’t.” Instead, I’ve shifted my thinking towards the positive spectrum: Add It In.

I’m adding more hours to my sleep.
I’m adding more vegetables to my plate.
I’m drinking more water daily.
I’m adding lavender oil to my leave-in conditioner.
I’m accepting more positive minded people in my life.
I’m saying yes to more events in my life that build a positive community.
I’m using natural resources (specifically, Herbalism) to help cope during this difficult time.

WHAT IS HERBALISM?

Herbalism: The study and practice of the medicinal properties of plants. It has been a godsend to those who need or seek a natural remedy for their ailments. Whether you are tired of pills, sensitive to medications, in recovery, or so on, herbalism has an effective answer to almost everything.  And the best thing about Herbalism? You can, yes, Add It In.

WHAT DO YOU NEED?

Identify what it is that has you in a tailspin at the moment. When you’re able to identify what Need should be filled, it becomes a little easier to take the best course of action.

In the following paragraphs, I’ve identified some needs and corresponding herbal remedies. You can find many of the herbs mentioned here at  your local health food store or contact your local clinical herbalist.

Is it Sleep? Add Some Calm

As we delve into Winter, our living patterns naturally adapt into a sort of hibernation mode. We seek warmth, comfort, and a slower pace in daily life. The holiday season rips us away from that natural tendency. Conditions like anxiety, depression, and stress rise to a peak. The importance of self-care falls to the wayside as we hustle to prepare (overextend) ourselves for the holiday season.

Calming Herbs

Sage, Lavender, Mint, Lemonbalm, Chrysanthemum, Chamomile, Valerian Root

Winter is a time for hibernation but our society doesn’t like to pause. I tend to reach for these medicinals when I’m feeling un-rooted, anxious, irritable, helpless, displaced, and overwhelmed. These are the ones I reach for to reconnect to my energetic core – the essence of my being. I adore the combination of Lavender, Mint, and Sage in both my teacup and as a bath soak. If you have dry, itchy eyes and skin, try looking to Chrysanthemum and Mint as your pairing. During and after rough, emotionally taxing days, breathe in the steam of Lemonbalm, Lavender, Mint, and Sage tea as it brews, and sip the tea slowly. When exploring Valerian root, try half the recommended dose first. It might surprise you how little you need!

Struggling with emotional stress? Add Some Sunshine

Showing up for Life has become difficult in a way that some people cannot or will not understand. Being surrounded by shameless displays of willful ignorance makes it seem like Compassion has stolen your vacation days and left without you. Empty displays of solidarity are everywhere you turn. Now that we’re faced with what seems to be the hibernation of morality, the coping mechanisms we use every winter might not cut it. We are now faced with a much stronger motivation to burrow deeper and deeper into isolation, anger, and depression.

The only Active Reduction you need to make: Don’t give in. Never set your sun because others refuse to recognize your shine.

Mood Brightening Herbs

Orange, Lemon, Cinnamon, Ginger, Clove, and Hawthorne Berry

I adore any combination of these spices and foods because of their gentle warming properties. These medicinals are fantastic when feeling foggy, groggy, and slow-thinking. Any combination of the above can work wonders for fatigue, especially on those cold, windy, wet days. Go for the citrus when you’re looking to break through the mental fog and grey mornings. Go for the spices on the windy, wet, bitterly cold days. Hawthorne is a powerful little berry for digestion. Add this to your tea when you’ve eaten too much of anything heavy, greasy, or rich. Combine them all for a powerhouse effect, especially after a large holiday meal.

Get grounded so you stay stable. Add Some Earth

Have you eaten?

When I’m feeling weak, heavy, undernourished, and my bed is the only place I long to be, I’m looking at my diet and my energetic roots. Am I eating enough protein? Am I eating enough at all? Am I grounded and present? Where am I in my menstrual cycle? When was the last time I took some time for myself? Take it to the kitchen: You want to nourish your body with healthy, seasonal vegetables – especially as we transition into Winter.

Earthy Herbs

Root Vegetables, Goji Berry, Red Dates (Chinese), Raspberry Leaf, Dong Quai, Burdock Root, Curly Dock Root

Roasted Root Vegetables: This takes some prep, but it will keep you warm, nourished, grounded, and fed for days.
Cut the following into cubes: 2 beets, 2 sweet potatoes, 2 red potatoes, 10 brussels sprouts, 1 carrot or parsnip, and 1 fennel bulb.
Dice 1 onion/2 shallots, 2 garlic cloves
Add rosemary, sage, and thyme.
Put all of this in a pan and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper
Pop in the oven for 30-45 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce through everything.

I love this root medley over brown rice/wild rice, steamed greens, roasted chicken, or a hard boiled egg.

You might need to visit your local herbalist for the raw, organic form of the following:

Burdock and Curly/Yellow Dock roots are a dynamic duo when it comes to digestive and skin issues. Goji berry, red date, and raspberry leaf along with some elderberries are a go-to combination of mine for PMS. A word on teas with Dong Quai-be careful if you’re prone to fibroids and heavy bleeding. Explore the raspberry leaf option and compare/contrast how either nurturing herb makes you feel.

Are you getting enough protein? Add Proper Fuel
Your sugar cravings that have you pillaging your cabinets for something sweet might be your body telling you it needs fuel, but not necessarily sugar. Pause and assess if you’re bored, stressed, or actually hungry. Either way, first try a handful of nuts, hardboiled egg, or another source of protein. Then assess if you need the cookie, cake, soda, fourth cup of coffee, etc.

Pause with Purpose

When you clutch your hot cup of herbal goodness and/or take pause before stepping into your herbal bath, remember to take that moment for yourself. Pause with purpose.  Because it’s not just about what is brewing in your cup or tub - It’s also about the time you take for your self to fill your (figurative and literal) cup. Allow yourself the 3-10 minutes and let the herbs steep. Breathe in the steam and exhale the breath you might have been holding for the past few months. Shift your mentality for this process from “doing without” to “adding it in”. Fill your cup. Take a sip.

PHOTO: LADY E

PHOTO: LADY E

Tiffany Renee contributes to BGIO as part of her calling to be of service for the greater good. She is a native northeast-coast, Philadelphia born gal who has called Chicago her home for the past eight years. She can be found in the dance studio teaching or taking bellydance & taichi classes as part of her daily self-love practice. You can find your Urban Herbalist Medicine Woman on her website, on Iinstagram (@tiffanyrenee_urbmedicinewoman), and Twitter (@MahoganyPoint).