Five Herbal Superfoods for Anxiety
We have this back-and-forth discussion at my house.
Beau: “How many years do you think all of those supplements will add to your life?”
Beau: “How much money do you think you spent on supplements this month?”
I say “ugh” in the most respectful, husband-honoring, godly way. I promise. There are no eye rolls involved and I never walk out of the room to avoid this discussion.
I also never exaggerate.
I rationalize this overindulgence because I have to do research for my job. I just can’t recommend something for my clients that I have not tried myself. You would do the same, I’m sure.
So imagine our collective matrimonial interest when this article came out and we read it together.
Obviously this information does not come from a scientific journal, but even scientific journals aren’t always to be trusted.
Doing further research into the literature corroborates the fact that in the right conditions, good-for-you supplements can turn into not-so-good-for-you supplements.
For instance, the Elemental article links to research from the New England Journal of Medicine that shows that 25,000 IU of Vitamin A plus 30mg of Beta Carotene daily possibly led to the opposite outcomes of what was expected in a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled primary prevention trial with over 18,000 participants- namely, an increase in lung cancer instead of a decrease in lung cancer.
Let’s stop here for just a minute and think though, shall we? Were these 18,000 people simply random samples of the general population?
They were “smokers, former smokers, and workers exposed to asbestos”.
What are the biggest risk factors for lung cancer?
So, while the headline and subheadline, “The Problem With Supplements:
The evidence against supplements is stronger than ever, and yet more Americans take them year over year” can be shocking and compelling, it does not tell the whole story.
However, there is some research that shows that if your levels of metals like iron are off in the body, ascorbic acid can become inflammatory instead of anti-inflammatory. However, even the authors of this study state,
“We found compelling evidence for antioxidant protection of lipids by vitamin C in biological fluids, animals, and humans, both with and without iron cosupplementation. Although the data on protein oxidation in humans are sparse and inconclusive, the available data in animals consistently show an antioxidant role of vitamin C”.
This means that it’s pretty certain that the benefits of C outweigh the risks.
Of course, that is just one study. And it’s from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Quackwatch lists this as a reliable source. And also, the name of this journal makes me want to subscribe like yesterday.
Ok, you are here because you or someone you love struggles with anxiety. And I want to help you. I just wanted to give you a preamble that includes some background on why I am listing these superfoods for you. They are just foods. Not synthetic, not created in a lab, not processed or fake. They have been used for centuries: tried, tested, and true. They work for anxiety.
Herbs with mellifluous names like passionflower are specifically helpful for women.
Passiflora incarnata is an extremely safe herbal treatment. It has no known warnings. Its energetics are cooling and relaxing. Cooling here refers to the fact that passiflora can be used to quell inflammation or agitation. If one experiences the following, passionflower is a good bet for you:
irritation of brain and nervous system
stress and tension
too much mental chatter
muscular twitchings and spasms
nervousness or agitation in children (it is completely safe!)
epilepsy (I have no experience with this indication)
You can take 1/4 tsp of all of these herbs up to 4x/ day.
Chamomilla Recutita is a mild sedative. It is also extraordinarily safe, though some may experience an allergic reaction to the flower as it is in the daisy family and is related to ragweed. Chamomile contains a compound called coumarin, which can make blood less viscous- avoid if you are on Coumadin. It is also contraindicated in pregnancy, as there is a small chance that it could induce uterine contractions.
But for the rest of us, especially those prone to anxiety, chamomile is an excellent herb for relaxation. Use for the following indications:
bloating and gas
fussiness (or as the British call it, “minciness”)
My favorite quote about chamomile is this, from Master Herbalist Matthew Wood: [Chamomile is an excellent tonic for] “whiny, fussy babies of any age”.
We know who we are.
Lavandula officinalis is probably the gateway drug for any aspiring herbalist. The experience of lavender is almost heavenly: that signature woodsy, herbal, relaxing, alluring smell of the dark purple flower gets you hooked from the first sniff.
Lavender is relaxing, of course, but also has the energetic property of being slightly warming. A warming herb will “stimulate or speed up metabolism, increase energy production and warmth, and bring blood flow to tissues that are pale and cool.” (The Modern Herbal Dispensatory: A Medicine Making Guide, 3).
Even though it is very slightly warming, lavender is primarily used to calm and relax the body. It is also among the safest of all of the herbs, and has no known warnings. There is newer evidence that shows that too much lavender essential oil can increase estrogen in the body, but we are not talking about the concentrated essential oil. We are talking about the full and natural flower.
Use lavender if you suffer from the following:
Again, an endearing line from herbalists Thomas Easley and Steven Horne (p. 258): “[Lavender] is a specific [remedy] for high-strung, nervous, self-absorbed people who need to relax.”
And here we thought Zinfandel was the only option for us.
Avena sativa is extremely beneficial to the body as it contains many calming nutrients like magnesium, silica, phosphorus, chromium, iron, calcium, alkaloids, protein, the vitamin B complex, and vitamins A and C. This gentle restorative herb is for those that are cold, depleted, or tired, or for the type of person who drinks too much coffee and is chronically burnt out. Oatstraw is gentle and safe for everyone, including babies and pregnant women. Oatstraw is generally gluten free and should be free from cross-contamination, but exercise some caution if you are true celiac. Use if you experience:
chills related to nervousness
a feeling of being burnt out
lack of energy
inability to focus
If you are anxious and exhausted and have lost your libido and can’t sleep due to stress or overwork, oatstraw is your friend. I prefer the powdered form but you can use a tea or a tincture.
I saved this one for last because Hibiscus makes me so happy. Have you ever held the powdered form of hibiscus in your hand? It is a vibrant, grassy pink. Its hue is saturated, yet it shifts with the light. It smells soft and sweet and gentle and relaxing, and when you mix it with other, more dully colored herbs, it perks the whole package up. I have been experimenting with this gentle flower in many blends, but I like it the most in my Peace Out blend for sleep and stress.
Hibiscus sabdariffa has been studied clinically and has been found to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Hibiscus enjoys its bright pink color due to the high level of vitamin C it contains. Vitamin C, as we discussed, it is potent anti-inflammatory. Hibiscus actually contains more antioxidants than matcha tea, the health darling of the tea world! The hibiscus flower also contains a significant amount of iron- a mineral that is lacking in many women. And guess what? You need Vitamin C to absorb your iron. Hibiscus can balance mild anemia in this way and can contribute to normal energy levels.
Hibiscus also inhibits the growth of candida albicans, a fungus that is normally present in the body, but can increase to problematic levels in the body during times of stress or bad diet. It is difficult to rid the body of this overgrowth, but hibiscus can help.
The flower and its powdered form are also used to alleviate constipation, and for anxiety and sleeplessness. This is how it can help you- in addition, you will get all of the benefits mentioned above!
Use for the following:
mildly high cholesterol
mildly high blood pressure
general heart health
I love drinking organic Hibiscus tea, especially with a bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice. But I have been really enjoying the benefits of concentrated hibiscus flower in my sleep blend. It truly is a gentle medicinal herb and I love how it supports my health and my sleep and my mood.
These herbs are beneficial all alone, but in concert, they are unbelievable. My sleep and anxiety support blend is almost ready for market, and we at the Nourish Collective are super excited to bring it to you. Watch Zeal Pressed Juicery and this space for more information- the feedback we have gotten on our product has been super exciting and we can’t wait to share. Samples and giveaways are not far off.