July 21, 2020
Herbs for Stress and Resilience
“We are nature. Not separate or disconnected.”
Patrisse Cullors, a founder of Black Lives Matters.
In these times of resistance and revolution may we remember to come back to the resilience and restorative healing that nature provides. May we remember we are nature, remember our wild nature, and remember that optimal and sustainable nourishment comes from this relationship.
As an herbalist, I am ever in awe of the gifts of the natural world and I find this is especially true when it comes to feeding and balancing our nervous system. My teacher years ago said that the medicine we need grows around us, right outside our back door. Early this spring hawthorn flowers created creamy white veils throughout the park near where I live and now linden flowers are scenting the air with their exotic and erotic scent. These two tree herbs are right outside my front door and both are wonderful tonics for these times.
Hawthorn leaf and flower (Crataegus spp.) and in a few months, the berry, are tonics for the heart, strengthening, nourishing and supporting. The leaf and flower are delicious in a tea as an overnight infusion to sip on throughout the day, to ease anxiety, lighten the heart and to support the heart through grief. I love adding a bit of rose to my hawthorn leaf and flower infusions: they are beautifully synergistic together. Hawthorn and rose are in the same botanical family (the rosaseae family) and rose petals are a favorite nervine in my apothecary, a herb to ease the nervous system and stimulate the release of serotonin, a hormone that gives us a sense of well-being. I recommend an overnight infusion of this blend because the overnight infusion will draw out essential vitamins and minerals that our body craves and is often depleted of. See the end of this article for recipes. Hawthorn berry is best dispensed in a tincture and can be used for acute symptoms of stress. Take a dropperful directly in the mouth or in tea or water, repeat until stress is eased and the heart feels restored.
Linden flower (Tilia spp) is another tree that is giving bountifully of their medicine right now. Harvest the funky flower including that tongue-like leaf and make a sun tea. Linden is a nourishing nervine, to ease stress, balance anxiety and help us to sleep better, as a result. It can ease heart strain and high blood pressure related to stress and anxiety.
Vervain (Verbena hastata or Verbena officinalis) is my go-to herb for acute anxiety and is one of the most sacred herbs in my indigenous Irish tradition. Metaphysically vervain holds the courage of the warrior and also activates the sacred in all that it is added to. These times are calling us to stand as a warrior, which honestly can wear us down and create chronic stress. I recommend taking vervain in a tincture, as it is not a tasty tea herb. I compound my anxiety tincture with two parts vervain and one part rose glycerite tincture to make it taste a bit better and also to receive the healing of rose. You can take one dropperful three times a day for chronic stress and one dropperful as needed for acute anxiety. We are nature and nature nourishes us. Nature teaches us resilience. This revolution is for the long haul and my favorite herbs for resilience, for deep profound nourishment, for adrenal support (which is important for long stretches of stress) and for radiant well-being include:
Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica): an all over body tonic, high in trace vitamins and minerals, adrenal tonic. Take as an overnight tea infusion.
Borage leaf and flower (Borago officinalis): to bring hope and an optimistic outlook, another herb of the warrior and support of the adrenal glands. Take as an overnight tea infusion or as a tincture in apple cider vinegar.
Oatstraw (Avena sativa): a nourishing nervine, high in vitamins and minerals, a demulcent to keep the organs and tissues hydrated. Take as an overnight tea infusion or as a tincture with rose.
In Ireland, my ancestors incanted charms and spells over the herbal remedies they created. Here is a spell I wrote to go with my stress and anxiety remedies, maybe you’ll want to try it too:
So I may be open, flowing, grounded, free.
We are nature. Go out into nature to ease and restore the nervous system. Walk barefoot on the earth, sit and breathe with a tree (five minutes everyday!). Lay on the earth and look up through the canopy of leaves giving you shade. Wild swim in a rushing river or in the crisp cool sea, or soak your feet. Breathe with a flower. Notice what is growing right outside your back door. Ask an herbalist what it is, if you don’t know, and how to use it. Even if it is not an herb I mentioned here, it is an herb that is showing up for you and has deep nourishment for the journey.
Rose and Hawthorn Flower Overnight Infusion
3 teaspoons of rose petals
6 teaspoons of hawthorn leaf and flower
Pour 4 cups of water off the boil over the herb blend and allow to steep overnight. Strain out the herb in the morning (returning the herb to the earth) and drink the tea throughout the day. It is delicious chilled on these hot summer days so stick it in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Linden Flower Sun Tea
Fill a quart jar full of fresh linen flowers and cover with fresh water. Place the jar in a sunny location for 4 or 5 hours, strain out the herb and drink over ice. If you do not have fresh linden, fill the jar ¼ way full of dried herb.
This information is meant to inform, not diagnose. Please discuss with your primary health care
provider before beginning an herbal program and work with an experienced herbalist.
Written by Tonja Reichley, herbalist and ritualist, living on Arapahoe, Ute and Cheyenne land in
Colorado and also part time on the land indigenous to her in the west of Ireland. She teaches
herbalism and ritual arts rooted in her ancestral Irish tradition and holds a two week herb
school and a two week priestess school in Ireland every summer (except this summer!).