Shopping, relatives, money—stress. The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy, but it can also be exhausting. We asked some herbalists and health-care providers to suggest ways to relax during the holidays.
• Relieve tension by filling a sachet with dried hops. Tuck it next to your pillow and settle down for a peaceful sleep. The aroma of hops is mildly sedative.
—Portia Meares, herbalist and author, Wolftown, VA
• Unwind by soaking in a bath scented with a few drops of lavender oil.
• Curl up with a cup of lemon-balm tea. Place 1 tablespoon of the dried herb in a tea ball, drop it in a teacup, add hot water, and steep for 10 minutes.
• Escape to a sunny vacation spot where you can relax in seclusion. People should vacation in winter, rather than summer; sunny weather gives people stamina to juggle busy schedules, while cold, short winter weather depletes energy.
—Paul Bergner, clinic director at the Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies, Boulder, CO
• Nourish the nervous system with herbal adaptogens such as oat seed. This herb contains alkaloids, believed to protect and rebuild the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells. Take 30 drops of the extract twice a day.
• Inhale the calming scent of rosemary essential oil. Mix a few drops into hand lotion or place a drop or two on a cotton ball.
—Feather Jones, practicing herbalist and owner of Turtle Island Herbs, Boulder, CO
Adapted from “Treat Yourself” by Audrey Scano, Herbs for Health, November/December 1996. Reprinted with permission from Herb Companion Press.
For centuries, people have turned to herbs to combat anxiety. Here are a few that research has shown to ease some manifestations of stress.
PASSIONFLOWER (Passiflora incarnata) works as a sedative, allays anxiety, and lowers blood pressure. Use 1/2 teaspoon of the dried herb in a tea, three to four times a day.
VALERIAN (Valeriana officinalis) depresses the central nervous system and relieves muscle spasms. The standard daily dose for reducing excitability is about 1/2 teaspoon of the root divided into two or three doses. Up to a teaspoonful of the tincture may be taken several times daily to calm acute restlessness.
The essential oil of LEMON BALM (Melissa officinalis) is a sedative, antispasmodic, and antibacterial. The recommended daily dose is 1.5 to 4.5 grams of the dried herb steeped in hot water.
CHAMOMILE (Matricaria recutita) relieves spasms and is mildly sedative. A tea made from 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of the dried flowers or 10 to 40 drops of a tincture taken three times a day is a gentle sleep aid. (Individuals who are allergic to other members of the aster family, such as ragweed, may also be allergic to chamomile.)
Adapted from “Combating Stress: Herbs Can Help,” by Steven Foster, Herb Companion, December 1997/January 1998. Reprinted with permission from Herb Companion Press.
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