No doubt, we are definitely a culture built on coffee… not just because we are delighted by the tantalizing aroma and taste of a premium roast but because of our addiction to the go-go-go never stop drumbeat that goes along with “running on Dunkin.” For many people, coffee can be a wonderful friend and offers numerous health benefits; however, our obsession with the magic bean may be causing us to miss out on the soothing benefits of herbal tea. Tea can be an essential part of letting your body recover and heal from the damage that living this go-go lifestyle can create.
The benefits of herbal tea often begin with the ritual. The act of putting the kettle on, steeping a cup of tea and then sipping slowly, for me, can be like pushing the pause button on a busy day. In addition, non-caffeinated tea helps keep us hydrated allowing the body and mind to function optimally. Even mild dehydration can add stress to our organs and brain.
You can make healing herbal teas part of your day in a few easy ways:
- Replace one cup of coffee each morning with a refreshing herbal tea.
- Enjoy the ritual of sipping an herbal tea each afternoon.
- Make herbal tea part of your nighttime routine.
There are so many herbs available in nature to help us unwind – these are just a few of my favorites. As always, please consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting any herbs.
Passionflower is a nervine, or plant that supports the nervous system, named for its stunning fruit and flowers that grow in subtropical regions. Its benefits are derived primarily from the alkaloids and flavonoids in its leaves which have been used to treat insomnia, nervous tension and stress headaches. Passionflower has even been shown to be as effective in treating general anxiety disorder as a leading anti-anxiety medication. As an anti-spasmodic, passionflower can also relieve tight muscles. It is claimed to be especially helpful for those prone to “monkey mind” or circulating thoughts and an abundance of mental worry. (I don’t know anyone this would pertain to… ahem.)
Passionflower tea can be made by the quart or by the cup. You can purchase dried passionflower stems and leaves and make your own by placing one teaspoon of the herb into a tea ball and steeping with hot water for 5 minutes or try Alvita’s passionflower tea. Pregnant women and those with very low blood pressure are cautioned to avoid passionflower.
Lemon balm (or sweet Melissa) is known for quieting the heart and an overactive mind. Ideal for those who become depressed as well as anxious, lemon balm reduces feelings of panic and can soothe heart palpitations. It is a well-loved relaxing herb that can also relieve indigestion and other stress-related stomach disorders. Lemon balm can also relax the thyroid which makes it useful for those with an overactive thyroid gland but may not be recommended for those who have sluggish function. Unlike chamomile, lemon balm does not cause drowsiness. The leaves can even be used dabbed on to subdue cold sores and bug bites which is the reason you may see my daughter often walking around our house with small wet leaves on her arms and legs.
At first sniff, this herbal root can turn off even the most adventurous among us. But don’t give up! This earthy root can do wonders for your ability to deal with stress. Unlike nervines, ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb which means it actually helps the body improve its resiliency and stress adaptation. Ashwagandha has the rare ability to calm and energize making it excellent for the nervous system. It has also been shown to help sleep and calm mental activity. Pretty cool, huh? This tea milk mellows out the strong flavor and makes a delicious evening drink.
Ashwagandha Milk Tea
- ¼ teaspoon ashwagandha root powder (available here)
- 1 cup coconut milk (or almond milk)
- ½- 1 teaspoon raw honey
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Whisk together and heat gently in a stainless steel pan. Do not boil. Add vanilla or more sweetener to taste.
When we take the time to care for ourselves, we can surf the waves of stress with more ease.
- Akhondzadeh S, et al. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology Therapy. 2001 Oct;26 (5):363-7.
- Banyan Botanicals, “The Benefits of Ashwagandha,” retrieved from: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/herbs/ashwagandha
- Chevalier, Andrew. (2007) “Lemon Balm,” Herbal Remedies. New York: Metro Books
- Pedersen, Mark. (2010) “Passionflower,” Nutritional Herbology. Warsaw, IN: Whitman Publishing.