5 Plants to Help You Chill the F*ck Out

Herbs to Calm, Balance, and Restore Your Nervous System

I’ve needed more than just lifestyle changes to make a dent in my health. Anxiety, stress, restlessness, and overwork honestly weren’t things I could change all by myself. My body needed help coming back to itself. It had to restore proper function but was all out of whack. There were days along the way I needed more encouragement, a push in the right direction, and days I needed to feel less alone. Sometimes I just needed a little something to quiet my thoughts, like Piper methysticum (Kava), or something to make me feel safe and held after a long day, like Avena sativa (Oats).

The plants have been great friends to me in many ways. When I’ve felt lost or in need, the plant world has lent a leaf, a root, or a petal. The trees have swayed my way when I needed a hug, and they’ve picked me up from the ground when I thought it might be time to return home. The flowers have laughed with me on the days where the sun was beaming brightly through my window, and at the same time, stood with me when my head hung low, mirroring their resilience into me.

When I’m in search of comfort or a confidant, I often turn to my apothecary. The plant world is filled with such mysticism, knowledge, wisdom, and truth, as well as radical love and care. As a studying herbalist, I often experiment with the plants that come my way- sometimes in hopes that I’ll feel a little better. And not to my surprise, they have shined.

Adaptogens

Adaptogens are a class of herbs that work to keep our bodies in balance, operating non-specifically to help us adapt to changes within and without ourselves. They work on many different factors and help to regulate/normalize organ and system function. These herbs are generally labeled as ‘non-toxic’.

You may have heard the word ‘adaptogen’ before. This is likely because they’ve become increasingly popular in recent years. When I first heard of adaptogens, I was working in a café that carried Moon Juice– a fancy LA brand that makes herbal products. Adaptogen sounded exotic and intriguing, as I’m sure it does to you. It drew me in with the possibility of stress and anxiety regulation, improved memory, and better focus. I didn’t know much about herbs at the time, so I bought into it (mentally and financially!). And to be honest, I wasn’t disappointed. 

Many herbs worked great for me. Unfortunately, most of the popular supplements on the market were pricey for an 18-year-old college student, so I eventually stopped using them. There was still a twinkle in my eye that I was in reach of being able to heal myself (affordably).

Nervines

Nervines are a class of herbs that work on the nervous system (hence the name). These herbs promote calmness, support stress, and can act as sedatives. These are also commonly used herbs like Matricaria chamomilla (Chamomile) or Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender). They can help us deal with what we’re facing head-on or work overtime, whether that be winding down before bed or building our reserves back up. Nervines can be tonics (help strengthen and restore the nervous system), relaxants (put us at ease and relax), or stimulants (stimulate the nervous system or act as a pick-me-up). 

Nervine tonics and relaxants are what I’ll be focusing on today because they act more to soothe stress/anxiety and help to restore the nervous system.

I believe plants are powerful ancient medicine. In this post, I steered away from some of the typical herbs you may hear about for stress and anxiety because I wanted to shed the spotlight on some of my personal favorites. These are herbs I’ve tried, worked with, and feel comfortable with- though your own experience with these herbs (if you decide to try them) will be entirely unique.


5 Plant Allies to Help You Balance Out & Experience More Peace

1. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwagandha is a compelling nightshade, native to India and Africa, and goes by other common names such as Winter Cherry. It’s an adaptogen and nervine that can help improve sleep quality, rebalance the stress response, and address fatigue, exhaustion, and anxiety. And though it is fantastic as a nervine, it also helps stimulate thyroid function, has long been used as a sexual tonic, and is high in iron.

I find Ashwagandha to be especially helpful before bed. I’m a ‘wired but tired’ person who needs help winding down after a stimulating day. I often find it hard for me to just stop working because I feel like I need to get everything done in a day. Ashwagandha grounds me, keeps me present, and reminds me that I need to rest. Ashwagandha holds me in a loving grip, much like Mother Earth, and carries me back to where I should be.

How to Make: I like to make golden mylk with Ashwagandha, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Ginger, Black Pepper, and honey. Or sometimes I’ll make a hot cocoa with Cacao and Ashwagandha. It doesn’t combine well with water, so it’s best to do so in something ‘fatty’ like ghee, milk, or mylk. You can add it to your morning oats too! 2 tsp in 12oz of liquid (best simmered).

Where You Can Find It: Banyan Botanicals has high quality Ayurvedic herbs.

2. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Valerian is a calming nervine that’s great for nervous tension, anxiety, and restlessness. It’s an amphoteric herb, which means it normalizes function (in this case, that would be functions of the nervous system). Valerian also works to help insomnia and reduce the number of times you awake throughout the night.

Valerian is a superstar for anxiety. I know someone who swears by it, even after being on prescription anti-anxiety medication for years, and remarks that if they knew of Valerian, they would’ve used that all along. Valerian has been a great ally to help me fall asleep and calm my anxiousness that prevents good sleep. I don’t take Valerian during the day because it makes me a little too sleepy.

How to Make: I often mix it with Chamomile and Lavender to help mask the very peculiar sticky/musky, but also sweet, smell and taste it has. I take about 1 tsp of each herb and add it to my mug, then steep for 20 minutes.

Where You Can Find It: I prefer Valerian in its tincture form if I have nothing else to mix it with because of its taste. Herb Pharm makes a good quality tincture of valerian. If you choose to purchase Valerian, you would want the root, and you can find that at your local herb shop. Starwest Botanicals also has valerian root in bulk. Pukka has some of the best tea I’ve ever tried and has a lovely night-time blend with valerian root in it.

3. Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum)

Also known as Tulsi, Holy Basil is a nootropic, nervine, and adaptogen. Nootropic refers to improving cognition or memory. Holy Basil helps enhance focus and concentration. And it is an uplifting herb that doesn’t stimulate, as well as a calming herb that doesn’t sedate. It’s a perfect balance. Holy Basil is also a tonic to the brain and nervous system.

Holy Basil is truly one of my most beloved herbs. I drink the tea throughout the day (every day) and have seen many improvements in my mental health, clarity, and mood- not to mention it smells and tastes beautiful. I used to really struggle with a foggy mind, waking up tired and staying tired throughout the day. Since I started drinking Tulsi tea, I feel rejuvenated, refreshed, and clear.

How to Make: 1 tbsp to 12oz of water, steep 20 minutes.

Where You Can Find It: Deer Creek Collective Herb Farm has an AMAZINGLY great quality holy basil, so I would recommend them if you are looking to buy in bulk.

4. Milky Oats (Avena sativa)

Milky Oat Tops are a wonderfully nourishing nervine- high in magnesium and gentle for anxiety. ‘Milky’ refers to the stage in which the oat tops are harvested. When harvested fresh and you press on the oat top, a white mucus emerges- thus milky

Milky Oat Tops are for people who are overworked and depleted- people who have run themselves dry. This is for those of you who are burnt out and need long term support to build up your reserves. Oat tops help restore the nervous system. 

Though the touch of Milky Oats is light and gentle, the medicine is potent. For me, drinking a tea of Milky Oats feels so supportive. I add them to pretty much every tea I make because they are such a lovely addition. They’re sweet and synergize with many other herbs.

Milky Oats are best for long term use in order to feel the effects. It’s a plant you have to get to know and sit with for a while. And time spent with this plant is never wasted because the benefits are unmatched.

How to Make: 1 tbsp of dried milky oat tops in 12oz of water, steep 20 minutes to overnight.

Where You Can Find It: Foster Farm Botanicals has good quality dried milky oat tops. If you’re looking for a tincture or the dried herb elsewhere, make sure it was harvested in the milky stage. Also for a tincture, the herb should be bottled fresh.

5. Kava (Piper methysticum)

Kava is a relaxing nervine originating in the Pacific Islands. It is best at relaxing tension- whether that be physical or emotional. Kava helps improve focus, concentration, soothes anxiety, and can help with insomnia. It’s also indicated for racing thoughts.

The first time I tried Kava, I was having trouble falling asleep because there were too many thoughts on my mind. It was late, but I just wasn’t tired. I laid there in the dark, mind wandering. I took the recommended dosage of a tincture, and it felt like something was lifted off my shoulders. Literally- the tension I was carrying in my shoulders was relieved. The overbearing chatter had disappeared, and suddenly, I was sleepy! Though Kava is not a sedative, it may make you think it is because it eliminates whatever’s keeping you up.

There are such places called “Kava Bars” scattered across the country, where people go like they would a bar, but instead enjoy a cup of Kava (no alcohol involved). I have not been to one, but I’ve heard good things. Kava has a special quality about it that helps people in social or group settings connect better.

It’s important to note that this herb is not for long term use. It is best used occasionally. The FDA warns that Kava has been linked to rare, but serious liver injury.

How to Make: Kava tastes good on its own, but I like to mix it with Cacao to make Kava Cocoa. Sometimes before bed, I’ll mix it with Blue Lotus and Cacao to ease me into the dream world. 1-2 tsp simmered for 20 minutes should do the trick.

Where You Can Find It: I like the Kava tincture from Herb Pharm, but you can also purchase kava in bulk from Starwest Botanicals or your local herb shop.


I think it’s important to discuss that all of these herbs have been around long before you and I walked this Earth. They have been used, experienced, and cared for for centuries- way before they were ‘trendy’ and ‘cool’ to add to your iced coffee.

All these fancy/pretty/popular brands are actually quite expensive, but what is the true quality of their products? Where are they coming from?

Most of the time, herbs aren’t something you hear about unless it’s a fad- unless someone is promising you an overnight cure. Most of the time, these products, and the conversation itself, are out of reach to the general public and people who most need them. Herbs have become something to capitalize off of, instead of as a way to care for the community and build a relationship with the environment.

Let’s think about how trends affect the plants themselves and their communities. Sacred plants like Ayahuasca have been made so available, but at what cost? Trends can destroy the environment and local economies and also be harmful to traditional culture.

Think about who you choose to give your money to. When possible- choose the organic, sustainable, and local option. Ask yourself- is there another, more sustainably harvested and crafted plant, or plant that grows in your area that you can use instead? A plant being sold at your local farmer’s market or one that’s right in your backyard as opposed to that exotic plant everyone’s talking about? There may be something native to your area or even an ‘invasive weed’ that can do more justice to your specific needs. (Not to steer away from the possibility that a popular plant may actually be what you need!)

Herbs are not one-size-fits-all. They are unique. They have personalities, just like you! And you may find one that matches yours that will work twice as good.


To get the most out of the herbs you work with, I suggest having a consultation with an herbalist or visiting your local herb shop (if you have one) to chat with an herbalist. It may be best for you to take certain herbs under professional supervision. If you’re taking any medications or have any medical issues, it’s important to speak with your doctor before taking any herbs. And of course, always do your research.

So Much Love,

LA.

Stress Affects More Than Just Your Mind

Why Chronic Stress Causes Great Harm to Your Health

Stress is something I’m all too familiar with. Me being just 20 years old you’d think, “What could she possibly have to stress over?”. But let me tell you, I can name many things. Whether they’re worth being stressed out over is the question you should be asking. A daily challenge of mine is sorting the things I should be worrying about from what I shouldn’t be worried about. Since stress was how I always knew how to deal with difficult situations and trauma, I learned how to live with it. And in reality, that’s the case for many people my age, as well as those younger and older than I.

When I’m chatting with friends or just people in general about their health concerns, the number one thing that comes up is either stress or anxiety. Though many struggle day-to-day, many don’t realize how deep their emotions truly go.

I see how stress manifests in my physical body, even though it’s something I experience mentally. I go through cycles of feeling really bad then really great then back to bad. And it takes so much out of me when I’m in a bad streak of it, which can last for months.

Continually experiencing stress and not knowing how to dial down, or literally having a body that doesn’t know how to shut that alert off, has left me feeling unable to focus, ungrounded, and just plain exhausted. Stress has affected my digestive function, blood pressure, and skin health, as well as my sleep. Overthinking and worry leaves more than just your mind burnt out! And it’s important to take a deeper look into why and how chronic stress can affect the rest of your body so intensely.


What happens to your body when you’re under stress?

Our bodies have two different states that branch off of our Autonomic (or involuntary) nervous system; parasympathetic (PNS) and sympathetic (SNS). Parasympathetic state is “Rest and Digest” mode. This is where healing takes place. It’s the calmer, more neutral, of the two. The sympathetic state is the “Fight or Flight” or stress response. It’s the adrenally active response, but also happens when you’re excited (for example). It’s not exactly as black and white as survival mode.

We need both. You slide the scale as needed, but don’t want to get stuck in one place. Either one when out of balance can cause disharmony in the body.

When you become stressed, your body goes into sympathetic dominance. Whether it’s just being worried about being out of control over a situation or finding yourself face-to-face with a bear, it’s all stress to the body (and different people have different versions of what might be serious to them). Your body begins to shelve certain functions in order to deliver your body what it needs to keep you alive in that moment.

The HPA Axis is activated. Your hypothalamus gland sends a hormone to the pituitary gland, which then sends a hormone to your adrenal cortex to start pushing out cortisol. Your blood pressure increases, your blood sugar increases, and blood begins to flow to your limbs. At a certain point, when cortisol reaches sufficient levels in the blood, it sends messages back to stop producing cortisol (otherwise there could be serious damage done to the body by high levels of cortisol). Then, after the stressor is dealt with, you calm down.

So why is Chronic Stress harmful to your health?

Mind and body are indefinitely connected. You may have noticed that when you become anxious, you start sweating, your palms become clammy, or your heart starts racing. These are all signs your body is saying it’s under some sort of stress, but deeper than this, long-term stress can affect even the most simple and vital functions. Your symptoms may even be so vague that you can’t tie them to a specific problem.

Nervous System/Endocrine Dysfunction. Quite obviously, the nervous system has a direct role in your stress response. Overactivation of the HPA Axis can lead to adrenal fatigue and eventually adrenal exhaustion.

When a stressful situation is over, your body returns to parasympathetic mode. However, the longer and more frequently you’re in sympathetic dominant mode, the harder it will be to come back down from a sympathetic state. More and more cortisol is being made. Eventually, your body tries to protect itself by no longer responding to signals that cortisol needs to be made due to the dangerous outcomes of having too much in your bloodstream. This can result in too low cortisol levels, which manifests as fatigue, mood changes, poor memory, difficultly sleeping, and bone and muscle loss. Constantly stressing the body contributes to depleting your overall reservoir of vitality.

Heart and Blood Issues. The cardiovascular system is one that is greatly affected by stress. Blood pressure (BP) increases as part of the stress response to help carry more oxygen and glucose to the parts of your body that need it faster. Your heart begins to beat faster and harder, and blood vessels dilate. Being in the stress response longer with elevated blood pressure can turn into hypertension. Stress can also affect the breaking down of sugar in the blood. If levels of blood sugar are too high, it may result in hyperglycemia or Type II Diabetes.

Fluid Production. The parasympathetic mode is when your body is readily secreting fluids, which means that when you’re in sympathetic mode, your body isn’t concerned with that. There’s less blood flow to areas like your skin or hair, resulting in dryness all around. Dry mouth, dandruff, and vaginal dryness can all be signs of stress.

Digestive Issues. Digestion is a background function of the body, and it happens in parasympathetic mode. This means you need to be calm and grounded to properly digest a meal. When you’re in sympathetic dominance, your body isn’t concerned with digestion, which could be the reason you’re not hungry when you’re stressed. And if you’re someone who stress eats, it could be an overload on your stomach at the moment.

It’s important to remember that when you’re stressed, your stomach isn’t producing the enzymes it needs to break down the food in your stomach (low HCL), which can be an initial problem in poor digestion. Not being able to properly digest food, or even just holding emotions in, can lead to bloating, gas, pain, or constipation.

Your gut listens. Stress directly affects your gut health and has been linked to poor absorption, intestinal permeability, and inflammation. “The heightened inflammation that frequently accompanies stress and depression triggers blooms of pathogenic bacteria that encourage dysbiosis and a leaky gut”(Madison and Kiecolt-Glaser, 2019). This can lead to bigger problems like Leaky Gut or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In fact, stress triggers IBS!

Brain Function. Being stressed can make it very difficult to stay in a balanced headspace. You may find yourself to be angrier and more irritable, almost out of control of your emotions. You’re more likely to snap over little things because you’re already on edge. Stress can also make it harder to remember things and for your brain to perform properly. Your judgment, decision-making, and memory are all thrown off.

Pain Sensitivity. Stress can make you more reactive to pain and even more sensitive. It makes you just as physically tense as you are mentally. Because your body is on guard, bracing for impact or injury, your muscles tense up. You’re likely to have tight shoulder and/or neck muscles. You may even experience chronic migraines.

Sleep Quality. It’s so important to get good sleep. It’s a time where your mind gets a rest, and your body can do necessary detoxification. Deep sleep lets your body know to stop producing stress hormones. When sleep is disrupted or of poor quality, your body is not able to properly do these things. Not getting enough sleep triggers your body to send out more stress hormones. The more stress hormones going out leads to, once again, poor sleep, waking up throughout the night, and getting less sleep. You wake up feeling tired and groggy. It’s an endless cycle.

Hormones and Reproductive Function. If the way the hypothalamus and pituitary gland are responding changes, this can affect your hormones. Stress on the endocrine system can disrupt its function, and hormones released by the hypothalamus can directly affect the female reproductive system. “Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) inhibits hypothalamic gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) secretion, and glucocorticoids inhibit pituitary luteinizing hormone and ovarian estrogen and progesterone secretion”, which can result in amenorrhea (or missing periods) (Kalantaridou SN; Makrigiannakis A; Zoumakis E; Chrousos, 2004). The length of menstrual cycles can change, and it can also be harder to conceive when you’re stressed. Thyroid dysfunctions are also known to be affected by stress.

Immune Health. When we’re stressed, our body is not able to fight off toxins and intruders as effectively. Stress hormones suppress immune function making our body more susceptible to infection.


Taking care of your mind is taking care of your body. Making sure you come down from any stress you experience benefits and protects you in the long term. Even just finding time to journal or talk to someone about what you’re feeling can help.

Most of everyone nowadays is experiencing it in some form, and many are looking for a solution. Pharmaceutical companies are still making big bucks off anti-anxiety meds, and at the same time, adaptogenic herbs have become increasingly popular in mainstream culture. Headlines of magazines read, “How to Manage Your Stress”. Wellness catalogs rave about the new ways to deal with stress and anxiety. We don’t have to talk about why we’re all stressed out in the mainstream media because we all know why. And what isn’t being talked about is how we can change society and our culture to lower stress levels across the board.

So with that, I leave you with a few questions to ask yourself:

Why is being stressed out normal, and why is it something we should have to live with? Why is not being stressed out in some way, shape, or form shocking to hear now?

Stay tuned for tips on how to make stress a lesser part of your life later this week.

Big Love,

LA.