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Nervines are a category of herbs that act on the nervous system, helping to soothe, restore, and sedate the Central Nervous System (CNS) or the nerves of the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS).  Herbs in this category exist on a continuum, from herbs that calm but don’t affect alertness (good for those who feel “stressed” and tense, and who may experience symptoms of anxiety during the day) to those that sedate and promote sleep (good for those with insomnia, trouble falling or staying asleep, a busy mind and tense body when laying in bed).  Many herbs can do both. When taken in small amounts, these help relax and calm anxiety (valerian is a good example) but when taken in larger amounts, they make you sleepy and very relaxed.
Some nervines include: Lemon balm, Oat pods, Chamomile, Passionflower, California poppy, Valerian, Hops, St. John’s wort, Linden flowers, Skullcap, and Kava root.
Many others abound, since herbs do seem to have a particular affinity for the human nervous system.  Since many people suffer from issues such as insomnia, anxiety, muscle tension, and stress (an all-encompassing word), these herbs can come in very handy.  For other nerve-related issues such as tingling or numbess of the skin, damaged nerves from car accidents or other tissue trauma, and digestive irritability, nervine herbs can also help restore nerve tissue, reduce nerve tingling, pain, or itching, and calm and soothe stomach or head aches.
Nervines most commonly used for their sedative and sleep-promoting properties: Valerian, Wild lettuce, Jamaican dogwood, Hops, and Nutmeg (fresh grated). 
Antispasmodic herbs for muscle tension, cramping, and overall pain during the day or night may benefit from Wild lettuce, Jamaican dogwood, Crampbark, Skullcap, Betony (aka Wood betony), and Kava root, and dosing is individualized.
Antidepressants (mood stabilizing and elevating) herbs include: St. John’s wort, Damiana, Holy basil, Rhodiola, Ginseng, Vervain, Mimosa, and Lemon balm (mild). Many of these are also useful for nerve healing and nerve pain. 
Sleep can be a challenging activity to pin down for some people, as critical as it is for so many functions in the body. The reason for this is that many systems in the body, when out of balance, can cause sleep disturbance. The endocrine system is particularly important, and when hormonal changes such as menopause occur, this can interfere with sleep. Adrenal health can also play a big role, as the constant state of fight or flight many people operate from, can make it hard to calm down and find a relaxed state when sleep is in order. If cortisol levels get thrown off, this can also impact sleep. In addition, melatonin levels can be affected by light exposure into the evening hours, especially now that so many people are looking at their computer or phone screens right up until sleep time. Blood sugar imbalance can also affect sleep, so what you eat at night and when you eat, can also affect sleep quality. Liver health can also be a contributor, as the liver does a lot of its “dumping” at night and if it’s not functioning properly because of numerous factors, this can lead to sleep disturbance. As you can see, there is a lot of troubleshooting and balancing needed in order to support healthful, restful sleep for some people,
Adaptogens help with adrenal health and regulating the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA Axis) and help with long term stress support: Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng), Schisandra, American Ginseng, Holy Basil, Ashwaganda, Devil’s club, Rhodiola. Most of these should not be taken at bedtime, with the exception of Ashwaganda and possibly Holy basil, but should be taken in the morning and early afternoon. 
Some of our products to support sleep and relaxation: 
Get Sleepy Tea is formulated to help relax the body and tense muscles, calm the mind, and promote sleepiness and the body’s ability to drop into deep, restorative sleep.  A tea can be a relaxing ritual to get into before bedtime, comforting and warm. This is best for trouble falling asleep and calming a busy mind at night.
Contains: Lemon balm, Skullcap, Chamomile, Orange peel, California poppy, Passionflower, and Valerian.
Sleep Well Drops is a tincture blend (extract in alcohol and water) of Passionflower, Hops, Valerian, and Skullcap.  These herbs in particular can help you get a more consistent, restful sleep.  A tincture can be ideal for those to whom tea doesn’t appeal, or who do not wish to consume a cup of fluids before bed, which can interfere with sleep.
Chill Out Tea is a relaxing blend of herbs formulated for daytime or evening use because they don’t necessarily make you tired or reduce mental alertness.  This blend is great for anxiety, stress, tension, and to help the body relax and reduce muscle pain and spasm.  It also contains herbs that help restore and soothe the nervous system and can help reduce mental chatter and an overactive mind. Some customers drink it for a similar feeling to having a glass of wine to relax in the evening.
Contains:  Lemon balm, Oat pods, Kava root, Lemon verbena, Linden, Skullcap, and Rose petals.
Sleep Thru is a capsule blend made by Gaia Herbs that helps lower cortisol production at night, while supporting overall adrenal health, and calming the nervous system. This should be taken for at least a month, an hour before bed every night.
Contains: Ashwaganda, Magnolia bark, Passionflower, and Jujube date.
As you know, we can customize herbal formulations in tea, tincture, and powder form. There are also options in the essential oil realm, using the benefits of aromatherapy for your nervous system, endocrine system, and grounding.
In summary, herbal nervines are very effect for falling asleep. With issues of staying asleep, it could also be an adrenal imbalance (cortisol spike) – think of Ashwaganda at night, or other adaptogens during the day to regulate;  liver stagnation – think of artichoke leaf, dandelion root, milk thistle morning and night for a month; blood sugar balance (eat protein and vegetables with evening meal; inadequate nutrients (especially minerals such as Magnesium, B- vitamins, and Calcium). 
Here’s to restful, restorative sleep!

Digestion is so critically important to how to we break down and assimilate nutrients. There are a variety of things that can happen to disrupt digestive balance, including stress, inflammatory or allergenic foods, toxins we knowingly or unknowingly ingest, acidic foods or drinks, and much more. There are many herbs that can help offset digestive symptoms that arise, as well to help heal damaged tissue, reduce inflammation, increase production or release of important digestive compounds (such as digestive enzymes and bile), help feed the beneficial flora, and reduce pathogens (such as excess yeast growth and parasites).
Herbs such as Slippery elm bark and Marshmallow root are useful for coating and soothing the digestive tract starting with the throat and esophagus, the lining of the stomach, and on into the intestinal tract.  Therefore, they are useful for acid reflux and any kind of gastritis. They both absorb excess fluid, and provide a mucilaginous moistening property as well, so therefore can be useful for chronic diarrhea and for constipation.  They are also both useful for cooling and healing the mucosal lining after food poisoning, food allergies, or other inflamed digestive issues.
Other herbs are what herbalists call “carminatives,” helping to relax the nerves of the digestive tract, act as local antispasmodics for intestinal muscle spasms and pain, and help relieve gas and bloating. Herbs like Fennel seed and Peppermint are two of the most commonly known in this category.  Catnip as a tea or tincture is another good herb to use, but most people will be surprised by this one! Catnip also is helpful if the indigestion is stress-related, as it helps relax the nervous system as well. These herbs are also great for consuming post-meals to promote better digestion.
Herbal anti-inflammatories for the digestive tract include YarrowMeadowsweet, and Ginger. These herbs can be employed when there is known inflammation and for generally supporting the health of the digestive tract when there is inherent weakness present and food intolerance or sensitivities. Meadowsweet is also beneficial for acid reflux and inflammation of the stomach lining in general.
In addition, a category called herbal “bitters” includes herbs that contain principles that taste bitter on the tongue and, as a result, stimulate the Vagus Nerve which in part activates digestive function including the release of gastric fluids, bile, enzymatic release by the pancreas, and generally stimulates movement of the digestive tract.  Taken 10-15 minutes before eating, these herbs, such as Gentian rootArtichoke leaf, Wormwood, and Oregon grape root, can overall improve digestive function and therefore the assimilation of food, especially when taken on a consistent basis.  These herbs can also be used when you have occasional digestive stagnation, such as a feeling that food is not moving well out of the stomach. These herbs are also useful for stimulating bile production and flow from the liver and bile release from the gallbladder, therefore helping with fat digestion and assimilation. Interestingly, these are the herbs to be employed also if someone no longer has a gallbladder, as they can help stimulate the liver to produce more bile, now that its holding vessel (the gallbladder) is no longer there to store bile.
Finally, there are herbs that contains antibacterial, anti yeast/fungal, and anti-parasitic compounds, helping to prevent and treat these infections. These herbs include Goldenseal rootYarrowBlack Walnut hulls, and Wormwood, to name a few. Wormwood, as its name implies, is very specific for intestinal worms, but can help with dispelling other parasites as well. Black walnut hulls are a broad-spectrum anti-parasitic herb, as well as helping reduce yeast and fungus. Goldenseal and Yarrow are more specific for fungus and bacteria imbalance. Oregano leaf extract and the essential oil diluted in oil in capsule can also be very effective against a wide range of intestinal pathogens.

Reishi mushroom – although not technically an “herb”, we use that term loosely in herbal medicine, reishi is certainly a fantastic medicinal mushroom that I use regularly to support a healthy immune system, for its antiviral properties, and its anticancer properties.  Its Latin name is Ganoderma lucidum and various species grow in Asia, Europe, and North America, although now it is primarily cultivated.  It is a prominent mushroom with a glossy, hard red-brown surface (when dry), and a bitter, earthy taste.
Primary properties: anti-inflammatory, immune modulating, hepatoprotective, antiviral, antioxidant, adaptogen, heart tonic, cardiovascular protective.
Based on these properties, reishi mushroom is used to strengthen the immune system, enhancing immune cell activity and helping to down-regulate an autoimmune type response.  It is helpful for people with autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and allergies, or for people with a weak immune system that tend to get sick frequently or cannot seem to recover from an illness.  It is also used for keeping the immune system strong during times of stress or when exposed to a virus.  I often put reishi tincture in formulas for preventing illness during the cold and flu season because of its antiviral and immune supportive effects.
It is also often used for cancer treatment and prevention, as it has antitumor properties and stimulates immune cells that fight cancer and acts as an antioxidant.  Because of its liver and heart protective/strengthening effects, reishi is also a good adjunct in cancer treatment to help the body recover when undergoing chemotherapy.
As a cardiovascular support herb, this herb can help lower LDL cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and help prevent arteriosclerosis.  Therefore, it is useful for someone who has high cholesterol/triglyceride levels and would pair well with hawthorne berry because both can help to lower blood pressure and prevent or help treat arteriosclerosis.
A mild adaptogen, this fungus can help to prevent potential symptoms of stress and help to restore vitality to the adrenal glands after periods of stress.
I carry reishi mushroom in bulk powder for adding to foods or smoothies, mushroom slices to add to soups, stews, crockpot meals, and to make decoctions (simmered in water to make a “tea”), liquid extract/tincture form and in capsules at Herban Wellness.
Also, because of its taste, reishi mushroom works well added to chocolate sauces or hot cocoa or sometimes used in place of chocolate in healthy confections, brewed with coffee, and simmered with spices like cardamom and cinnamon for a health “chai” blend.

The vine of passionflower is used for its sedative, antispasmodic, and muscle-relaxing properties.  Passionflower is often used in tea blends, tinctures, or capsules for anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, heart palpitations and high blood pressure (especially when related to stress and anxiety), and painful menstruation.  For promoting deep sleep, this herb is often combined with Valerian or Hops, because these are both more sedative, while Passionflower can help with insomnia that is anxiety or stress related.
One of the advantages of using Passionflower or a variety of other herbs for anxiety or sleep is that they don’t tend to produce a sense of dullness, grogginess, or otherwise impair mental function.  In research on the anti-anxiety effects of Passionflower, it was as effective as anti-anxiety medication, including benzodiazepine drugs, plus it had the added benefit of not impairing daytime performance and is not habit-forming.
Passionflower is in our Get Sleepy Tea (a great bedtime tea to send you off to a restful slumber) and in our Sleep Well Drops, a tincture blend of herbs including Passionflower, Hops, and Valerian.  We also have numerous capsule combinations for sleep and anxiety that contain Passionflower and often include it in our custom blends for stress, sleep, nervousness, restlessness, and pain.

Cinnamon is a very familiar spice/herb to most people.  Often, I find that people are surprised to see it in cut bark form for use in a tea, however, as it is most familiar in powder form.  It has a long history of medicinal use and was shipped from the Spice Islands to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, and China in earlier times as part of the spice trade.  The inner bark of the Cinnamomum spp. is used and is transported in rolls.
A sweet, spicy, warming herb, I often use the bark in tea blends for its flavor and also because of its beneficial effect on blood sugar.  It increases insulin sensitivity of cells and can help decrease blood sugar spikes after a meal.  It is also a drying herb, so it can help decrease diarrhea and the associated fluid loss, as well as helping to slow or stop bleeding, and to help lessen mucus congestion of the lungs and sinuses.  A tincture (liquid extract) can be used to slow or stop postpartum hemorrhage.  It can also help with sluggish or weak digestion, especially when the stomach is cold.  One way to tell if someone has more of a “cold” digestive system is if they have a harder time digesting cold foods, such as raw vegetables and yogurt.  The tincture and oil are both very antimicrobial and antiparasitic.

Dandelion – a very common plant most people know for its sunny yellow flowers, its puffy seed heads that can be blown into the wind, or pulling it up in their yards when they see it as a blemish on their lawn, its Latin name is Taraxacum officinale and it is native to northern temperate zones around the globe.  The leaves and root of this plant are both used as medicine, and the leaves as food.  The leaves are best harvested fresh in the spring and can be eaten as a bitter salad green to stimulate digestive juices, as well as being an excellent diuretic.  The root can be harvested in the spring or fall and is used primarily as a digestive and liver tonic herb.
Historically, the leaves were eaten as a vegetable, the roots roasted and brewed as a coffee substitute, the root fermented into beer, and the flowers made into wine.
The leaves primary actions are: diuretic, bitter digestive, mineralizing (high in potassium in particular).
The roots primary actions are: liver tonic, liver detoxifier, digestive stimulant, diuretic, mild laxative, anti-rheumatic.
As a diuretic, the leaf is considered stronger in its action and contains enough potassium that it does not leach the body of this important mineral, as many pharmaceutical diuretics can do.  Therefore, both the leaf and root can be used to increase the flow of fluid through the kidneys, helping move kidney stones, lower blood pressure, and reduce edema (swelling due to water retention).
As a bitter digestive, the leaf is more bitter tasting, but both have this action, which is basically stimulating the flow of digestive juices through the reflex action of the bitter taste on the tongue.  They stimulate bile flow, the mucosal lining of the stomach and intestines to secrete mucus, and the pancreas to secrete enzymes.  This is useful when someone has sluggish or poor digestion and dyspepsia (digestive discomfort), particularly when taken before meals.
The root more so than the leaf, is considered a liver tonic, helping to promote liver health and to detoxify the liver through stimulating it to release toxins that can then be excreted.
This plant also has some anti-inflammatory effects, and combined with its action on the liver and digestion as well as fluid excretion, it is used for joint inflammation and other rheumatic complaints.  The root is also commonly used in formulas for skin conditions, because of its action on the liver and kidneys, two primary detoxification organs that can help take the burden off the skin to detoxify when its experiencing inflamed skin conditions such as eczema or acne.
Dandelion is also useful for overall stagnation in the body with symptoms of poor skin with a dull color, slow or poor digestion, lethargy or fatigue, swollen or inflamed tissues and organs, and poor circulation.  In these cases, dandelion works by helping to move the blood and eliminating toxins from the body
Traditionally, dandelion was not recommended in patients with liver or gallbladder disease, based on the belief that dandelion stimulates bile secretion.  Dandelion leaf and root should be used cautiously with people who have gallstones or any obstruction of the bile ducts.  Dandelion should also be used cautiously in the case of stomach ulcers or gastritis, as it may cause overproduction of stomach acid.
Dandelion root and leaf are both sold loose at Herban Wellness to be used in teas, they are also both sold in liquid extract (tincture) form, and in capsule form.  The roasted dandelion root is also sold to make into a tea that has a rich, roasted flavor.  Dandelion root is included in my Rebalancing Cleanse Support Tea, helping to promote movement of toxins out through the liver and kidneys.

I often get puzzled looks when I use the word “tincture” or describe an infusion of herbs.  What is an elixir versus a tonic?  Why do we extract in alcohol?  So I thought I would define a few terms commonly used in herbal medicine.
TEA: First, let’s talk about “tea”, since it is a familiar word and concept that people can understand.  Technically, a “tea” is only made from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, which brings us white tea, green tea, black tea, oolong tea, bancha, pu-erh tea, and all the varieties within that.  This tea plant, Camellia sinensis, contains caffeine.  Pause.  Did you know that all of these teas come from the same plant??  Pretty cool.  Each type of tea is processed differently to bring out different flavors and properties.  For example, white tea is the least processed and lowest in caffeine of all these teas.  Depending on subspecies and where this plant is cultivated and the climate it is bred to grow in, you get an incredible diversity of flavors and aromas in teas.
TEA vs. INFUSION or TISANE: Okay, so, herbal “teas” are really herbal aqueous (water) infusions or tisanes, but now we just refer to any plant infused/steeped in hot water as a tea.  So if you ever are confused, hopefully this just added to the confusion!  By “infused” or “steeped”, we are referring to the plant material sitting in hot water, its properties getting extracted into the water.  I will refer to all plant water infusions as teas from now on.
Let’s continue then.  Some plants and the desired constituents in those plants are most active and available prepared as a water infusion, because the compounds are water soluble (hydrophilic).  These are best prepared and taken as a tea.
TINCTURES: Some plants contain desired compounds that tend to be more alcohol or oil soluble (they are more hydrophobic) and tend not to be water soluble, or poorly so.  These would preferably be consumed as a tincture, then, which is an extract of fresh or dry plant in an alcohol & water solution.  Something like lomatium root (Lomatium dissectum), which is oozing with resins and volatile oils when harvested fresh, is best prepared in a high-alcohol preparation then in order to capture some of these resins and oils in the solution, since these have many of the antibacterial, antiviral, and decongestant effects that lomatium can offer.
Can plants/herbs with water soluble compounds be extracted as a tincture?  Yes, they can!  These would just contain a lower alcohol percentage to water (say 40% alcohol content), therefore preserving the preparation while extracting both water soluble and some alcohol soluble compounds.
Tinctures are often desirable because they are a concentrated herbal extract that is taken in drop doses.  The added advantage is that the fresh plant can be extracted into the solution and then it is preserved for potentially years once the plant material has been pressed out and the liquid (tincture) is stored.
GLYCERITES: These are herbal extracts in vegetable glycerine, another solvent used to extract both water and alcohol-soluble compounds from plants.  There are generally not as many herbal glycerites available on the market.  Glycerine is a sweet, viscous bi-product of the soap-making industry and can extract some hydrophilic (water soluble) and hydrophobic (alcohol soluble) compounds from the plant.  Another advantage is that they are sweet-tasting extracts and because they contain no alcohol, they are great for kids and anyone averse to taking alcohol-containing substances (or anyone who should not, for that matter).
HERBAL OILS: One way to prepare herbs for topical use is to infuse (there’s that word again) herbs in oil so that the properties of the plant can be extracted into the oil.  Basically this means covering fresh or dried herbs with oil and allowing them to sit in the oil for a length of time and then pressing out the plant material.  The oil then can be used directly on the skin, or used in a lotion or salve.
SALVES: What the heck is a salve, anyway?  Pronounced “saav” (like “have” with an “s”; silent “l”), this is essentially a wax-thickened oil, and is basically what a lip balm is.  Beeswax or other emulsifying vegetable waxes are usually used to thicken/harden the oil so it can be spread on the skin.