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!