Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Calming Herbs: Therapeutic Uses

While in the process of examining underlying issues which trigger symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, etc., there are many herbal remedies that can provide relief from these symptoms, and, unlike many prescription drugs, allow us to function at our everyday tasks.

The following are brief descriptions of some calming herbs, their uses, and side effects (if any). They each can offer us symptomatic relief in our times of distress.

Kava - is a central nervous system depressant. It acts in the limbic system (the seat of emotion). Occasional use for symptoms of anxiety and/or sleeplessness is an appropriate use for Kava. High dosages over prolonged periods can be irritating to the liver.

Passionflower - is more sedative than Kava. One of Nature's best tranquilizers, its uses include anxiety, insomnia, and as an anti-spasmodic, it can be used to treat symptoms of asthma. Passionflower is not appropriate for use during pregnancy.

Valerian - is used as a gentle, safe, sleep aid. It is the herbal treatment of choice for nervous tension and panic attacks. Although it may cause headaches with prolonged use, there are few side effects other than its disagreeable smell and taste.

Skullcap - was originally used as a remedy for the symptoms of rabies. Although there is little scientific research available, it is popularly used to relieve nervous tension and menstrual cramps. Its relaxing effect makes it useful in the treatment of seizures, hysteria, and epilepsy.

St. Johnswort - is a mild tranquilizer that is safe for short term use. It increases dopamine levels in the brain (which affects emotional stability). Its uses include relief of emotional stress, anxiety, and irritability. Prolonged use may produce toxicity and may also make the skin light-sensitive. Current studies are ongoing to examine the possible anti-viral activity of St. Johnswort.

Chamomile - is a mild sedative. Its calming effect on smooth muscle tissue has made it a traditional remedy for nervous stomach and colic. It interacts well with passionflower. Chamomile is from the same family of plants (daisy) as ragweed, so people with ragweed allergies must be careful to avoid chamomile products.

Wild Oats - is a natural relaxant. It is used to treat chronic and acute anxiety. As it strengthens the entire nervous system, it is an appropriate remedy for exhaustion, when accompanied with depression and stress.

Catnip - is a member of the mint family used mainly as a children's remedy. It is a mild sedative and is commonly used for children's nervousness and insomnia. Its anti-spasmodic activity can prove effective against cramps, upset stomach, and colic.

When your next period of distress arises, you might find it helpful to look into using one of the calming herbs. They are available in tea, capsule, tincture, or extract form. Talk to a knowledgeable person at any health food store to determine which herb in what form is appropriate for you. Then, relax, and sleep well.

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