Most of us are ready for some comfort right about now. Holiday chaos is behind us, we’ve more or less survived, and it’s time to get quiet and cozy and rebuild our reserves.
Here are indications or “symptom pictures” for some calming and comforting herbs. A symptom picture is a great way to get to know an herb betterâ€”it describes the characteristics of a person who fits a particular herb. All of these herbs could be considered nervines that are good for “stress,” but you get the best results with plants if you pay close attention to details.
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma or M. fistulosa): Nervous stomach, â€œIrritable Bowel Syndrome,â€ someone who is passionate and intense but holding back. [Tincture or tea.]
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica): Agitation and insomnia with pain. [Tincture or tea.]
Catnip (Nepeta cataria): Stress stomachaches, cold headaches, overstimulation and colic in children. [Tincture or tea.]
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita or Chamaemelum nobile): Irritability, petulance, complaining, impatience, â€œacting like a baby.â€ [Tea.]
Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum and O. gratissimum): Tension with fear underneath, running on adrenaline, trying to control things. [Tincture or tea.]
Hops (Humulus lupulus): Anxiety, muscle twitching, muscle and digestive tension, insomnia. [Tincture or tea.]
Kava (Piper methysticum): Muscle pain and tension, worry, â€œwrapped up in knots.â€ [Tincture.]
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): Nervous excitement, giddiness, headache. Culpeper says: “tremblings and passions of the heart.” [Tea.]
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis): Speedy feeling, racing heart, can’t calm down. [Tincture or tea.]
Linden (Tilia x europaea or T. americana): Heartache, sadness, palpitations, nervous nausea and vomiting. [Tea.]
Milky Oats (Avena sativa): Run down and weak, drained nerves and body. Hildegard suggests oat water in a sauna for â€œa divided mind and crazy thoughts.â€ [Tincture or tea.]
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca): Heartbreak, grief, emotions feel out of control. [Tincture or tea.]
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus): Raw, in need of soothing. Hildegard: “one whose heart is weak and sad.” [Tincture or tea.]
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata): Racing thoughts, tremors, irritation. Tommie Bass used it to restore peace in relationships where people get irritated with each other over little things. [Tincture or tea.]
Peach Leaf (Prunus persica): Sensitivity, overstimulation, overheated, nervous nausea and vomiting. [Tincture or tea.]
Scullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora): Fear, anger, nightmares, physical spasms. [Tincture or tea.]
Sweet Violet (Viola odorata): Anger, headache from heat. Hildegard: “a discontented mind.” [Tincture.]
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis): Pale, cold, weak, spacy, agitated, canâ€™t sleep, can’t catch breath. [Tincture.]
Vervain (Verbena officinalis and V. hastata): Driven, perfectionist, striving, tense neck muscles. [Tincture.]
Wild Lettuce (Lactuca virosa and L. canadensis): Been through trauma, deadened, cold, feel numb, stiff muscles. [Tincture.]
If you’re interested in learning to relate to herbs in terms of symptom pictures, Matthew Wood’s books are a great place to start. But really it’s just a question of getting to know the plants personally.