Consider These Five Calming Herbs*
For thousands of years, herbs have played an important role in calming humankind. Practitioners from a variety of cultures have learned that certain herbs support a calmer stress response, ease anxious feelings, and support restful sleep. Calming herbs include chamomile, hops, lemon balm, passionflower, and valerian.* These herbs can be used in aromatherapy or consumed in foods such as tea or as dietary supplements. They can also be combined with other herbs and nutrients to further enhance their effects. Let’s take a look at each of these five herbs.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomillar) is a flowering plant that contains several polyphenols to help support health on many levels. Chamomile is believed to have several mechanisms of action specific to its calming effects including its interaction with GABA, dopamine, and serotonin. It has also been shown to help support HPA axis function. Human clinical trials have demonstrated that chamomile can effectively support individuals who experience occasional anxious feelings.*
Hops (Humulus lupulus) is most known as a key component in beer. This flowering vine botanical also has calming effects. A 2017 randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, cross-over pilot study showed that hops extract significantly reduced stress scores compared to placebo. It is believed that the calming effects of hops can be attributed to its interaction with GABA and melatonin receptors. This potently relaxing herb is often used in sleep support formulas.*
Lemon balm (Melissa officianalis) is a member of the mint family and has a long history of use for supporting relaxation and restful sleep. Animal studies have shown that lemon balm can increase synaptic GABA and reduce cortisol. A small human clinical trial published in 2004 demonstrated that lemon balm combined with hops and lavender oil increased alpha wave activities and produced a calming effect. Another small double-blind, placebo controlled, randomized crossover study showed that lemon balm significantly increased self-ratings of calmness.*
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a climbing vine that produces a beautiful flower. . Several studies have demonstrated that passionflower extract can support relaxation. Researchers who published the results from their 2017 trial concluded that the passionflower intervention was “…effective in improving resilience and QoL [quality of life] in patients suffering from nervous restlessness and is well tolerated.”*
Valerian (Valeriana officiaonalis) is probably most well known for supporting restful sleep and has historically been used alone and in formulas for that purpose.. The compounds in valerian root increase GABA synthesis while decreasing synaptic GABA reuptake. Cellular studies have shown that valerian acts as a GABA agonist by binding to GABA receptors. This interaction with GABA is believed to be a key mechanism that explains, in part, valerian’s calming effect.*
When it comes to easing stress and supporting relaxation, integrative practitioners have many herbal options. Based on the scientific research, these five botanicals—chamomile, hops, lemon balm, passionflower, and valerian—are worth considering.*
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