Our fast-paced lives often come at the price of stress on our system. Ironically, the less time we have to calm down, the more we need respite. The pressure we place on ourselves creates stress on our body and soul, which plays itself out on our nervous system.
Stress activates our nervous system with hormones, such as norepinephrine, cortisol and adrenaline. This part of the nervous system, called the autonomic nervous system (formerly, the vegetative nervous system) unconsciously regulates bodily functions, such as respiration, blood pressure, and digestion.
In nature, activating the autonomic nervous system serves a useful purpose when danger arises. Generally, we benefit from the fight or flight response to legitimate threats. However, when this condition persists without any actual threats, the benefits turn harmful.
(1) Valerian for soothing nerves
Valerian is a tried and true, traditional German remedy used to address the symptoms of restlessness and anxiety.
Today, modern science recognizes the power behind this medicinal plant. The valeric acid (or, pentanoic acid) contained in valerian works to moderate the degradation of calming neurotransmitters (gamma-aminobutyric acid, GABA) in the brain. Valerian has even been found to stimulate the production of GABA neurotransmitters in the brain.
Chemical sedatives such as diazepam and valium act on the same mechanism in the brain as Valerian. Unlike chemical sedatives, Valerian does not lead to dependence and has a gentle, natural, soothing effect.
Valerian is also a bitter healing plant which possess general digestive health benefits.
(2) Passion flower soothes in 30 minutes
Like Valerian, passion flower benefits the nervous system by stimulating the production and secretion of the neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. This neurotransmitter helps dampen overactive nerve functions. A GABA deficiency leads to anxiety and stress.
The positive effects of passion flower begin 30 minutes after ingestion. While its healing properties are palpable, passion flower creates no chemical dependencies.
A combination of the passion flower and valerian frequently appears as a remedy in traditional German herbal medicine.
(3) Aromatherapy with Essential Oils
Essential oils reach nerve centers in the brain via the olfactory mucosa, located in the dome of the nasal cavity, in the olfactory bulb. This is possible because the olfactory mucosa consists of and closely relates with brain cells. Once in the brain, the fragrant stimuli promote the production and secretion of the neurotransmitter serotonin. The net effect results in the restoration of balance to the autonomic nervous system, and a consequent reduction in nerves and anxiety.
Herbs for Soothing Essential Oils used in Aromatherapy for Anxiety and Nerves Include:
Essential oils work simply by evaporating a few drops of a selected oil (or, mixture of oils) in a fragrance lamp or adding the oil to a warm bath. Use only natural essential oils, artificial fragrance oils are not suitable for aromatherapy.
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