During this trying time many of us are experiencing the resurfacing of old fears, triggers, and feelings. Here are some herbs to help “unstick” the mind and body from lingering in the past.
I don’t know about you, but this week has been a sleepless one. Between the ongoing lockdown here in Amsterdam and the massive unrest in the United States since the ballot re-count, the energy has been phenomenally chaotic in both places I call home. I have been awake in solidarity with all those grieving and wondering what’s next.
Herbs as a tool for restoring wellness
When I feel massive shifts of energy in my external and internal worlds, I continually find refuge in the plant world. Plants are here to offer massive benefits to humans if we know how to treat them well and use them right. Herbs have existed since the beginning of time and have a long history of use for healing benefits. While modern medicine has taken over as the predominant health trend since the 18th century, it has not fully overtaken the ancient wisdom of plants and their continued use to promote a healthy lifestyle.
It’s always beneficial to grow and cultivate as much of our own herbs as we can, but in winter this is not always feasible. I’ve gathered a list of plants and herbs that can easily be purchased or found that can help us make the transition from being stuck in fear and old patterns and deliver us gently into a renewed place of balance and clarity.
Herbs to stop reliving painful memories
Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum
Tulsi, also known as “holy basil” is a perennial plant commonly found in Southeast Asia and used in Ayurvedic practices. It is classified as an adaptogenic herb, which means that it can boost your body’s ability to combat stress. Tulsi is thought to work specifically with the hippocampus- the part of our brain that stores memories and connects directly with our amygdala (the flight or fight region in our brains). During periods of stress, our hippocampus can degenerate and shrink if not properly supported. When deregulated, the hippocampus can replay traumatic memories on a loop which triggers anxiety in the amygdala. Tulsi can promote the wellness of the hippocampus, allowing it to regenerate to proper size and function. When your hippocampus region is restored, the amygdala has a chance to “calm down” and end the hamster wheel of the triggered memory and emotional response.
If you’re on the hunt for tulsi, it’s easiest to find within the Indian cuisine and markets that sell Indian foodstuffs. Tulsi leaves are easiest to digest in a tea and it is not recommended to chew them raw. You can make an easy tulsi tea by steeping the leaves in cooked water for 10 minutes and then adding lemon juice for taste.
Ashwagandha – Withania somnifera
Ashwagandha, also known as Indian gooseberry, is another herb used in Ayurveda. If you’ve found sleep a struggle lately, this one is for you! Ashwagandha is thought to promote a regulated sleep schedule. It is also considered an adaptogen and supports the hippocampus region in the regulation of stress response. If your environment feels out of control or chaotic, it’s time to add this herbal powder to your daily smoothie or stirred into hot milk with honey before bedtime. Ashwagandha can also be taken in capsule form if you’re not a fan of its gingery cinnamon taste.
Herbs to give your brain a rest
Passion flower- Passiflora incarnata
Passion flower is more than just a beautiful bloom- it can be a great support when your brain needs a time out. We are addicted to stimulation on our current age, and without the external stimuli to distract us such as going out and living our fast paced life, that stimulation can come from ruminating on our past. Rumination is something we can all fall into, especially when our lives have been forced to slow down. Give your brain the rest it desperately craves with a few drops of passion flower essence. Passion flower helps us to settle into compassion for ourselves and others and soothes our strong emotions. Passion flower can be taken alone, or with its helper herb Skullcap in a tincture or tea.
Don’t be put off by the name! While its name sounds scary, Skullcap can truly be a breath of fresh air for your brain. A member of the mint family, Skullcap is a flowering perennial commonly found in North America. When used in moderation, Skullcap is an excellent go-to when your brain is feeling overworked. Skullcap is also commonly used to ease the emotional symptoms of PMS and can relieve painful cramps to boot. Please use with caution as with any herbal products as an excess of Skullcap can be damaging to the liver. It is best to combine it with passion flower as needed and not on a daily basis.
Herbs for positive brain stimulation
Cook with rosemary
Rosemary, a member of the mint family, is a common culinary herb along with basil and oregano. Rosemary is often overlooked, but it can be a powerful memory booster. If you’ve tried the above herbs and you’re ready to reintroduce stimulation in a positive way, add a dash of rosemary to your food or using it as an essential oil. Rosemary is for you if you’re ready to nourish your brain function instead of dragging yourself through the week with pots and pots of coffee.
Gingko – Gingko biloba
Gingko has long been touted as an herbal stimulant in Chinese medicine for decades. Go into any local oriental shop and you’ll have no trouble finding it. Gingko is special because it supports blood flow to the brain while caffeine restricts blood flow to the brain. Our brains are hungry organs and requires constant nourishment from the cardiovascular system. By choosing gingko over coffee, you are feeding your brain rather than restricting it. Switching from coffee to gingko may also reduce the jitters as it can assist the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine in the brain.
Find a balance for yourself by adding and subtracting these herbs based on what your body needs each day. If you’re experiencing emotional pain, try regenerating your hippocampus through the Ayurvedic adaptogens above so you are not overstimulating your brain. If your energy is lagging, go for the brain stimulating herbs and see if you can wean off any excess caffeine.
For more information on herbal wellness during this time of transition and beyond, don’t hesitate to reach out for a free flower essences consultation.
Stay well and shine on,