I am sure that I am not alone in saying that these are nerve-wracking times. We are in and out of isolation, are worried about financial matters, not to mention have health concerns cause anxiety sometimes. Fortunately, I began studying herbalism a few years ago to help calm my nerves and increase my general wellbeing. I also grew a "depository" of herbs in my garden. Out of the many medicinal herbs that I do grow at the Hoo Garden, here are just a few medicinal herbs that you may not have heard of: Gotukola, Southernwood, Yarrow, Dead Nettle, Angelica and Valerian. I have included my favourite herb mix for calming nerves which is much easier to grow or find at your local plant nursery. I have also shared in this blog my top five favourite books on herbalism, I am certain that you'll enjoy reading!
Let me share my unique recipe to calm nerves!
I love to drink this tea if I am feeling highly strung that day. You can often be your worst enemy when you run an art gallery, as there is no boss to tell you what to do. I am pretty hard on myself and push myself to finish way more work than is needed within the day. I often work long hours, my head buzzing with creative ideas and jobs to be done, and it is pretty easy to feel spun out and overwhelmed. Sometimes, I might skip meals or forget to hydrate, putting extra stress on the body and mind. Don't get me wrong; I love what I do. It is just that I can forget to take care of myself. When this happens, and the news coming from the world is overwhelming and negative, it is easy to feel stressed and anxious. I keep calm and drink my special herbal tea when this happens!
My Four Top Herbs for a Calming Tea
Passionflower Leaf (passiflora incarnata)
Did you know that the passionflower leaf has a sedative and mildly narcotic effect on the body? Yes, I was surprised to learn this too. According to Leslie Kenton, who wrote the book 'Healing Herbs,' the leaf carries the strength for deep relaxation and takes immediate effects. She even recommends it for women going through menopause or PMS. The most active constituent in this leaf is 'passiflorine', which has a similar chemical structure to morphine. Big Pharma drugs exempt; we could all use a bit of pain relief now and then, am I right?
Collect passionflower leaves before the flowers bloom and dry them very gently. I like to pluck just the smallest and most tender leaves on the vine, and would only add one dried leaf for a single cup of tea.
Calendula (calendula officinalis)
Although this medicinal herb is often called 'pot marigold', it is not to be confused with marigolds of the Tagetes genus. African and French marigolds of the Tagetes genus are used as insect repellent flowers in the vegetable garden but are not edible. Calendula, however, the flower and leaf can be used in tea. This powerful plant is anti-viral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. According to the author of 'Homegrown Tea' Cassie Liversidge, it packs a punch with Vitamin C and phosphorus, which is beneficial for gastrointestinal problems and detoxifying the digestive system. Some of you may have heard of the connection between gut health and mental wellbeing, so a bit of calendula daily can only help! Like passionflower leaf, calendula also helps to regulate women's hormones and can help to reduce premenstrual cramps.
You can use calendula fresh or dried. I dry it in my dehydrator, but you can also dry the flower petals, leaves or the entire flower head intact in an oven set at 100 degrees Celcius until crisp and dry.
Lavender (lavandula angustifolia)
This plant is well known for its calming and relaxing qualities, and it is a delicious tea on its own for reducing anxiety and stress.
Harvest the flower just before it opens. You could use the flower and the leaf in your tea while it is fresh or dried. I dry it by cutting the flower with its long stem intact, then tying it in a bunch with a rubber band and hanging it upside down until it is dry and crisp to the touch.
Lemon Balm (melissa officinalis)
Did you know that the Latin word 'officinalis' means "used in medicine"? Well, no garden is complete without this herb growing in it for the health benefits it brings to the household. I add it to my tea because of its ability to improve memory, lift spirits and combat depression.
How to Make a Calming Tea
To make the tea, pick the freshest and youngest growth. I usually cut it in bunches and hang it upside down to dry. Once dry, I pick the leaves and store them in a clean, dry, airtight container in a dry, dark cupboard.
To make a single cup of tea, I used a single passionflower leaf and a few leaves or petals each of the rest of the herbs mentioned above. To get the best and most enjoyable tea, do the following steps:
-bring the water to a boil
-warm your teacup with freshly boiled water
-discard the water
-put your herbs in the cup; keep in mind that dried herbs will give out a more robust flavour
-pour the boiled water into the cup; it should have now naturally cooled down to about 85 degrees Celcius
-cover the cup with a lid and let it steep for three minutes
You may want to strain the tea, but I drink it leaves, flowers and all! I drink it neat, but you may like to add honey or lemon juice; it is up to you!
My Five Favourite Herbalism Books
Glastar and Liversidge books are most certainly still in print. The rest of the books I did pick up in second hand book stores, so I can't be sure that they are still available to purchase in general bookstores. If enough people read this blog, I may add more information from these books on this blog. Please make sure that you express your interest by popping a note to me and I'll be more than glad to oblige you with more information on herbalism and share more recipes.
I do hope that you will try this tea and read these books. One day, should you visit the Hoo Gallery, perhaps we could enjoy a cup of tea together. I could show you around the garden and visit the medicinal herbs, seeds and berries which I grow. The Hoo Gallery runs on visits by appointment only; please feel free to give me a call or email me to visit the Gallery from April 2022. See you then!