Imagine you have had a long stressful day and you are having a hard time unwinding. When someone is feeling stressed, anxious, tense and wound up, herbalists will often recommend a type of herb known as a calming “nervine”. This type of herb has a relaxing effect on the nervous system and can help to soothe your tension and bring a sense of calm.

Before exploring how herbs can help you, it is important to first look at any lifestyle changes that are important to make. Sometimes anxiety has to do with working in a stressful environment or having a challenging home and family life. Or perhaps it has to do with eating too many refined processed foods and drinking too much coffee. Exploring these underlying causes are essential for ultimately relieving the anxiety.

While making these lifestyle changes, I want to recommend 4 herbs that can be supremely beneficial for helping to bring greater calm and wellbeing.

Linden (Tilia spp)

This lovely herb is actually the leaves and flowers of a tree. Linden has long been used to help relax tension in the form of headaches, stomach cramping and muscular tension, but it also excels at bringing a sense of deep relaxation without being overly sedating. Linden is also known for reducing a fever and for lowering blood pressure. Sit and sip a nice cup of fragrant linden tea and you can feel the tension melt off you.

Linden is a very gentle herb and is helpful for children and elders who don’t do well with stronger herbs. The best way to take this herb is in tea form by adding a couple teaspoons to a cup of hot water and letting it steep for ten minutes. Then strain, sip slowly and enjoy. You might want to sweeten the tea by adding a dab of honey. Linden is great for making iced tea as well.

Lavender (Lavendula spp)

This herb needs no introduction as most everyone is familiar with its delightful aroma. Many varieties of lavender are grown commonly in backyard gardens and just the sight and scent of the purple flower can help bring a greater feeling of peace and relaxation. Lavender is known for its gentle calming effect and can also be helpful for people with mild to moderate depression, or those with insomnia. This lovely herb is also helpful for many conditions such as indigestion, nausea, headaches and microbial infections.

As a stress reliever, lavender flowers can be added to tea blends but I find it most helpful as an essential oil for aromatherapy. A few drops of this oil can be added to massage oil or diffusers and help bring a sense of deep relaxation. To ensure safety, never apply essential oils directly to the skin. Try no more than ten drops of lavender essential oil to one ounce of a carrier such as almond oil.

Motherwort (Leonorus cardiaca)

As the latin name suggests, motherwort is one of the most helpful herbs for strengthening the cardiac function, calming heart palpitations and is a great herb to help people who are experiencing spikes of anxiety. I find it to be very helpful for people who have experienced shock and trauma and are in need of a gentle calmative herb to bring them back to their center and a place of peace. It is gently anti-spasmodic and helps with relieving muscular tension and rigidity associated with anxiety. I find motherwort can be added to formulas for helping those with insomnia as well.

Motherwort also helps circulate the blood and is a lovely for women experiencing pre-menstrual tension, cramping and difficulty with scanty blood flow. This herb has traditionally been associated with helping mothers during the last weeks of pregnancy who may need a gentle herb to relieve tension associated with childbirth.

Motherwort is a bitter tasting herb and difficult to take in tea form. I generally recommend taking it as a tincture.

Oatstraw (Avena sativa)

Most everyone has eaten a bowl of oatmeal, but you may not know that herbalists recommend taking oat straw and the milky tops of the plant as an herbal supplement. This gentle plant is deeply helpful for strengthening the nervous system, reducing anxiety and restoring good emotional resiliency when taken over a period of time. Oatstraw is amazingly nutrient rich with loads of vitamins and minerals, including a high amount of calcium and magnesium that are deeply helpful in regenerating nervous tissue.

For those who are overwhelmed, exhausted, burnt out and feel easily frazzled by life’s obligations, oatstraw can gently restore a feeling of deep calm and inner strength. My favorite way to take oat straw is to add a heaping cup of the dried herb to a quart jar and then fill the jar up to the top with hot water and let it sit for a good few hours. Then I strain out the herb and drink the tea over the rest of the day.


When one is feeling deeply anxious and overwhelmed its important to examine the underlying issues that are leading to the feelings of nervous tension. While making those lifestyle changes, there are some wonderful herbs that can be helpful in bringing greater calm and relaxation. These four herbs are some of my favorites!

About the Author

Jon Keyes is a licensed professional counselor and herbalist with a practice in Portland, Oregon. Jon has written extensively about herbal medicine for 20 years and has been featured in numerous magazines, almanacs and websites. Jon first studied herbalism at the Evergreen State college where he received a BS in Health Sciences and Botanical Medicine. He went on to apprentice with herbalist Joyce Netishen in the mid 90’s. Jon later received his masters in counseling from Portland State University and has worked in hospitals and outpatient settings as well as starting a private practice.

Jon specializes in helping people diagnosed with anxiety disorders, depression, OCD, PTSD. depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with alternative and holistic approaches that focus on stress relief and emotional wellbeing. Jon can be found at, a practice that he shares with his wife Kate, an acupuncturist.