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The Best Nervine Herbs for Sleep, Anxiety, and Stress Management
Healing the nervous system is an essential part of overall healing. Trauma creates dysfunction in our nervous system- we have to heal the nervous system in order to feel safe in our bodies again. The body gets stuck in the state that it was in when the trauma occurred and it constantly burns through nutrients- you have to get out of this loop in order to see REAL healing take place.
Trauma is also not just one big event. Trauma can be anything that feels traumatic to you as an individual. Childhood abuse, losing a loved one, being in an accident, being bullied, and even the stress of a chronic illness itself can be traumatic. There is no shame in admitting that you have trauma to heal, so please try to work around the mindset of “I’m fine, other people have it worse.” Your body can’t process that thought- your body only knows what it has experienced itself.
After a decade in the natural health world, I have seen that this topic is one that many people prefer to ignore. But if you want to heal physically, you have to address the emotional issues as well. Those that work on mind, body, and soul see the best results in their healing journey.
Symptoms of nervous system dysregulation include: anxiety, OCD, reacting to many foods or other items, insomnia, memory issues, social anxiety, social media addiction, or you can have issues with regulating mood (anger swings, depression, feeling the need to argue with everyone you talk to, etc). Insomnia is a huge one- if you do not feel safe in your body then it can be hard to sleep at night. Lyme, mold, parasites, and other similar issues can keep ones nervous system in a state of stress. You can read more about the nervous system here.
All of the options on this list can help with nervous system healing. The trick with herbs is to go with one that resonates most and that matches your symptoms best. Other ways to help with nervous system support are learning how to be present in your body, recognizing your triggers and reactions and starting to shift them, meditation, prayer, and breath-work. Some people need a lot more support though- things like acupuncture or EMDR might be essential as well. You can read more about these healing modalities here.
Patience is essential when healing the nervous system, especially if you’ve been stuck for years. Please give yourself grace and lots of love.
The BEST Nervine Herbs for Nervous System Health
Nervines are a class of herbs that help to support your entire nervous system. This includes your brain too! The nervous system plays a huge role in overall health. When it is stressed out, it can negatively impact our digestion, brain health, hormones, energy levels, and so much more. With trauma and chronic stress, we get stuck in fight-or-flight mode (and sometimes freeze or fawn too!) and our bodies just cannot function at full capacity.
Nervines helps to calm down this stress and restore the nerves themselves so that our bodies can finally heal. Trying to heal yourself while the nervous system is stressed is like trying to put burn cream on your hand while it’s still in the fire! The nervous system HAS to be supported in order for all healing to take place.
Linden is an excellent nervous system support that can help with releasing tension in the body. It can improve sleep, calm anxious thoughts, and sooth restlessness. Linden can especially help when there is a lot of anxiety about the heart and how it functions (heart palps, worried about heart attacks, etc). It is also a helpful anti-histamine herb, and it can help with dry coughs. Get Linden here.
Blue vervain helps with muscle tension, especially for those that hold tension in the head, neck, and shoulders. it can help with calming anxiety, supporting better sleep, and it is great for those that are wired and tired. Perfect for overachievers that are very hard on themselves, struggle with making boundaries, find it hard to stop working, and they might actually hate being around other people. It can help with healing the emotional aspect of sexual trauma (lack of libido can be due to nervous system dysfunction- if we do not feel safe in our bodies it can be hard to want or enjoy sex, especially with a history of trauma). It can also help with gut healing, liver support, lungs, and it can support healthy breast milk production. It is a very bitter herb and all bitter herbs help with grounding. Can be more sedative than other nervines, so best used at night or in small doses.
You can get blue vervain on its own here. You can also find Blue Vervain in Sleep Care Extract from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Wood betony is a gentle but potent nervous system support that can actually help to restore the nerves. Wood betony helps to relax (but isn’t as sedative as other nervines) and release tension in the whole body. It is especially great for those that feel detached or disassociated. This herb helps to make one feel more grounded and secure in their body. Great for both anxiety and depression as it lifts the mood. Helps with headaches/migraines, insomnia, gut healing (it is a bitter, helps gas/bloating, and can also help with healing the gut lining), brain health, nerve pain (like sciatica), dry coughs, and more. Get wood betony here.
Click here to watch an awesome video to learn more about wood betony.
Skullcap is a popular nervous system support that can also calm the brain. It best supports those that have a racing mind and anxiety. Especially helps those that cannot sleep due to racing thoughts. I love Relax Care from Mountain Rose Herbs as it has skullcap and valerian, a great tag team for anxiety, stress, sleep, and overall calming support.
This mushroom is one of the best items to use for nerve health regeneration and brain health. It can help with the immune system and with gut function as well. Great for those that want support for brain fog, memory, and learning. Check out Lion’s Mane here.
Motherwort is know as the “lion-hearted herb” because it helps majorly with physical and emotional heart healing. Grief, depression, sadness; anxiety, heart palpitations, worry about heart health- all common symptoms that motherwort can help with. This is a bitter herb as well so it does help with the digestive system (especially the liver and gallbladder). Helps with feeling more grounded and present in the body. Supports the female reproductive system as well, especially the uterus so it can help with all sorts of menstrual issues (cramps, lack of a cycle, PMS, if your cycle is not starting on time and you want to bring it on) Get Motherwort here.
This is another herb I’ve been personally trying out, and WOW. It’s super effective for sleep and muscle tension! This is the BEST nervine support for overall pain. Not to be confused with opium poppy though! This form of poppy is not nearly as intense as opium poppy, but does have similar properties in that it is sedative and calming. California poppy is an excellent nervine herb for anxiety, insomnia, racing mind, overthinking, and for times of intense stress. This herb can be quite relaxing, so it’s best to use at night to see how you feel with it. This is one of the best nervines for chronic pain, headaches, and similar symptoms. Check out MRH for California Poppy.
Earthley’s Anxiety Calm Oil, with or without CBD
CBD has been a huge trend for several years now, and personally I am usually not one to jump on trends. I finally decided to try Earthley’s Anxiety Calm Oil with CBD though and was very impressed. The quality is what matters most with CBD, and I trust Earthley with their quality. They have several options for Anxiety Calm oil too so if you do not want CBD you can just use the option with the herbs.
Oat seed is a popular nerve tonic. It helps with nervous exhaustion and depression, and it works great for those that are overworked and undernourished. It supports a calm mind, better sleep, and so much more. Check out oat seed here! Please keep in mind that oat can be an issue for those with severe gluten sensitivity.
For kids that need some nervous system support, these are the main items I like to use: Earthley’s CBD, Herbalist & Alchemist’s Calmpound, or oatstraw herbal infusions.
I took your HTMA test and need help with this I also have struggles with OCD n anxiety for 25 years . Wondering if u help people with my conditions and what is the fee for working with you?
Hey Kristi! Yes, we have worked with many clients with similar issues. Working on minerals as well as nervous system healing is so essential for healing. We have different prices depending on the practitioner you’d like to work with- you can read all about our HTMA here: https://www.sassyholistics.com/all-services/
Are these safe for breastfeeding?
Unfortunately no, most of these aren’t safe while pregnant or breastfeeding.
I have a “chicken or the egg” question: Over 10 years, I have tried many approaches to healing and have discovered through some tough lessons that it is my gut causing 95% of my issues. What if it truly is the gut causing the majority of the nervous system issues? I am working at calming and healing my gut, but I find my nervous system out of balance. Is the best approach to address both simultaneously?
It really depends on your history on what is causing what. Ultimately it might not matter too much- when we’re dealing with any sort of chronic stress the nervous system is going to be affected, and that has to be addressed before anything can truly heal. It’s the biggest root issue for most people right now. You can absolutely work on both at once, and usually we do recommend that to clients.