Tracey Loughran, Naturopath & Nutritionist
You may be most familiar with herbs being used in cooking and as teas, but did you know there is a vast and rich history to the use of herbs for medicine? And not only that, but there is also an expansive and respected modern cache of evidence supporting their use for a plethora of health conditions.
At Flourish and the Dunedin Apothecary, we have been using herbs as medicines to help people for many years. We blend the science of herbal medicine with the experience of years of case taking to formulate exacting prescriptions as individual as the people who take them. There is no “one size fits all” in herbal medicine prescribing, which is why your story, your history is so important to us.
In today’s article, we’re going to hold some simply incredible herbal medicines up to the light. These herbs have a particular thing in common – they help people with stress. As stress has been the thing we have been helping people with the most over the lockdown, coupled with its good buddies anxiety, low mood and sleeplessness, we thought it was a good time to help you too.
Many of the herbs highlighted below fall into the class of herbal medicines called “Adaptogens”. These herbs contain phytochemicals which work with the body to reduce the effects of stress, helping the body to “adapt”. Humans have been exposed to stress since the beginning of time, during times of famine, war, physical fatigue and illness. Modern stresses on humans are exponentially greater. While our lives may not be threatened in the same way, our stress is generally more of a daily experience, and our bodies and brains perceive it in the same way as the stresses of early humans.
We see clients every day in our clinic who are exhibiting the effects of stress, from sleeplessness to anxiety, from fatigue to depression…there are many ways the body shows us it is not coping with what we are asking of it, or that we are exposed to.
Our herbal dispensary is full to the brim with exciting herbs with multi-faceted capabilities, so here are our favourites for stress:
1. Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea):
A herb with multiple benefits across a range of body systems, but a primary tonic for the nervous system. Used by those with anxiety with headaches and cognitive fatigue (“brain fatigue”), where they may experience difficulty finding words or with recall. It is also used to assist with blood sugar control. As always with herbal medicine, a full assessment is essential to understand the drivers behind symptoms, and to rule out other causes. We undertake thorough clinical assessments for our clients, and we always refer to a GP or other health professional for assessment if we think there is a need. You can rely on our professional support to put your needs first.
2. Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthrococcus senticosus):
Regarded by herbalists and naturopaths as an “adaptogen”, this herb has been shown to have immune modulating capabilities also. We prescribe it commonly for people who need to improve their mental and/or physical performance due to overwork or physical stress. This is particularly useful for those who have stress as a result of a difficult situation or chronic illness. This is particularly pertinent to those recovering from the stress of lockdown, as it supports exhaustion, insomnia and low mood. Of particular note is its assistance for those who are woken by vivid dreams. There are many clinical studies supporting this herb, including several well controlled studies supporting its use for improved athletic capacity. It is generally regarded as a very safe herb.
3. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata):
We love this herb! It has shown time and time again its versatility for supporting nervous system conditions such as anxiety and the effects of stress. It has a gently relaxing quality that is not sedating, but rather supportive of a milder nervous system response. Pertinent to our current situation, whereby many have been on edge and anxious about the future. We use it in formulations for menstrual cycle mood disorders, restlessness, wakefulness, irritability and insomnia. It has also been shown to be useful for headaches, particularly when they originate due to anxiety. It also has a great safety profile (once again always check with your practitioner first). It has been trialled against medicines prescribed for pain and anxiety, with great outcomes.
4. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis):
A beautiful gently relaxing herb, benefitting those with sleep disturbances driven by worry, general tenseness and irritability, alongside low mood and depression. You can see why it might be a perfect herb for these times. It also has been shown to support digestive disturbances such as indigestion, flatulence and colic in babies. Once again, this herb has a low side effect profile.
5. Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora):
A true tonic for nervousness and anxiety – another perfect herb for our time in history, Skullcap has traditionally been used for both physical and mental fatigue, from periods of prolonged stress or physical work. It has also been shown to be beneficial for headaches and low mood. Once again it has a very low side effect profile.
6. California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica):
This herb has shown exceptional efficacy for anxiety and pain. It has been of particular benefit to those struggling with sleep issues due to either of these symptoms, especially when brought about or enhanced by stress. It has mild sedative effects which are of use when getting to sleep is an issue, and muscular relaxant activity, which may be of assistance when there is physical discomfort. There has been no observed addictive qualities to this herb, as there may be for medications used to treat sleep issues and pain.
7. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita):
This wonderful herb has wide and varied applications in herbal medicine. Of particular interest at this time are its effect on the digestive system as a result of anxiety. Many people report a “nervous stomach” or bowel looseness associated with periods of anxiety. This is the perfect herb to support such symptoms. While it can be taken as a tea, we find that the liquid herbal extract is far more powerfully acting.
"Crafting a herbal tincture is both an art based on experience, and a science based on evidence".
As always in Naturopathic medicine, we seek to support the symptoms while treating the cause of the condition. We love to hear the story of your health journey to this point, and it’s often the detail which sheds light and leads us to an effective solution. We’re here to listen, to educate, and to give you our carefully considered advice to move your health toward a better place. Our speciality is in formulating – making a targeted herbal tonic specifically for your needs.
We love what we do, and you will experience a compassionate, educational approach in your communications with us. Come and talk to us about herbs in our beautiful, welcoming dispensary space, or drop us a line and we will see how we can help you.
Sharing a love of plant medicine,
The Flourish Team.
Please note: we are not advocating for the general consumption of these herbs without the advice of a trained professional. They are in medicinal potency, hence their effectiveness. Our manufacturers have taken the greatest care with their preparation, and you can be assured of the highest quality.
If you’d like to know more about these, or have us help you with a health issue, you can speak with us about acute issues over the counter, or for more chronic health problems, by consultation (by phone, online or at our clinic). We consult with clients across the country, and no health issue is too big or too small.
COVID-19 Level 2
All other appointments by arrangement
Student discount available (ID required)
Flourish Health Emporium
20 Albany St, North Dunedin, 9016
03 477 2558
020 4194 0895
020 4194 0895