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When Times are Tough, Herbs Can Help

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." "When the going gets tough, the tough get going!" "Carpe diem!" (seize the day!). I think the circumstances many people have faced over the last two years deserve more than a cute couple of quips. I am certain that there is not one among us that does not know someone or who has not themselves been forced to face challenges they did not anticipate or feel confident and capable of overcoming. Job loss, a drug addicted loved one, divorce, loss of financial and home security, serious illness, being a victim of a crime, natural disaster, just how are we supposed to cope?

I don't know how to change the fact that we live with so much uncertainty. I do, however, know that we are not alone in the effort because our plant allies are at the ready to help sustain us. Yes, herbs can be of essential benefit in hard times. Anxiety and loopy thinking almost like OCD are common when one is fearful and uncertain. If the desperation of finding a job has a literal stranglehold on you and you can't think of anything else or if your mental chatter is getting in the way of clearer thinking and occasional peace of mind, there are many herbs that can be useful. I particularly like Kava Kava for anxiety. Ashwaganda also has a reputation for alleviating impaired concentration due to anxiety. California poppy is another herb to consider, but it is a subopiate, so if you are dealing with addiction, use something else like skullcap.

If your mood is down you might be depressed. St. Johns Wort may be useful but if it does not seem to help, you may need to opt for an assessment by a doctor to see if antidepressants are right for you. It is tempting at such times to try or combine different therapies, but I advise great caution here because herb and pharmaceuticals should not be mixed unless recommended by a healthcare professional.

For low energy, forgo the caffeine and try ginseng or Eletherococcus (formerly known as Siberian ginseng). Taking Thrive Tonic everyday will address a lot of the issues related to stress that are mentioned here.

When you feel at your breaking point, use tincture of lemon balm. In its proper preparation lemon balm will ease you out of your angst. Lemon balm's potency is delicate and it can lose its therapeutic value quickly when it is only dried for tea. That is why I like to make a tincture of the fresh plant that I grow in the summertime. It is very stable and has a much longer shelf life. If you find yourself overreacting to stress, meaning your nervous system goes from 0 to 100 too fast, add oats to your diet which are nourishing to your CNS (central nervous system). If you find yourself holding stress in your muscles and you feel like you cannot physically relax, try some passionflower. If you feel like your heart is taking the strain, add some Hawthorne to your herbal selection.

If digestion is affected, taste something bitter before each meal to help order the system properly.. Swedish Bitters are available in stores. Otherwise, nibble on bitter lettuces like radicchio, dandelion leaves, arugula, etc. Adding bitters too your diet is always a good idea. Brussel sprouts and mustard family veggies are a great choice, so is grapefruit, chocolate and coffee if they agree with you.

Lavender flower tea will get rid of a stress headache. Infuse the air and your bedsheets with essential oil of lavender for a calming effect. Speaking of sleep, listen to your body when you use herbal sleep aids. Valerian can work just the opposite in some people and make them edgy so if you are in doubt, try other herbs. My Rest Formula at Millcreek Herbs contains herbs to relax the body, quiet the mind and relieve stress.

I often say herbs help shift us in ways we cannot shift ourselves. At this time when we consider new beginnings, make it a goal to treat yourself well. Go ahead and seize everyday as best you can. Let herbs help you to cope with whatever life has in store for you. Then you can "pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again". Did I really say that?


Merry Harrison, RH(AHG) is a clinical herbalist, teacher, author and wildcrafter.
For class schedule and to ask questions: www.millcreekherbs.com




Reprinted with permission: Catalyst Magazine


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