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If you were to ask me what class of herbs I absolutely cannot live without, I would say the nervines – hands down.

Why? Because the way we live today is so far from the rhythm of nature, and can be so taxing on our nerves, that we absolutely need these comforting soothers to help us wind down and come back to ourselves at the end of a long day. We all understand the impact of stress, and how much it can contribute to a wide variety of issues; so think of nervines as stress-busters that help our bodies remember how to just be, exist, and chill.

WHAT ARE NERVINES?

There’s an important distinction to be made between two nervous-system focused classes of herbs, adaptogens and nervines. Both of these address modern complaints relating to energy levels and fatigue, stress, sleep troubles, and anxiousness. While adaptogens can balance and address these in the long term, they do so more by nourishing and regulating the HPA axis feedback loop, which involves the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenals. The HPA axis relates to and influences the nervous system, but is a separate entity in itself as a whole.

Nervines not only acutely calm, soothe, and address imbalances within the nervous system, they can also help to restore, strengthen, and nourish this important system directly.

Nervines are the herbs you reach for when you’re feeling tense, wound up, nervous, can’t sleep, need a hug, want to just take a beat and chill, or want to get back into your body and stop a looping thought.

THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF NERVINES

There are three main categories of nervines in herbalism are “nervine sedatives,” “nervine hypnotics,” and “nervine trophorestoratives.” The first two instantly calm and soothe, with the former specifically supporting sleep, while trophorestoratives take calm to a whole new level as they nourish, feed and actually help to restore  the nervous system tissues.

Nervine sedatives support you in falling asleep, but despite the name are also gentle enough to be used throughout the day to encourage relaxation on a smaller scale. 

Nervine hypnotics, such as Kava, are the next level up in terms of strength – they have an effect on both mental and physical relaxation in small doses (such as the dose found in our Peace Juice formula), and in larger doses can create a sense of blissful, spacey euphoria. You’ll even find Kava bars around NYC, as this beverage when taken in large amounts can help you have a fun and wild night without the need for a cocktail!

Nervine trophorestoratives go much deeper and nourish the nervous system tissues on a cellular level. These herbs work slowly and gently over time to help with both the frequency and intensity of nervousness, irritability, and a sense of “fried nerves.”

These herbs are what we call “toning” or “tonifying” – the more you use them, the more of a strengthening effect they’ll have.

OUR FAVORITE NERVINES

Lemon Balm – As much as we think of Lemon Balm as a calming nervine that can help us wind down when we have nervous tension, this herb is actually quite uplifting to the mood and spirit as well. It’s my absolute favorite nervine to pair with St. John’s Wort for a much deeper effect on the winter blues than using either alone. The way it brightens up my mood is like nothing else, yet without overstimulating or directly energizing me. Lemon Balm brings light to the heart and spirit when we feel defeated and are wrestling with despair, allowing us to shine in our full capacity even on the days when we don’t feel our best. This nervine softens us so that we may be more compassionate towards ourselves, and is one of the most fact-acting calming plants I’ve ever used; pair with CBD for a mind-blowing level of relaxation. Lemon Balm is in our Mood Juice formula, an uplifting blend that always has your back and brightens you up, even on the toughest of days.

Motherwort – As the name suggests, motherwort has a calming energy “like a big hug from mom.” As a powerful in-the-moment nervine, Motherwort is incredibly helpful for the type of restlessness where thoughts are racing and worries feel “pent up” in the body, creating heat, frustration, and a sense of defeat or self-criticism. Also in line with its famous name, Motherwort is helpful for postpartum melancholy felt by new mothers. It helps to ground you emotionally and improve clarity when you’re feeling lost, which is why we added it to our grounding and calming in-the-moment instant spray, Peace Juice.

St John’s wort As a member of the deeper acting “nervine trophorestoratives,” St. John’s Wort is known classically as “sunshine in a bottle.” As a restorative, SJW works to restore and tone a nervous system that has become weakened, typically from long periods of stress, nervousness, tension, or even lack of sleep that has depleted the body. One of the earliest recorded accounts of the use of St. John’s Wort dates back to the 6th century AD when St. Columbia was said to carry a piece of this herb in his pocket due to his great regard for St. John (who just happens to represent the light, with his feast date on the Solstice). This connection to ‘light’ fits perfectly with its eclectic traditional usage in herbalism, where it is said to “bring light into darkness in the mind” thanks to its bright yellow that gives us clues about its unique offerings. St. John’s Wort also blooms on the solstice, bringing new life and light that energizes, nourishes and reinvigorates the nervous system. St. John’s doesn’t work instantly like Lemon Balm or Motherwort, so patience is key as you slowly allow this plant to shine its light within your heart-mind and nervous system. If you’re generally prone to mood dips during darker times of year, start early before winter is in full effect to allow this trophorestorative to build up in your system and work its tender loving magic. As you may have guessed, this herb imparts its wisdom into our Mood Juice formula.

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