Anxiety is a reality for so many people. It can act as a filmy layer keeping us from shining brightly in our intentions and goals. In some families anxiety is passed from one generation to the next. For others anxiety is a result of trauma. Simply being a human being in a world with so much change and conflict happening daily is enough to invoke feelings of fear and worry. Whatever the root, from old patterns or new information that is overwhelming, I am a huge believer that life can go on without anxiety. I’ve seen it in my own life and in my clinical work as an herbalist time and again. Old patterns can be broken and new ones created so we can truly thrive in this one “wild and precious life” as Mary Oliver writes so powerfully. Loving self talk, mindfulness, engaging in joy and deep connection (to nature, animals and people) are essential parts of the formula. Having these sacred sundries in our internal pantries provides a solid foundation. Our plant allies can take it to the next level.
So let’s talk about the four plants that I carry with me when I work away from my Apothecary. I simply couldn’t work without motherwort, skullcap, holy basil and passionflower. Read on to learn what I love about each of them.
Motherwort is so abundant and wild and it is for these qualities that I revere her. When feeling tight and confined, as if there is just not enough room to breathe, motherwort’s message of spaciousness and tenacity can be the perfect antidote. I’ll never forget walking outside into the glaring sunlight, just weeks into new motherhood, feeling content with my new role and at the same time disoriented by all of the demands on my attention and body. Who beckoned to me from a spot of earth next to the concrete stairs? Of course it was motherwort, growing uninvited but so welcome! Motherwort is a wonderful ally for those overwhelmed by all that they give, whether through their role as parent or simply the way they interface with the world. Motherwort is well known for its affinity to anxiety that manifests as heart palpitations and sweaty palms. Additionally when I see female bodied clients who are experiencing anxiety accompanying hormonal shifts motherwort is the first herb that we try. It is almost always an important part of their formula.
Holy basil, for me, is like basil on steroids. Basil tea has long been an ally for me. As someone who tends towards a colder constitution the pungent warming qualities of basil have a magical effect. If you’ve never tried making tea from the leaves of a fresh basil plant I invite you to do so and experience nirvana. Simply let it steep covered for ten to fifteen minutes, sweeten with a touch of honey, inhale and prepare for deep bliss. There’s a smoothing of frazzled edges and more room to breathe. Holy basil, sister to basil, is sacred in all of India. This speaks to the nourishing qualities of the plant. The fragrance, which whisper of tropical fruit mixed with the already lovely aromatic profile of basil, enliven you on the spot. Holy basil can also nourish your adrenals and help you to build resilience. I love plants that work for the long run while soothing you in the moment.
These are the plants that I’ve developed strong relationships with over my years as a practicing herbalist. I’d love to hear about yours. I’m always eager to hear stories about people’s relationships with nervines, as a way of exchanging information and developing records of our collective experience. I hope our paths will cross in the future. In the meantime feel free to reach out through my website with tidbits and stories about your plant journeys.