Nature is very kind. It has given us some of the most exotic herbs with amazing health benefits. I myself regularly consume some of these popular herbs, and I confidently vouch for the health benefits they offer.
Most of our ailments are related to or derived from stress and anxiety. And if the stress levels are not controlled at the early stages, It can result in serious psychosomatic diseases.
This creative intelligence from nature helps create focus, overcome laziness, lethargy, and calms the monkey mind.
Some of these herbs are dated 3000 years old and have been used by great Indian yogis and sages for various physical and mental health benefits.
Here are some of the herbs which offer great health benefits and promote wellness.
Tulsi (Holi Basil)
Holi Basil, also known as Tulsi (the queen of herbs), is mostly found in the Indian subcontinent and is cultivated for traditional medicine purposes.
Tulsi is a revered Ayurvedic herb with great medicinal properties and is commonly grown in many home courtyards throughout India. The ladies of the house start their morning by watering the Tulsi plant and offering prayer.
It is considered the embodiment of goddess Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth in Hindu culture) with spiritual powers infused within the plant.
For the last few decades, several Indian scientists have been studying this fascinating Ayurvedic herb, and they found that it has lots of therapeutic properties.
It helps protect our organs from industrial pollutants and heavy metals. It acts as a de-stressor and protects from exposure to cold, among other things.
In fact, Holi basil leaves in most countries are regarded as adaptogens (helps us cope with fatigue, impotence, and infertility).
In addition to the above benefits, Tulsi is also found to be highly beneficial in the following:
- It helps fight infection and bacteria and is a great home remedy for skin-related ailments.
- Research has shown that regular consumption of holy basil strengthens the immune system, increases antioxidant activity, prevents blood vessel growth, and helps prevent diseases like cancer.
- Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicines use this herb to treat fever and migraine headaches (due to its ability to relieve sinus pressure).
- Improves bone health, as it is a good source of vitamin K. Vitamin K helps bone mineralization and maintains a healthy metabolism.
In Indian households, it’s common to put holy basil leaves in tea and drink it early morning. This keeps the body calm and stress-free.
I used to be a regular coffee drinker, but now I start my mornings with a hot cup of Tulsi tea, I needless to say, but I feel more vibrant and energetic now.
Turmeric is a medicinal herb that is extensively used in Indian homes as part of day to day cooking. It gives a beautiful yellow color to the food, and being an Indian myself; I like to put a pinch of turmeric in most of my dishes – omelet, dals (lentils), rice, and more.
What makes turmeric so special is the presence of an active ingredient called Curcumin. It is a strong anti-oxidant and helps in relieving inflammation in the body.
One of the best ways to consume turmeric is to mix it with black pepper. Black pepper enhances the absorption of curcumin into the bloodstream, which otherwise is very low.
I personally like to make turmeric latte (aka “Golden Milk”) for myself occasionally. It is a delicious and healthy alternative to coffee. It is made by mixing freshly grated turmeric with hot milk (you can also use almond milk – don’t boil) and just a pinch of black pepper.
Keep the mixture on low flame for about 5 minutes and then allow it to cool for another 10 minutes. After that, strain the mixture (only if you want to) and serve.
Some of the benefits of using turmeric are as follows:
- It improves brain function.
- Helps prevent cancer.
- Improves blood vessel function.
- Lowers the risk of heart disease.
- It helps in reducing anxiety.
- Is very good for the skin.
- Prevents damage to brain cells.
- Fights age-related ailments.
- Reduces inflammation in the body (especially in cases of people who have arthritis)
Various studies have shown that turmeric even helps in fighting ailments like depression and Alzheimer’s.
For hundreds of years, kava has been used by the native pacific islanders as a ceremonial drink for relaxation purposes.
Kava is beneficial due to presence of a compound called kavalactones, present in the root of the plant, it is said to reduce anxiety, stress, restlessness, insomnia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), migraines and headaches, tuberculosis, and muscle pain, among other things.
Kava has diuretic properties, that helps in eliminating excess fluid from the body. This in turn removes harmful toxins and inflections from the body. As a result, it provides much relief to people who suffer from Urinary Track Infections (UTI).
It is also very beneficial to women experiencing menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and mood swings. It boosts secretion of dopamine (feel good hormone) chemicals in the brain.
Kava can either be consumed in the form of tea, or capsules. Whatever you choose, please be cautious of the kavalactones content. Experts recommend that daily intake of kavalactones should not exceed 250mg (source). If you are not sure about how much quantity you should consume, consult your physician.
In case you are on medications or have some type of medical condition, please consult your doctor before consuming this herb. Although it is beneficial in anxiety, many cases of lever toxicity have been reported in early 2000s. It has been banned, or restricted in many countries, including Canada, UK, France and Germany.
Although taken in small quantities for a short period of time, should be safe, but it’s best to consult a doctor before start taking kava.
If you take caution, and consume kava in moderate quantities, you can definitely enjoy the benefits of this amazing herb.
Lemon balm belongs to the mint family of herbs mostly found in south central Europe, North Africa, and central Asia.
It is believed to have anti-stress and anti-anxiety properties. Recent studies have shown that lemon balm is a mood enhancer and improves cognitive performances.
Lemon balm is also effective against cold sores. Applying lemon balm cream to the affected area several times a day can help treat cold sores faster.
Other benefits include, reduced headaches due to stress, reduces toothache, helps in menstrual cramps, helps in abdominal pain due to indigestion, helps with insomnia and other sleeping disorders.
Lemon balm is generally considered safe when consumed in moderate quantities. In case you have some medical condition, such as, glaucoma, thyroid, or if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, you should consult your physician before you decide consume this herb.
Infants and children under the age of 12 should be given lemon balm only after consulting your doctor.
Also, please be cautious of consuming any herbal supplements that are not monitored and approved by Food and Drug Administration.
However, growing your own lemon balm and using the leaves to prepare tea, or glycerite, is generally considered safe.
Just like Holy basil, Ashwagandha is also a very popular ayurvedic herb with wide variety of benefits. It is also considered to be an adaptogen and helps in reducing physiological and psychological stress, and thereby, promotes relaxation and peace.
Ashwagandha extract has the ability to lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) in the brain, and as a result, it helps with reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and also helps in sleep related disorders. It’s antioxidant properties protect the brain cells from decay associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, and fosters longevity.
It also helps with male potency by increasing sperm count, stamina and endurance, and is overall good for the immune system.
It is generally consumed in the powered form. The powder can be mixed with warm water or milk and consumed before going to bed at night. Consuming in small quantities, it acts as a sedative and promotes good night sleep.
Consuming Ashwagandha during morning time, makes you more “alert” for long hours, and is a better alternative to coffee.
Ashwagandha oil is also very effective in restoring skin’s natural elasticity and is excellent for dry and dehydrated skin, and reducing wrinkles. You can self massage the whole body once a week for 10 to 15 minutes. It is beneficial for anyone suffering from stress or Vata related disorders.
Again like any other herb, some caution is also required while consuming this herb. Women should avoid Ashwagandha during pregnancy. It can also aggravate symptoms like, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, stomach ulcers, lupus, and thyroid disorders.
In the ancient times, Jatamansi was primarily used as a skincare product and used for maintaining health of female reproductive organ.
Listed below are some of the benefits provided by this herb.
- It is very effective in treatment of constipation, and promotes good health and bowel movement. This herbal remedy is a better option compared to other chemical based laxatives.
- It reduces pain and cramps during menstrual flow in women. It combats symptoms such as fatigue, sleeplessness, and headaches, among other things. Jatamansi specially gives relief when women are undergoing menopause.
- Due to hectic and stressful lifestyles, majority of the population is facing lifestyle disorders today. In addition, addictive habits like smoking and drinking, combined with low physical activity, gives rise to problems such as hypertension and diabetes. Jatamansi works to regulate heart rate, and prevents alteration in the lipid profile. It works to regulate the circulation of blood in the body.
- Just like Ashwagandha, Jatamansi also has sleep inducing properties. It also soothes heart palpitations and restlessness.
Consuming in large quantities, Jatamansi may induce problems such as, loose stools, nausea, vomiting, frequent urination, and even menstrual cramps. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid taking this herb. Also some people may be allergic to some of it’s constituents.
Brahmi (herb of grace) is a unique herb that is often known for its brain-boosting properties and promotes subtle awareness. In the west, it is also known by the Sinhalese name, Gotu kola.
Brahmi grows in marshes and shallow water and is generally found at high altitudes above sea level. It is a nootropic herb and is well known for being used in neurological and psychiatric disorders.
It is one of the most sattvic ayurvedic herbs and provides almost all the benefits mentioned above (for other herbs).
It has lots of therapeutic properties and is commonly used as a memory enhancer and brain tonic. It is said to have a cooling property that keeps the mind calm and relaxed.
It is full of antioxidants and helps in removing free radicals.
Brahmi can be consumed internally as a powder, a tablet, or in the form of a powder. You can take it with either warm water or milk. Warm milk is preferred, as it enhances the cooling effect of the herb. It can also be taken with clarified butter (or Ghee).
If you don’t want to consume Brahmi internally, there’s Brahmi oil, which can be applied externally to the body. It also helps with skin aggravations and promotes natural joint movements. It can also be gently massaged onto your scalp to promote healthy hair growth.
Chamomile tea is a popular beverage and is well known for its health benefits. It is a caffeine-free alternative that has a sweet taste in comparison to black or green tea. It also has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antispasmodic properties.
Some of the benefits include:
- It improves immunity and is beneficial in the common cold.
- Reduces menstrual pain in women.
- It helps treat insomnia and other sleep disorders.
- Chamomile tea acts as a digestive relaxant and soothes problems such as stomach ache and gastrointestinal disorders.
- It is a natural sedative that aids in sleep and promotes relaxation.
- Is beneficial for skin health.
- Reduces acne and slows down the aging process.
- Reduces dark circles under eyes.
- Helps prevent dandruff.
Because of its good taste and other benefits, it is definitely worth drinking at least once or twice a week.
Passionflower is grown throughout the world and certain species have shown to have medicinal properties that can help treat anxiety and sleep disorders.
To this date there has not been much research done on this plant. But preliminary evidences show that it may help with problems like, stomach pains, anxiety, insomnia, and epilepsy.
It may be consumed in the form of tea by adding dried flowers to boiling water. Since very little research has been done on this herb, I don’t recommend taking a supplement or liquid extract, as of now.
Passionflower is generally considered safe, but side effects such as dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, rapid heart rhythm, etc. have been reported in some cases.
Researches show that Valerian helps in easing anxiety and insomnia. A chemical in the brain known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (also referred to as GABA) is associated with a calming effect on the body by quieting brain signals. Common prescription drugs for anxiety generally increase GABA levels in the brain.
Valerian root is believed to increase GABA, thereby giving relief from anxiety naturally.
Just like Passionflower, very few pieces of research have been done on Valerian root. Even in this case, I would not recommend taking supplements or liquid extracts. But consuming moderately in the form of tea should be safe.
If you are on medications, please consult your doctor before you consume this herb.
A word of caution
I would like to remind our readers, once again, that these herbs, generally very safe, should be consumed mindfully and responsibly, with caution. For most people, consuming low to moderate quantities to these herbs should not be a problem. But if you have a medical condition, or are pregnant, or have allergies to certain constituents, you must consult your doctor first. Even as a healthy person, if you feel discomfort while consuming any of the herbs mentioned above, you should immediately stop consuming it and seek medical professional advice.
As an avid meditation practitioner, I myself consume some of these herbs like Tulsi, Turmeric, Brahmi, and Ashwagandha, and have found them to be very beneficial. They help me relax and tune my mind for meditation.