Surviving The Holidays
As we enter the holiday season we sometimes brace ourselves for the highest stress times of the year.
At a time when the days get shorter many animals cozy up in their burrows to contemplate or just snooze.
Unfortunately, social responsibilities call for us to leave our cozy nests to fight traffic to the shopping malls.
It’s no wonder this season also brings the highest suicide rate.
One way to survive the madness is to apply some herbal tonic support for the overworked autonomic nervous system.
Because homeostasis is dependent on the opposing forces of the Autonomic Nervous System, support provided by herbal materials with constituents that act on both halves have an enormous influence on overall heath.
Herbal nervines are able to provide materials the body can draw on to tone the Sympathetic Nervous System or Parasympathetic Nervous System, whichever it needs at the time. They strengthen and balance other divisions of the system as well.
One marked difference between the use of herbs to relax, calm and sedate rather than pharmaceutical drugs like Valium is that the herbs don’t toxify the body nor leave us with a drug hangover.
Moreover, while very effective at inducing deep states of relaxation and sleep, studies show that herbal nervines don’t impair mental alertness, reaction times, or locomotor coordination.
So an herb like valerian can help you get a good night’s rest, allow you to awaken refreshed and actually improve mental alertness and clarity the following day.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is in no way related to valium. It’s a safe tonic nervine, muscle relaxer and sedative used to treat a plethora of conditions including:
- nervous tension
- muscle cramps and spasm
- muscle pain
- menstrual pain and discomfort
- epilepsy (as an anticonvulsant)
- autonomic nervous system disorders of all kinds (including hypochondria)
- hypertension, and others.
One old folk tradition depicts married couples hanging valerian in their homes to help bring peace and prevent contention in the home.
During the First World War valerian was administered to front line troops to prevent shell shock. In the Second Word War it was used to calm civilians during air raids.
Larger amounts of the herb don’t cause an amplification of effect after a certain dosage, but only extend duration of the effect.
The calming and healing properties make it effective in childhood behavior disorders and learning disabilities.
Three main groups of active constituents: volatile oil, esters and alkaloids, have been discovered in the root. Acting as a true tonic, valerian may actually pick some people up rather than depress them.
That is, it is a truly balancing nerve tonic, providing either relaxation or stimulation, whichever is needed by the body to restore balance.
Containing more calcium than any other herb, valerian is one of the most popular nervine herbs in the world. It may be steeped to make tea or simmered (decocted) in a pot with the lid on to prevent driving off the essential oil.
It extracts well in (70%) alcohol and combines well with skullcap and chamomile. I mix a bit of maple syrup with the extract and add a splash of carbonated water, mixing it into a nerve tonic spritzer great for the holidays or any day.