Every gardener knows, there is no better balm for stress and anxiety than time spent with seeds and plants, working the soil. But the fruits of that labor can also act as calming agents. Here are four of our favorite herbs to use, homegrown or store bought, to help smooth over rough times.
Properties: Promotes calm, improves mood, helps restorative sleep.
How to use: In teas, sachets and potpourri mixes, lotions and soaps, perfumes and air fresheners.
How to grow: There are many varieties of lavender, most of which are easy to establish in the home garden. Though lavender can be started from seed, it is much easier to begin with an established plant from your nursery. Most varieties are too large to do well on a windowsill herb garden, but if you want to try some as a houseplant, look to the smaller French varieties.
Other ways to get lavender: Available dried on the stalk or loose, essential oil, commercial skin care and fragrance products.
Properties: Promotes relaxation especially before sleep.
How to use: Primarily in tea but aromatherapy makes use of it in the essential oil form.
How to grow: Like lavender, it is easier to grow chamomile from a started plant or division than from seed, though the latter is not impossible. Chamomile is particularly suited to container gardens, where it will trail over the side of the pot. It also does well indoors.
Other ways to get chamomile: Sold dried and loose for tea and as an essential oil for other uses (never ingest essential oils).
Properties: Increases mental alertness while calming racing thoughts, improves mood, reduces stress, enhances self confidence.
How to use: Foods, drinks, teas, aromatherapy, soaps, lotions, potpourri and sachets.
How to grow: Like any member of the mint family, the question is less how to grow peppermint and more how to stop it from taking over the garden. Peppermint will thrive almost anywhere, but because of its invasive properties, it does best in pots or dedicated beds. It can be started from plants or seeds, and it does well indoors.
Other ways to get peppermint: Available in in dried form, many foods, drinks, sweets, personal care products, essential oil, potpourris, air fresheners, and perfumes. (Hint for harried parents: try giving your fussy child a peppermint candy to suck on to calm him down).
Properties: Lifts spirits, soothes nerves, and reduces anxiety-induced indigestion.
How to use: The fragrance of the lemon balm, most pungent when fresh, has the most powerful effect, so make tea from fresh leaves if possible.
How to grow: Lemon balm is a member of the mint family, and grows readily from seed and plants. Like peppermint, make sure you establish your lemon balm in a confined space so it doesn’t crowd out its neighbors.
Other ways to get lemon balm: Sold in commercial teas, dried, and as an essential oil. Lemon balm is also available in an herbal supplement form, but as with all herbal supplements, check with your doctor before incorporating it into your relaxation routine.
The simple act of brewing and quietly sipping a cup of herbal tea is in itself a calming practice, all the more satisfying if you make your own tea from plants you grow in your tea garden.