by Jordan Douglas, HHC

The current seasonal shift — the transition into winter as we approach the end of the year (and decade!) — invites us slow down and reflect. The fast-approaching winter holidays evoke joy and merriment. With the hustle and bustle that accompanies this time of year, many of us feel caught between these two energies of inner contemplation and outward celebration. This can manifest as stress, tension, frustration or malaise. Finding ways to slow down and cultivate softness is essential, as is remembering to be gentle with yourself. Herbal medicine has a lot to offer here. Below are six of my favorite stress-supporting herbs to support you through the holiday season.

  1. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Ashwagandha is a beautiful adaptogen that tones and regulates the neuroendocrine system and HPA axis. It helps to support healthy immune function and blood sugar levels. It also has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Ashwagandha supports energy and vitality, and optimal benefits are seen with long term, consistent use. Try ashwagandha as a capsule or tincture, or decoct the root and blend with coconut milk and cinnamon to drink as a tonic.
  2. Cannabis (Cannabis sativa): With all the buzz about CBD, it’s important to acknowledge the power of this herb within a whole-plant context. CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, is one of at least 113 known cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. Cannabinoids help to regulate the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a system of balance that works to maintain homeostasis in the body. The ECS helps to regulate sleep, stress and immune functions along with a healthy inflammatory response. Taking a full-spectrum hemp oil regularly helps to promote a grounded state of inner balance amidst an ever-changing external world. Be sure to go low and slow when experimenting to find a dose that is supportive to you. Personally, I love (and use) Onda and Plant People.
  3. Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum): Holy basil is one of my absolute favorite herbs, and one that I use daily. It reduces stress and feelings of despair, lifting the mood and instilling feelings of hope and optimism. It balances blood sugar and supports a healthy immune system. It also helps to enhance mental clarity and focus. Holy basil opens the heart and keeps you calm, cool and collected. I prefer to take holy basil as a tea, to savor all of the aromatic benefits, but the capsule and tincture are also good options.
  4. Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia): Lavender is so ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget the healing power this herb has to offer. Lavender relieves tension and promotes a peaceful state. As a relaxant, it helps to improve sleep quality by quieting the mind and melting away stress. It also uplifts the mood and supports stress related headaches. Lavender can safely be taken internally as a tea or tincture. The essential oil is also wonderful to diffuse or spray in your space, especially in the evenings before bed to wind down for the day.
  5. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): Lemon balm is a lovely, aromatic favorite of mine and is suitable for the whole family. It is soothing to the digestive and nervous systems and is a potent antioxidant. It helps to soothe nervous excitability, hyperactivity, restlessness and sleeplessness. It uplifts the mood and supports cognitive health. I like to enjoy lemon balm as a tea, but it can also be consumed as a tincture. The essential oil can also be diluted and applied topically in a calming body oil (try mixing with lavender!).
  6. Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora): Skullcap is a fantastic herb for soothing stress and agitation, especially that which presents with tightness and spasm. It is incredibly restorative to the nervous system and acts like a balm for feelings of fear and irritability. Skullcap is a great herb for those of us who carry our stress as tension in the shoulders and upper back and neck. Skullcap is best taken as a fresh tincture, or as a tea.
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