Herbal Remedies for Stress Relief

Posted by – December 14, 2016
Categories: Health & Healing

With everything going on around the holidays—traveling! Last-minute gift-buying! Extended family!—it’s easy to get overwhelmed, or panic and decide to hibernate until it’s all over. Of course, the holidays can be great, too—if you’re prepared to manage what you can, let go of what you can’t, and give into your festive side.

Even if the holiday season can bring about a mix of emotions and stress as we navigate through various demands and expectations. From the hustle and bustle of traveling and last-minute gift shopping to the dynamics of extended family gatherings, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and even consider withdrawing from the festivities. Embracing the festive spirit and finding ways to stay stress-free is key.

Whether you’re dealing with unforeseen travel delays, keeping the peace with your great-uncle, or feeling pressure to be the hostess with the mostess, NAB is here to keep you stress-free with herbal remedies from some of our favorite authors. Happy holidays, and good luck out there!


A tried-and-true calming staple, valerian has been used for centuries to inspire tranquility and relax the nerves—with good reason, because it works. According to Icelandic Herbs author Annarosa Robertsdottir, valerian combats psychological stress, hyperactivity, worry, anxiety attacks, and muscle tension, making it our number 1 pick for dealing with holiday stress.

How to take

You can take Valerian in a tincture, infusion, and can find it in many sleep teas at your local grocery store. If you’re feeling inspired and want to DIY, here’s a recipe from The Herbal Handbook for Home and Health, by Pip Waller, for rose and valerian antianxiety drops.

  • 1 oz. valerian root
  • 1⁄2 oz. rosebuds
  • 2 cups brandy
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • Makes just under 2 cups.
  • Keeps 2–3 years.

Mix all the ingredients together and put into a large jar with a lid. Let sit in a cool place for 3 weeks. Strain and bottle.


Take 5–10 drops as required, up to 6 times daily.


Passionflower is another gold standard in the herbal stress-reduction arsenal. A nervine, like the other herbs included in this list, passionflower is particularly adept at quieting mental chatter and restless agitation, and also helps ease symptoms of exhaustion.

The Modern Herbal Dispensatory‘s formula, below, is a great fix for anxious minds, and the passionflower is included specifically to combat racing thoughts.

How to take

You can make an infusion, tincture, or glycerite.

  • 2 parts bacopa
  • 2 parts motherwort
  • 2 parts fresh milky oat seed
  • 1 part blue vervain
  • 1 part Chinese polygala
  • 2 parts passionflower

*If you’re experiencing muscle tension, you can also add 1 part scullcap.

preparation & dosage

Standard Infusion: 4–8 ounces up to 4 times daily Tincture: Fresh leaf (1:2, 95% alcohol); dried leaf (1:5, 50% alcohol); 2–8 ml (0.4–1.6 tsp.) up to 4 times daily
Glycerite: Dried leaf (1:6); 3–10 ml (0.6–2 tsp.) up to 4 times daily
Fluid Extract: Dried leaf (1:1, 50% alcohol); 1–3 ml (0.2–0.6 tsp.) up to 4 times daily

Lemon Balm

In addition to smelling delicious, lemon balm has some powerful stress-reducing properties. According to Thomas Easley and Steven Horne, authors of The Modern Herbal Dispensatory, lemon balm helps allay the winter blues and acts as a calming agent. It’s a particularly effective remedy if you experience physical symptoms of stress: it helps to alleviate sweaty hands and calm nervous stomachs.


You can brew it into a tea, make a tincture, or take it as a cold infusion. Here’s a recipe for Antistress Tea, made with lemon balm, from The Herbal Handbook for Home and Health.

  • ¾ oz. lemon balm
  • ¾ oz. wood betony
  • ¾ oz. oatstraw
  • ¾ oz. skullcap
  • ¾ oz. vervain
  • ¼ oz. lavender

Makes 4-oz. herb mixture.


Mix 1–2 tsp. of the dried herb mixture into a mug of boiling water and leave to infuse. Once teas are
made, they should be consumed immediately for best results.


Drink 1–3 mugs daily, with honey to sweeten, if required.

*Store any extra in an airtight container.


Easley and Horne note that lavender—another classic nervine—is exceptional at easing tension and anxiety, emphasizing that it’s “a specific for [the] high-strung and nervous.” Consider sipping on some lavender tea for an anxious stomach or rubbing some lavender essential oil on your temples if you’re in for high-stress traveling (or if you get anxious on airplanes). Then keep it up after you’ve reached your destination (or treat yourself to an herbal steam bath) because it has additional mood-boosting, mild anti-depressant properties.


Make a standard infusion, apply topically as an essential oil, or dilute some into your tub for a relaxing bath—or, if you’re feeling up to some DIY, make Pip Waller’s Stress-Busting Massage Balm below.

  • ½ cup Lavender-Infused Oil
  • 1½ tsp. grated beeswax

Essential oils:

  • 10 drops lavender
  • 10 drops sandalwood
  • 10 drops cedarwood
  • 10 drops bergamot

Makes ½ cup. Keeps around 3 months.


Melt the beeswax into the infused oil in a double boiler or water bath. Add the essential oils and pour into a container.

Tags: Herbalism Anna Rósa Róbertsdóttir Thomas Easley Steven Horne
About the Author

Bevin is the associate comms director at North Atlantic Books.