Q: I’m freaked out about politics. Are there herbs for that?
A: And how! If you are having a hard time, I encourage you
to lean heavily on your herb friends. They will be there for you!
Note: I want to say that I am directing this piece to a
particular person. This friend of mine lives in Texas, enjoys being drunk and
stoned, is not currently consuming alcohol or pot and has a little yard. I might have
written this very differently for someone who lived somewhere else, wanted to
use tinctures, etc. I’m posting it in the hope that it will be helpful for
other people, but it’s my friend that I have in mind. It helps me focus my
writing so much when people ask me questions. Please, if you have something
you’d like me to address, ask. It gives me inspiration!
Oatstraw
Ah, oatstraw. I think of it as the background herb for
emotional stuff. It nourishes the nervous system like nothing else, especially when you feel like you just can’t calm down. Make it as a decoction or strong
infusion to maximize the minerals. You can drink this as your daily
beverage. It’s got a fairly neutral flavor and fairly neutral energies, so it
blends well with others. It’s not going to make you feel high or anything, but
it’ll help provide the possibility of feeling more relaxed.
Reishi
Another neutral, deep one. I started taking this regularly because
I feared I didn’t have the endurance to get through what I’ve signed up for. It
helps with stamina, certainly. Also, though, it helps me be able to find joy
more easily. When everything has gone flat and gray, when hope is gone, it
opens my heart back up to the beauty in the world. Best done as a daily supplement,
generally recommended as a three month course from what I’ve seen. Take the
encapsulated powdered water extract, ideally with acerola or another vitamin C
herb added. Powdered extract means they’ve basically made a decoction and then
strained it and boiled it down and dried it to a powder. I’ve taken tinctures
and teas in the past and didn’t get nearly the effect as from the powdered
extract.
Kava
My teacher Michael used to say this is how people got along
with each other on very small islands. It’s especially good to take before
difficult conversations or other social challenges. I had one friend who had
test anxiety and suddenly got much better grades when taking kava before exams.
I used it to endure a class taught by a teacher who annoyed me so much that I
was having a hard time learning anything from her. The easiest way for you to
take it would be to buy the powder and mix it in with some coconut milk. When
you want that stony/drunky/dopey feeling, kava can get you pretty far along. Long
term use of massive quantities may cause some liver issues. I wouldn’t worry
about it too much, but do cut back on it if you start drinking again.
Poppy
Good old poppy. Sometimes the state of the world just plain
hurts. Relieving that pain directly can stop all the squirming, all the
subsequent emotional states that come from it, anxiety, depression, fear and so
on. I’ll mix a spoonful of poppy seeds with a little bit of honey, eat it with
a spoon and ahhhhhh… Don’t care so much anymore. Calm. California poppy is
another option and more widely recommended by herbalists. That involves making
a tea or taking a tincture and I find it so much easier and quicker to just eat
the poppy seeds.
Chamomile
You have some space in your yard to let things grow, right?
Put some chamomile seed out in places where there’s some dirt and some sun and
it’ll pop up during a wet spell. Pick those little flowers everyday right
before they open. It’s unlike anything you’ve bought in a store. The stuff from
the store is worth using, but chamomile you harvest yourself is heavenly. There’s
almost nothing chamomile doesn’t do, seems like. I always think of Peter
Rabbit. Drink chamomile tea after Farmer McGregor chases you with his
pitchfork! You know how sometimes you get tired because you’ve been stressing?
I think of chamomile as being the best for that – when you’re feeling wiped out
because you are wasting your energy on panicking. Chamomile is known for
helping people calm down and sleep, but sometimes, seemingly paradoxically,
calming down can give you more energy. You can drink it in the evening to help
you get to sleep, but also in the morning to help you not get too wound up, so you can pace yourself better.
Lemon Balm
You should be able to find a lemon balm plant in Texas
fairly easily this time of year. Pick one up when you happen to be somewhere
plants are sold. The fragrance is direct aromatherapy! Run your hands over it, hold them up to your face and inhale! When you grow it and dry
it yourself, it makes a wonderful tea. It’s too delicate to survive the herb trade
very well, though. I wouldn’t bother buying dried lemon balm. If you do get a
chance to grow it, the tea has a wonderful flavor and I especially like it for
sort of sick nervousness. It will calm your digestion and help fight off
viruses. It’s one of those herbs that is both mild and powerful, specific and
broad. It covers so many things, is safe for babies, and tastes good. Why do I
not use it more often? I just took a dose of my tincture from last spring. Now
I feel all light and smiley and the world got brighter.
Passionflower
Another good one to grow. Get a passionflower plant going
later in the spring. It will grow all summer, especially if you keep it
watered. And those flowers are so divine! It’s another one that doesn’t hold up
well to commercial production. My teacher Michael said that was because it is
typically dried using heat and that destroys the active alkaloids. Grow it and
dry it yourself and wow. It may just be my favorite of the calming herbs. I’ve
used it a lot for sleep. What I like about it is that it doesn’t make me feel
that I’ve been forced to sleep, rather that it allows me to sleep. To drift off, rather than get knocked down. Sometimes
when anxiety is really high, people are so scared that they resist sleep. Their
fears are running so wild that they lay awake and vigilant. Hypnotic herbs can
just make everything worse because they use up so much energy fighting the
sleepiness. Then passionflower is nice, because it doesn’t push. I like the
way Patricia Kyritsi Howell (one of my favorite herbalists) put it: passionflower
helps ease transitions. Yes. It helps with going to sleep, but also with waking
up! Also, it’s a muscle relaxer, especially P. carnata, so it’s particularly
useful when your anxiety is manifesting as physical tightness.
And finally, a note about HOW to use herbs, not just which
ones to use. I’d like to encourage you to choose something to carry with you. I
know you don’t want to take tinctures right now. You could carry a bottle of a
calming essential oil blend, an aromatherapy sniffer, rescue remedy, or even a
stone, a coin, a charm, anything that you keep on your person all the time, to
use as needed. Or hey even carry the knowledge that you will take three deep
breaths or do some alternate nostril breathing. I made a post recently called
thank you, negative mind” about the mental trick I have been using. It
helps to notice that you are feeling freaked out and to take action to do
something about it. The herbs are powerful allies, but they only work when we
call on them. And even without them, we can make the decision that we are going
to move toward comfort, that we choose calm.
Peace to you, my friend.

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