Another guest column today. This came from David Brill of The Rosemary House:
Education and information has always been one of the cornerstones of our busy business since day one in March of 1968. Originally, founder and mom, Bertha Reppert did all of the classes and workshops but as we matured and our customers herbal knowledge grew it became time to bring in additional herbal experts. So now our schedule of events includes herbal enthusiasts from The Rosemary House staff and we enjoy bringing in guest speakers from around the country. In 2007, our herbalist was the famed Rosemary Gladstar, author of The Family Herbal, we were thrilled to be able to get her “down off her Mountain” in Vermont to come to Mechanicsburg for a day long lecture on medicinal herbs. She presented two intensives, one on Chasing Away the Blues, Stress and Anxiety. Where she spoke on herbs for the nervous system.. Rosemary also provided an in depth handout on this subject and she cheerfully agreed to share a part of it with The Essential Herbal Readers.
The Nervous System is our link to our environment. It has three basic functions: to receive, to interpret, and to respond. Within the limited paradigm of modern western science this involves only our physical being and the physical world in which we live. We have our five basic senses to experience our external environment and countless internal sensory neurons to monitor our internal environment. Then there are the some 12 billion cells that constitute our brain, the central computer. If that is all there is to the NS, it is enough to make it, far and away, the most important system of our body. It is what provides integration and coordination to our lives. It allows us to see, feel, touch, create, act and react. Without this basic physical NS there could be no life. To the degree that it is impaired, the quality, tone, color, and richness of life are diminished. If for no other reasons than these we must commit ourselves to keeping our NS healthy if we want a full life.
Herbs and natural therapies play a vital role in the health and well‑being of the Nervous System. Not only are herbs full of concentrated nutrients that are important both nutritionally and medicinally to the nervous system, but herbs also form a direct link between the body, mind, spirit connection. It is important within the framework of the Nervous System, perhaps more so than with any other system of the body, to address health and lack thereof from more than just a treatment of physical symptoms.
The following categories are helpful in defining the action of herbs on the Nervous System.
1. Nerve Tonics
Herbs that feed, tone, rehabilitate, and strengthen the NS are called Nerve Tonics. Nourish the nerve tissue; generally high in calcium, magnesium, B vitamins and protein. Though effective, most are mild in action and can be taken over a long period of time. Herbs from this category are included in every formula for Nervous System disorders.
Examples: Oatstraw (Avena sativa), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Wood Betony (Betonica officinalis), Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis and related species), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Hops (Humulus lupulus), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Kava Kava.
2. Nerve Sedatives
Relax, help reduce pain, ease tension, aid in sleep. Do not deaden or block nerve endings.
Examples: California Poppy (Eschscholzia california), Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata), St. John_Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Catnip (Catnip cataria), Valerian (Valerian officinalis),, Hops (Humulus lupulus), Lobelia (Lobelia inflata),Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Kava Kava, and Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus).
3. Nervine Demulcents
General action on the NS but are included in almost all nervine formulas for their soothing, healing qualities and nutritional concentration.
Examples: Slippery Elm Bark, Oats, Barley, Flax Seed, Marshmallow Root.
4. Nervine Stimulants
Mildly acting, herbal stimulants gently and nourishingly tone/activate the system. Often adaptogenic in action; feed entire system. Activate the nerve endings by increasing circulation, providing nutrients, increasing vitality. Examples: Peppermint, Gingko, Gota Kola, Spearmint, Wintergreen, Cayenne, Ginger, Bee Pollen, Eleococuccus, Ginseng, Spirulina, Rosemary, and Sage.