You and Your Health: herbal remedies for stress

With Goodmeasure Pharmacy, Rotherham

Everybody has times when we feel stressed from the mounting pressure we face. This has been intensified in recent years with additional worries about health or finances. 

Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s your body’s natural reaction to a situation based on the ‘fight or flight’ response of our ancient ancestors.  

We all deal with stress differently as it targets the weakest part of your physiology or character. If you’re prone to eczema or migraines, these may flare up when you’re feeling stressed. If your tolerance or patience levels are low, you may find stress impacts your mood. Some people smoke or drink more when stressed or see changes to their sleep pattern. 

Most often, these side effects subside once the stressful event is over. However, prolonged or chronic stress can make you ill. It can increase your risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, IBS, ulcers, allergies and alopecia. 

If you find it difficult to manage stress, there are ways you can control symptoms. Sometimes, this is via medication prescribed by your GP, such as antidepressants or sleeping pills. 

But there are also some herbal remedies that are reported to have calming properties which help you relax. Most are available in capsule or tea form; always consult the information for correct dosage.  

As with any medicines, there may be some side effects. Always consult your GP or pharmacist before taking herbal remedies as they can interfere with other medication including anaesthetic. Herbal supplements should not be taken by pregnant or breast-feeding women as there haven’t been enough research tests on this demographic.    

St John’s Wort 

This bright yellow plant been used for nerve disorders since the Ancient Greeks over 2,000 years ago. It contains hypericin which has a powerful effect on the brain, increasing serotonin and dopamine levels which can improve low mood. St John’s Wort can increase your skin sensitivity to the sun if you have fair skin, so extra caution should be given. 


Advocated as a sleep aid since Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen, Valerian was also used to relieve stress during the WWII air raids. It calms the nervous system and relaxes the brain in a similar way to sedatives. Valerian can reduce muscle tension, trembling and insomnia. It can cause drowsiness so avoid taking before driving or other instances where you need to stay alert.  


Similar to Valerian, this herb has a calming effect which can be beneficial for people who have anxiety or insomnia. It is also thought passionflower can help reduce symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes.    


This herb has long been used in Indian medicine but has become increasingly popular in western homeopathy. It is an adaptogen, plant substances that are believed to regulate the body’s stress response and restore homeostasis. It can help with mood swings, concentration and sleep.  


This is another adaptogen that helps reduce stress. It is also used to help people experiencing fatigue, exhaustion or burnout.  

Lemon balm 

While it’s named after the aroma of the leaves, lemon balm is actually part of the mint family. It is thought to promote calmness and maintain a positive mood. 


The most commonly thought of herb for relaxation, lavender is traditionally used in essential oils and aromatherapy. It reduces cortisol and tension in the body without the use of a sedative. Using a lavender pillow spray or diffuser at night may help improve sleep quality. 


Another well-known relaxing herb, chamomile is mainly taken in tea form. It contains apigenin which have similar properties to benzodiazepines tranquilizers. Chamomile can improve sleep, relax muscles and reduce blood pressure. 

Medicinal-free ways to reduce stress 

  • Exercise more to release mood-boosting endorphins 
  • Practice meditation and mindfulness to remove chaotic thoughts 
  • Establish priorities and learn how to say no 
  • Speak to others about your worries or concerns 
  • Spend more time doing things that make you happy