5 Herbs to Calm the Nerves & Open the Heart

As I write this, we are in the midst of a February thaw, a rare couple of days where we’re given reprieve from the bitter cold of the most recent polar vortex with sudden rise to the 40s (which honestly feel like summer after what we’ve been experiencing). With the melting of the snow off my roof I can also feel a melting of my muscles, a relaxing of the tension that grips us when its frigidly cold outside. While I know its not spring yet (not even close), these warmer days feel like an opening into that possibility, a thawing of a frozen heart (yes, I have a three year old, and yes, I know the words to Frozen by heart). It feels like an apt time to put a spotlight on one of my formulas that have proven to be the most popular — my CBD Nerve Elixir. I realized I haven’t taken the time to elaborate on the special magic of all the herbs involved, so for those of you who like to know what you’re putting in your body and geek out on plants, here you are. First, a lovely pic of the elixir I took last summer to remind you that yes, flowers exist and they will return, I promise.


I source my CBD from VT-grown hemp (Cannabis sativa) extracted into alcohol. CBD from hemp is the star player in all of my formulas, and I love formulating with it because it is just SO versatile and can help folks in so many different ways. Adding other herbs to the blend helps to “direct” the hemp, amplifying its actions and driving it to certain systems or parts of the body. Its sort of like hemp is the car that has the potential to bring us to a ton of different places, and the other herbs are like the map that tells us where to go. In the case of Nerve Elixir, we’re looking to direct the hemp to work its magic on the nervous system, both its emotional side (stress and occasional anxiety) and its physical components (occasional nerve pain and muscle tension). The nervous system is one of the main affinities for cannabis – meaning that the plant shows a lot of pharmacological activity here – so it makes sense to use it in this way.


Kava kava (Piper methysticum) is a Polynesian root that is traditionally used in ceremony to as a kind of social lubricant — it helps to dissolve the boundaries between people and conjure up feelings of connection, love, and celebration. Folks often use this herb, therefore, to help dissolve feelings of social anxiety and inhibition (I, for one, ALWAYS have it on hand before I have to do any public speaking or go to a big party where I don’t know a lot of folks). Its also an antispasmodic, which means it can relieve tension and any pain from spasm in the body, particularly in smooth muscle (think: internal organs). Interestingly, one of the constituents in Kava (yangonin, for my fellow plant nerds out there) actually binds to one of the same receptors to which THC binds — CB1, the main receptor in our brain that produces feelings of euphoria and intoxication. While kava doesn’t bring up the same kind of “high” that THC is known and loved for, it does produce a much gentler version of simultaneous mood uplift and relaxation. Combined together, kava and hemp make a lovely brew for those of us who get in a wad on the regular (*raises hand*).


Oh skullcap how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) has been a powerful ally to me. It also is a powerful antispasmodic, this one more specific to skeletal muscle (hunched shoulders, I’m looking at you), and really helps to put a lid on excessive thinking (hence the name – think of it as a little energetic hat). As such, I have found that it can help calm the storm of obsessive thoughts that either keep me in a state of anxiousness during the day and/or keep me awake at night. Skullcap has also been found to bind to GABA receptors (our primary chill-the-fuck-out receptor) which is part of how it works its magic, and interestingly CBD from hemp actually helps to make this receptor… well, more receptive. Its like a one-two punch for your nervous system, opening up your ability to relax and then delivering the tools you need to do so.

Milky Oats

Now even if all the previous herbs are new to you, most of us have had oats in our lives. Just like their Quaker cousins, milky oats are a manifestation of the Avena sativa plant, the difference being that the are harvested before the seeds are fully developed. When they are still immature and exude a white, milky latex when pinched, you’ve got good medicine. Just like the oats you buy for your breakfast, milky oats are like food for your nerves, nourishing and high in B vitamins. Oats work best when taken long term, since they also act as a restorative, rebuilding the foundation of nervous function. I also love adding it to formulas since while many herbs can be drying to our system, milky oats are considered warm and moist energetically. Think about when you have dry skin and Grandma (or Google) tells you to take an oatmeal bath. Just like the oatmeal moistens and soothes the irritation of your skin, you can imagine Milky Oats taken internally as doing a similar thing to your frazzled nerve endings, whether thats from caffeine withdrawal, overwork, or just feeling super irritated at the state of the world right now.


Mmmmmm, rose. Seriously, once I invited rose into my life I realized how much I needed her. After Trump got elected, I think I downed several ounces of rose glycerite over the course of a few days. The cultural significance of roses is actually very similar to their medicinal and energetic qualities — we give roses to show someone we love them, and indeed, roses are medicine for the emotional( heart. Heartbreak, heartache, closed hearts; rose brings a magic of re-opening the heart space and allowing us to fully express ourselves while also feeling safe and protected. Think of the essence of the rosebush — those flowers are seriously beautiful and showy and smell divine, but if you try to trample it you will regret it. Rose allows us to bloom fully, and simultaneously feel safe in our vulnerability and expressiveness by having strong boundaries. For those of us who struggle with anxious thoughts and stress, this can show up in our lives as feeling stifled, restricted, and/or letting other people walk all over us. Rose shows us gently that there are other ways of being. Not to mention it tastes great and in herbal tradition is said to help all the other herbs in the formula “get to the heart” of the issue. I love hearing testimonials from folks who have used this formula, so if you have one please share! And if you haven’t already tried Nerve Elixir or any of the herbs contained within, February can be a great time to show yourself some love and give your nervous system a treat. You might find after working with some of these plants that the words of Anais Nin will begin to ring true for you, and the day will come “when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

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