Your nervous system is one of the most important systems of your body. Comprised of your brain, spinal column, and peripheral nerves, your nervous system contains neurons which send messages to the cells of your body to tell it what to do. Your nervous system also produces your neurotransmitters, including your “feel-good” hormones serotonin, dopamine and GABA.
The nervous system plays a major role in the stress response, your mood and emotions, making it essential to nurture in times of stress, or when you feel your mood or energy are not at the level they should be. Neurotransmitter dysfunction can result in symptoms of anxiety, depression or insomnia.
If your nervous system needs some nourishment, here are some dietary and lifestyle strategies to put in place:
1. Take a look at your diet. Food is medicine, and you need to make sure you are feeding your nervous system the medicine it needs. If in doubt, eat a rainbow! Include every coloured fruit and vegetable you can get your hands on. Foods with naturally vibrant colours are packed with phytonutrients – the dense vitamins and minerals found in plant foods – which your nervous system loves to feast on to promote good moods and energy.
2. Do something which brings you joy. I’m talking passionate, intense, amazing joy. Do it as often as you can. 3-4 times a week, if not every day. This could just be half an hour of your time, immersed in your passion. Doing the things we love, and spending time with the people we love, promotes the production of neurotransmitters in our nervous system. This lifts our mood, and gives us the motivation to complete tasks which don’t give us quite as much joy. Set time aside, you’ll look forward to this time and cherish it.
3. Get outside. Fresh air, sunshine and ‘green space’ (being out in nature) are all elements your nervous system loves. Sunshine on your skin gives you Vitamin D, which functions in the body as a hormone rather than a vitamin, to increase the production of the ‘happy’ neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and GABA, and increase your sex hormones to raise libido.
4. Drink herbal tea with mindfulness. See our blog on Tea and Mindful Meditation to explore how to get the most of the full sensory ceremony of enjoying herbal tea, engaging with your tea, and maximising the nourishment it provides.
If you are an avid herbal tea drinker, I have great news for you. Many of the herbs used for nervous system support in Western Herbal Medicine make delicious herbal teas.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a nervous system tonic used to reduce anxiety and help promote sleep in those with insomnia. As a herbal tea, its flavour is soft and grassy, imparting a soothing experience to your herbal tea time.
Lavender (Lavendula officinalis) is a well-known herbal antidepressant and nervous system relaxant. The good news is, lavender tea is completely safe to take concurrently with antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, making it a beautiful complementary therapy. Those who love floral flavours, with love lavender in their herbal tea blend.
Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) settles the mind and he tummy at the same time. Often, when our nervous system is out of whack, our gut is also playing up. This is because our gut and nervous system are so closely linked. Often called the “second brain”, the gut produces the majority of serotonin, our happy hormone, which it then sends to the nervous system. Chamomile is the first tea to go-to if your gut and brain both need nourishment, as it has a soothing effect on both systems.
Damiana (Turnera diffusa) is known as an ancient herbal tonic, antidepressant, and reputed aphrodisiac. As a tonic, it literally tones the nervous system, promoting overall wellness, and enhancing the production of neurotransmitters and “happy” hormones. It’s taste is unique and pleasant when made as a herbal tea, and drinking it promotes feelings of wellness and bliss.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), has an uplifting citrus flavour which calms the mind and lifts the spirit. It is also a known nervous system tonic, and can help calm anxious or irritable feelings. It can be used to refresh the senses during a busy or stressful time, when you feel you need to hit the ‘reset’ button, or of and evening to mentally de-brief and wind down after a busy day.
Infuse Herbal Teas Chill Out: Relaxation Blend contains lavender, passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm and lemon peel, and is a beautiful nervous system tonic to calm the body and mind. It can be enjoyed of an evening to help promote sleep, on a lazy weekend while relaxing, or when feelings of stress or anxiety are peaking.
Nourishing your nervous system with diet, lifestyle activities, and herbal tea, ensures you and your mind are at ease. When your nervous system is functioning well, your ability to cope with stress improves, and you spread beautiful, infectious happiness wherever you go!
Written by Hayley Hinton, Naturopath &
creator of Infuse Herbal Teas.