Calming Teas
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Owen Hartman
Posted on: January 20, 1999

What sage variety should I grow for Tea Sage? The variety of sage I’m looking for is supposed to have a calming effect when consumed. So we want to try some on our moms who have just had babies to help calm them and let the babies feed better.

Also, which sage would I grow indoors to have that beautiful smell that native prairie has especially in the spring. Or is it sage that I smell?

The name "sage" has been given to many plants. Most commonly it refers to members of the Salvia genus, which includes the garden sage (Salvia officinalis) used in cooking. "Sage" is also applied to members of the Artemisia genus, which includes the sagebrushes such as the silver sagebrush (Artemisia cana; also known as blue sage) that grows in the mid West from the Sierra Nevada north to Canada.

The sages, either the Salvias or the Artemisias, are not particularly known for calming or sedative effects. However a common theme among plants of both groups is their positive effect on the digestive system. In fact, a number of the Artemisias known as wormwoods are included in after dinner bitters that are famous for improving digestion.

Why is digestion significant? There is a growing understanding, perhaps a rediscovery really of an old wisdom, that digestion is closely tied to the nervous system. That is: if the nervous state is unsettled, frequently the digestive system will be adversely affected; and vice versa, if the digestive system is disturbed (as might happen after eating spicy food or too much greasy food) then the nerves can become more active making it difficult to relax or get good sleep.

The thinking, then, is that if you can take something that will settle the stomach and the bowels the whole nervous system tends to calm down. In the case of the various sages, they may indeed have an indirect calming effect via the digestive system.

You don’t have to have disturbed digestion to benefit from digestive herbs such as the sages: these herbs benefit even when there is no apparent digestive upset, working to improve the efficiency of digestion, with the possible side effect of subtly calming the nerves also.

There are other herb teas that are calming. Some act more directly on the nervous system, and others act on various other bodily systems that, like the digestive system, seem to have some link to the nerves. The following herbs are known to have some calming or sedative effect:

* chamomile (another digestive tea, said to prevent nightmares)

* catnip (another digestive tea; makes a soothing nightcap)

* linden (soothes nerves and aids digestion)

* bergamot (sleep-inducing; was substitute for oriental tea during U.S. Revolutionary War)

* lemon balm

More potent sedative teas include:

* scullcap

* blue vervain

* valerian

* hops

John Lust, in his "The Herb Book" (available from Richters), gives four herb tea recipes for calming the nerves using some of the above herbs and others.

For much information of using herbs to calm the nerves, there are two little handy guides available from Richters: "Herbs to Relieve Stress" and "Herbs for a Good Night’s Sleep".

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