Green cures for the mind

In nature there are many plants that act on our brain. Just use them the right way.

In nature there are many plants that act on our brain. Just know them and use them the right way.

Tension, nervousness, excessive concern for loved ones and work, for possible failures. And then insomnia, crying that gushes easily, fear of competition, emotional breakdown.

They are the faces of anxiety , a temporary reaction to stress that risks turning into illness when it persists and prevents the smooth running of daily life.

In Italy, 16 out of 100 people suffer from it and the percentage, according to experts, is destined to rise.

Doctors usually prescribe anxiolytics to sedate her. But drugs are not the only remedy: help also comes from nature, exploiting the beneficial properties of some plants.

For example, taking a chamomile tea in case of nervousness is advice as old as the world. And it could work, although research indicates that the popular chamomile is above all an anti-inflammatory and protective for the stomach, so useful if the discomfort is due to digestive difficulties, especially if caused by alcohol or anti-inflammatory drugs.

Natural remedies for anxiety, insomnia and other ailments, however, are not lacking. To be used alone or in combination, in the form of herbal teas or preparations, but always under the supervision of a doctor or pharmacist. And verifying that the chosen product contains a sufficient quantity of active ingredients.

Plants that lower tensions

The plant of tranquility by definition is valerian ( Valeriana officinalis ), which is attributed with sedative and spasmolytic properties on the central nervous system. In addition, it promotes sleep. Its merit lies in inducing an increase in the levels of a neurotransmitter, gaba (gamma-amino-butyric acid) which has an inhibitory effect on the central nervous system. Finally, valerian can enhance the action of melatonin, a substance that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. It is the roots that contain active ingredients such as valerenic acids, and the valepotriates that make it a mild but effective sedative, which acts with a mechanism similar to that of benzodiazepines.

It is therefore necessary to pay attention to the possible interactions with these drugs (benzodiazepines are among the most common anxiolytics) but also with alcohol and antihistamines .

Valerian is available in different preparations, also in combination with other plants such as hawthorn , lemon balm, passion flower or linden, each with particular characteristics.

Hawthorn in particular is anxiolytic and antihypertensive – therefore not suitable for those with low blood pressure – which facilitates muscle relaxation and regulates the heartbeat . The flowers and fruits of the hawthorn ( Crataegus oxyacantha or monogyna ) contain tannins and flavonoids capable of acting at the level of the central nervous system, reducing emotions and states of tension and improving sleep.

While the fragrant lemon balm, also known as lemon verbena, is particularly effective when anxiety results in visceral disorders such as gastritis , nausea and colitis. In addition, this plant ( Melissa officinalis ) is an excellent remedy for sporadic insomnia, especially when it is caused by an inability to relax due to temporary anxieties and stress. Mildly calming it improves sleep and reduces nocturnal awakenings. Although herbal teas and infusions are also effective, when possible it is always better to rely on titrated dry extracts of medicinal plants. This is because in these preparations the active ingredients are more concentrated and the doses are controlled and uniform.

Passiflora or passion flower also acts on the digestive system, so renamed because it was imported into Europe by the Spanish missionaries who saw in its flower the signs of the passion of Christ: be careful, however, that in high doses the passion flower can increase the effect of sleeping pills and barbiturates and cause hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness) when used together with St. John ‘s wort . Passionflower contains alkaloids, pectins and flavonoids capable of binding to the brain receptors for benzodiazepines, producing the same anxiolytic and sedative effects of these pharmacological substances.

With tranquility you can use instead the lime tree, a widespread ornamental plant known for its scent. This plant, whose scientific name is  Tilia tomentosa , contains various active ingredients including tannins, effective in the treatment of anxiety syndromes and insomnia that derives from these conditions. The flowers are used in combination with other herbs, or in the form of herbal tea with a mild sedative power, also suitable for children especially if sweetened with a spoonful of honey.

Some caution is necessary instead with the escolzia or Californian poppy, which belongs to the same family as the opium poppy and is rich in alkaloids that act on the central nervous system. It is able to reduce the activity of the cells of the cerebral cortex, promoting muscle relaxation and stimulating sleep, and also has a pain-relieving action because it acts as a sedative of the central nervous system. It works effectively in women, less so in men. It is best to use it preferably when safer remedies, such as valerian, are not effective, and in any case for short periods and paying attention to possible interactions with drugs that act on the central nervous system or on the cardiovascular system.

Finally, among the best known and most used “relaxing” pints there is certainly chamomile ( Chamomilla recutita ) whose mildly sedative action depends on the presence of apigenin, which binds directly to the same receptors to which benzodiazepines, anxiolytic drugs, bind. This makes it a remedy for relieving anxiety and irritability, treating insomnia and other sleep disorders, although too high doses can induce opposite effects.

To drive away the sadness

Help from plants can also come for those suffering from depression . Naturally, we are talking about hypericum, one of the most used plant extracts: many studies show that it has an efficacy comparable to that of psychotropic drugs in the treatment of mild and moderate depression, and more recent research also indicates an anti-stress and anti-anxiety action.

Before starting a treatment, however, it is important to contact your doctor, both to choose the most effective product – not always the preparations on the market contain sufficient doses of the active ingredient – and because hypericum, in addition to presenting some risk of photosensitization for those exposed in the sun during treatment, it interferes with the activity of various medications including the birth control pill , other antidepressants, and some antibiotics and anti- migraines.

Always young brain with Ginkgo

A review of “plants for the mind” cannot end without mentioning Ginkgo biloba , a true living fossil from whose leaves active ingredients are extracted which are widely used in the prevention of brain aging and memory disorders, even if the results of scientific studies appear still contradictory.

The extract is often used in association with hypericum or ginseng , a common name of a family of 11 plants including eleutherococcus or Siberian ginseng, which helps to combat mental fatigue.

Remember that ginkgo should be used with caution by those who suffer from blood clotting disorders or are on anticoagulant drugs and aspirin, while ginseng can cause insomnia and restlessness.


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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