Nervines- Herbs for the Nervous System

Nervines are plant remedies that have a beneficial effect on the nervous system.

3 categories of nervines:

  • Nervine Tonics: ex. oats, eleuthero (often adaptogenic herbs)
  • Nervine Relaxants: ex. Skullcap, passionflower, blue vervain
  • Nervine Stimulants: ex. Cola nut, guarana, coffee

Why Herbs? You Ask

Antidepressant pharmaceutical drugs restrict emotional range and drain vitality. SSRI’s are addictive. They change the structure of your brain by reducing the amount of receptor sites for serotonin. They also decrease serotonin production over time so you end up with less serotonin and fewer receptors. This actually causes more depression in the long run by creating a vicious cycle and unbearable withdrawal symptoms.


By leveling out the emotions, the growth process is stopped. Depression is a message from the soul that you are off track. Something needs to change. Herbalist David Winston writes, “Over the years I have seen many patients who were helped by conventional treatments only to continue to stay in bad jobs, bad relationships, and unhappy circumstances.

They could function better, but were still lacking in joy and contentment.” Of course, temporary use of pharmaceuticals has saved many lives, however, we were never meant to stay on them for long periods of time. They certainly are not a solution.


As we reside in a sympathetic state, nervous anxiety and overstimulation tend to build up with no outlet for the adrenaline and hormones we’ve accumulated. Most anxiety is due to over-active lifestyles and frantic behavior like rushing around, thinking too fast, and not going at our resonant pace. That pace becomes a habit. Slow down. Breathe. Check for hyperthyroidism.
*Coffee increases stress hormones by up to 200%! This depletes our adrenal glands and energy reserves, creating a dependency on stimulants and creates a chronic state of stress. (An occasional cup of coffee can lift up the spirits.)

The solution?

Exercise! Get into your body! Anxiety calls for herbs that restore and relax both the Central and Sympathetic nervous systems, so you’ll want to work with tonics and relaxants like skullcap, oats, and eleuthero, (and shavasana, creative visualization…) Caffeine and chocolate exacerbate the problem. Stay away from stimulants completely for a while.

Herbs for calming and relaxing (Anxiety and Insomnia): include oats, chamomile, blue vervain, skullcap, passionflower, hawthorn, motherwort, hops, and kava.

Hyperactive, stressed out– type A people: try milky oats with adaptogens.