Nervines for Postpartum Anxiety

Nervines are excellent herbal allies for soothing postpartum anxiety. These nerve tonics offer gentle relaxation and calm without being too sedative. They restore emotional balance while nourishing the nerves and nervous system. Nervines specifically “help calm anxiety, heart, and GI tract symptoms caused by stress, mild sleeplessness, [and] irritability” (Winston & Maimes 206). They include antidepressant, pain relieving, and sleep enhancing qualities.

Let’s explore some of the best nervines for postpartum anxiety.

Catnip

These leaves are excellent for mild pain relief, encouraging sleep, and soothing colicky babies. Freely enjoy the pleasant-tasting tea.

Chamomile

Chamomile is a lovely friend for soothing postpartum exhaustion and tension. This truly relaxing herb offers relief from anxiety, upset stomach, irritability, nervous headaches, insomnia, IBS, PMS, menstrual cramps, and stress-induced GI symptoms. Chamomile is especially useful for erratic moods. It encourages sleep in adults and children. Chamomile soothes teething babes and alleviates colic when taken by the breastfeeding mother.

Enjoy a cup or more of tea or infusion daily. Steep no more than 30 minutes. Delicious with milk and honey.

Fresh Milky Oat Tops

Milky oat tops are one of the greatest foods for the nervous system. This herb calms shattered nerves and relieves emotional instability. Oat tops help restore a sense of peace and tranquility to overstressed mamas.

Suggested dose is 80-100 drops of tincture, up to three or four times per day. You may notice an increase in milk supply as oats are a well-known galactagogue.

Hawthorn

Hawthorn is a restorative food for the heart and circulatory system. It addresses anxiety, insomnia, bad dreams, palpitations, and irritability. Hawthorn can help with the incessant talking that sometimes accompanies postpartum anxiety. Additionally, it addresses the inability to concentrate, a common symptom of both postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.

Try the tincture at 60-80 drops, up to four times per day or the infusion, up to one quart in a day.

Lavender

This beautiful flower is calming and gives strength of spirit. Lavender is especially beneficial in aromatherapy. Perfect in a new mama self-care routine; enjoy it as a bath herb, in massage oil, or place the essential oil in a diffuser. Lavender is also delightful as a mild tea. It is also a galactagogue.

Lemon Balm

According to herbalist Susun Weed, lemon balm is “considered a specific for helping one cope with life situations that are difficult to accept, such as the many unexpected changes a new child bring to its parents” (83). It is a favorite for melancholy, depression, hysteria, and stress headaches.

Enjoy one or two cups of the delicious infusion with milk and honey. Take daily for a week or two as a major mood improver. You may alternatively try 80-100 drops of the tincture, up to four times a day. Lemon balm may be a galactagogue.

Linden

This delightful herb is a mild antidepressant and helps to lower blood pressure. Enjoy as a tea or infusion.

Passionflower

Of the nervines, passionflower has the most sedative effect. Passionflower is specific for treating circular thinking that causes insomnia—the racing thoughts all too familiar to moms with postpartum anxiety. It is also helpful for stress-induced headaches, anxiety, and teeth grinding.

Try the tea or 60-80 drops of tincture, up to three to four times per day.

Skullcap

Skullcap is an incredible ally for addressing postpartum anxiety and pain. It is particularly helpful for inducing peaceful sleep. Try five drops of tincture in warm water. It may take up to a dropperful to take effect.

St. John’s Wort

This nervine is considered one of the best herbs for mild to moderate depression with a sour disposition and “sour stomach” (Winston & Maimes 219). It is wonderful for lifting the emotional and mental darkness that accompanies postpartum depression and anxiety. St. John’s offers pain relief to nerves and muscles while reducing inflammation.

Dosage varies upon needs. If treating pain, try 15-25 drops tincture in a glass of water every few hours as needed. St. John’s Wort may be a galactagogue.

Making tea & infusions, purchasing tinctures

For tea: Place one teaspoon of herb in one cup freshly boiled water. Steep covered for several minutes.

For infusion: Place one cup dried herb in one quart freshly boiled water. Steep covered for four hours or overnight. Flowers and seeds are exceptions to this guideline, requiring no more than 30 minutes steeping time.

Be sure to purchase high-quality tinctures. Some great resources are Herb Pharm, Gaia Herbs, and Mountain Rose Herbs.

If you currently take prescription medication, please check for contraindications. Consider consulting an herbalist as well. To our knowledge, these herbs are all safe for breastfeeding mothers. See our article Herbal Safety Tips for Breastfeeding Moms.

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References:

  1. Humphrey, Sheila. The Nursing Mother’s Herbal. Minneapolis, MN, Fairview Press, 2003.
  2. Erin. “Understanding Nervines & Adaptogens.” The Mountain Rose Blog, Mountain Rose Herbs, 18 Feb. 2013, mountainroseblog.com/understanding-nervines-adaptogens/.
  3. Weed, Susun S. Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year. Woodstock, NY, Ash Tree Pub., 1985.
  4. Winston, David, and Steven Maimes. Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Rochester, VT, Healing Arts Press, 2007.
Nena Complo

Nena Complo offers women and families holistic support throughout the childbearing years. She is a holistic birth & postpartum doula, yoga teacher, and midwifery student. Nena lives with her sweet husband and their two radiant daughters in LoveLand, Ohio.