Clinical Correspondence

Enclosed are a few additional thoughts to add to the wonderful article on nervines by Debra Francis (Medical Herbalism, Volume 12, Number 1)

David Winston, Herbalist, AHG

St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum): First and foremost a nerve tonic, useful for nerve damage and pain, including phantom limb pain, sciatica, and facial nerve pain. It is also beneficial for PMS and menopausal anxiety and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) with melissa. I would note that a substantial number of people have had photo-sensitivity reactions to the topical oil and would suggest avoiding its use as a sunscreen.

Motherwort (Leonurus cardica): Useful for hypo-thyroid conditions with palpitations, menopausal and PMS anxiety (use it with Verbena hastata). It is a superb remedy for frazzled moms who suffer from what is called Super Woman syndrome. I also find leonuris effective for white coat hypertension with linden flower and hawthorn.

Fresh oat (Avena sativa): May be our most effective tropho-restorative for the nervous system. It is very effective for neurasthenia (nervous exhaustion). Think of using it for people who are emotionally depleted, become over-reactive, jumpy, anxious and easily irritated. It is also used for sexual neurasthenia due to emotional exhaustion.

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna or C. oxycanthoides): Mostly thought of as a cardiovascular tonic. It is also an excellent nervine. In TCM the heart stores shen (consciousness) and hawthorn is beneficial for disturbed shen conditions especially ADD and ADHD. It is also of use for nervous palpitations used with leonuris.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): A mild antidepressant and mood elevator. Use it with St. Johnswort for SAD and with hawthorne and linden for mild hypertension. It can also be used with chamomile, hawthorn and bacopa for ADD and ADHD in children.

Scullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora): Is a wonderful nervine useful for nervous exhaustion and anxiety. It is especially indicated for liver wind conditions such as spasms, tremors, palsies, nervous tics, restless leg syndrome, and Parkinson's Disease tremors.

Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa): Is a herb with a wide range of uses affecting the female and male reproductive tracts, the musculo-skeletal system, the lungs and nervous system. Its effects on the nervous system are substantial. It is therapeutically useful for black cloud (doom & gloom) depression, which I find seems to be hormonally mediated. I use it frequently for menopausal depression with cactus with excellent results.

Lavender (Lavendula spp.): Rarely thought of as a "nervous system" herb, but it has decided activity. In addition to its use for insomnia (long sleep latency and insomnia of old age), I use it with rosemary, basil, or damiana for stagnant depression. This is a situational depression often associated with emotional trauma. The patient seems to be "stuck" on this event replaying it over and over in their minds.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): A well-known nervine appropriate for infants, children and adults. It is useful for children with ADD, ADHD, nervous headaches, bruxism, mild insomnia, fussy, teething babies, cranky kids, and for night terrors (use with Rescue Remedy).

California poppy (Eschscholtzia californica): The roots of this beautiful herb are much stronger than the leaves or flowers, but the entire plant can be utilized. Eschscholtzia is an effective anodyne, sedative, and antianxiolytic. It can be used for insomnia with pain with Corydalis cava (80/20), for adults with ADHD, spasmodic headaches, and with leonuris, verbena, or kava for acute anxiety.

Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata): The specific indications for passiflora are patients who can't sleep due to circular thinking. These patients can't turn off their minds and thus can't relax. Passiflora combines well with lavender, scutellaria, and chamomile. Passiflora is also appropriate for spasmodic nerve and muscle pain and tension headaches.

Blue vervain (Verbena hastata): Is an under utilized medicine especially useful for spasmodic nervous disorders. It is indicated for petit mal epilepsy, facial tics, and spasmodic headaches. It is also of great use for anxiety (PMS & menopausal) used with motherwort. Use verbena in small doses and add carminative herbs to prevent nausea.

Linden flower (Tilea spp.): A pleasant tasting nervine used in Europe as a beverage tea and medicine. It can be used for white coat hypertension, nervous headaches, and insomnia.

Wood betony (Pedicularis spp.): This little-known herb is a useful nervine which can be effective for tension headaches, TMJ pain and bruxism. It is especially indicated for sore, tired, overworked muscles caused by overexertion.


By David Winston

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