Although clinical anxiety is most often treated with pharmaceutical intervention and counseling therapy, herbal medicine has a lot to offer and teach us in the way of mental health.

Traditional medical philosophies remind us that the physical and mental body are deeply, inextricably intertwined, and we can use and think about these principles when managing mental health conditions like anxiety. CBD is the perfect example of an herb that helps nourish the mind and emotions by working through the body.

This becomes more apparent when we have a look at CBD’s most vital targets in the body: the head (or mind), and the gastrointestinal tract.

CBD has been on the receiving end of some serious media buzz for its potential to treat mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and insomnia. At the same time, it’s highly regarded by scientists like Ethan Russo for its potential to treat gastrointestinal problems that are otherwise treatment resistant, like Crohn’s Disease and other forms of IBD.

Often with mental health conditions such as anxiety, there’s an opportunity to “look in the belly” for signs of distress. This is why we sometimes say that a belly can be “nervous”, or “sour”, or “atonic”. These aren’t really physiological symptoms, but rather, they are energetic feelings produced by a dysfunction of the belly. 

This is one example of how we could use the belly as a potential portal for treating “nervousness”, “sourness” and “atony”. 

As an herbalist, I’m always fascinated by the places that we can store disharmonious humours (or energetics) in different organs. Sometimes, the symptoms of this are mental, even if there are no physical manifestations. Then, those organs become a means of purging that disharmonious humour.

And you’d be amazed by how differently anxiety can manifest in a person depending on where it’s being stored in the body.

Pretty remarkable, right?

In this article, I’m going to share some of my most popular (read: most effective) herbal recipes for anxiety that also include CBD. The recipes are different depending on what kind of anxiety is present, where it’s stored in the body, and how that manifests in a person. Please – don’t use this as a way to self-diagnose or as replacement for medical advice. That, dear friends, is the job of your doctor.

Different kinds of “clinical” anxiety

There is a long list of symptoms that makes up the general understanding of clinical anxiety. Here are some examples of those symptoms:

  • Nervousness, restlessness or tenseness
  • A sense of impending doom or fear
  • Difficulty controlling worry and excessive worry
  • Panic
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating

There’s a combination of different emotional and physical states that make up the clinical picture of anxiety. But in herbal medicine, fear and worry are two distinct emotions and they are housed in different parts of the body. For example, excessive worry may be housed in the stomach, causing a nervous, sour, colicky stomach. But a sense of impending doom and fear is housed in the kidneys, making it difficult to efficiently excrete waste products from the blood. That waste continues to circulate and accumulate, becoming morbid… and the sense of doom continues.

In this way, depending on how anxiety presents itself in a person, different herbal formulas should be chosen to manage that. It’s what makes a certain cup of tea therapeutic for one person, but just a delicious drink for another person. 

OK – we’ve talked a lot about the mechanics of anxiety now.

So I won’t make you wait any longer for those delicious tisane recipes. Let’s get brewing!

1. For the nervous anxiety type: CBD, chamomile, & californian poppy

Chamomile buds fall out of a jar.

I like to call this the CCC recipe. It contains CBD, chamomile, and californian poppy.

So who might get the most out of this tea?

The nervous anxiety type is the person who doesn’t necessarily feel anxious every day, but gets arrested by it when the trigger arrives. You know you’re right for the CCC recipe if you are the kind of person who lives their stress 100 times over. Someone speaks to you the wrong way at the bus stop, then you call your friend and repeat the story, and then when you get home, you live through the story all over again with your housemates. Each time you recount the story, all the feelings bubble up in you all over again. You’re literally arrested by the trigger.

When it happens, there’s usually an aspect of a nervous belly. There’s an element of anger or rage in this kind of anxiety, and a strong sense of entitlement. There can be a sudden urge to go to the toilet, and the belly itself starts to “run away” with the sensations. 

The CCC recipe has two main functions. The first is to cool down the belly that has become hot with bile. The second is to cool down the mind, which consequently becomes hot from the vapours travelling upwards from the belly. 

To make this tea, simply:

  • Add 1 teaspoon of chamomile and californian poppy to 150 mL of boiling water. Let it steep for 10 minutes.
  • Strain into a cup and add your desired dose of CBD oil.

Enjoy the taste and your new state of calm.

2. For the fearful anxiety type: CBD, juniper berries, & valerian root

Juniper berries on table ready to consume.

Earlier in this article, we talked about the “impending doom” person picture. This kind of anxiety sufferer is constantly afraid, whether it’s fear of losing a loved one, fear of the end of the world, or even fear that a secret will come out of the closet. In any case, this kind of anxiety is usually longer-lived than the “nervous” type. It can occur every day, and its severity can fluctuate.

Fear lives in our kidneys, and as an herbalist, should I encounter the fearful anxiety type, would look to the kidneys as one of the first lines of treatment. The kidneys have a downward flow of energy (producing urine), and so does fear. When fear clogs up the kidneys, there can be slow or infrequent urination. There can also be “swellings” in the body, accumulations of morbid fluid that should have otherwise been expelled. The kidneys are home of the element of “letting go”. And when they are functioning properly, it’s generally easy to let go of fear and anxiety. 

In this kind of anxiety, there can also be sudden and uncontrolled urination. It happens sometimes to children when they are confronted with something particularly terrifying. When it occurs in adults, we generally accept that there’s an underlying emotional or neurological problem. 

FInally, this excess morbid fluid that accumulates can try to escape the body in the form of tears or night sweats. It’s a kind of cold, depressing fluid, unlike the heat associated with the nervous type of anxiety. It slows a person down, makes sleeping difficult and makes it next to impossible to feel the warmth associated with joy and happiness.

This recipe has two main functions. The first is to warm the kidneys and belly to loosen up fluids in the body and encourage the downward flow of energy. The second is to bring on sleep, which is a moment of relaxation that allows the body to restore its normal function.

This tea is best enjoyed at night. To prepare it, simply:

  1. Add one teaspoon of juniper berries and one teaspoon of valerian root to 150 mL of boiling water. Allow it to steep for 15 minutes.
  2. Strain into a cup and add your desired dose of CBD (larger doses are tolerated here, as this is a night time recipe).

Enjoy the taste, and a warm night’s sleep.

3. For the grief type of anxiety: CBD, anise, rose petals, and lemon balm

Rose buds prepared in tea cup.

Finally, there is the anxiety that is caused by prolonged grief. It’s the “I can’t breathe” kind of anxiety that leads to panic attacks. In some kinds of traditional medicine, the space inside the lungs is called “psychic space”, and it’s what gives a person the sensation that they have “breathing space”. When that breathing room is taken away (because grief invades it), there can be the sensation of not being able to breathe. This is a common symptom of anxiety attacks.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the lungs are the first accumulation site of grief. There can be an ongoing issue with lung health, such as chronic asthma. It’s restrictive and suffocates the individual from the inside out. It literally robs the person of the vital energy of breath. 

The lungs and the heart are closely related. Aside from the fact that they are close in physical proximity, the lungs oxygenate the blood that the heart distributes around the body. So what happens in the lungs naturally affects the heart, and what happens in the heart also affects the job of the lungs. And this is why this herbal tea recipe also nourishes the heart.

So – this recipe has a few functions. The first is to open up the lungs and to fill them with pride and courage. The second is to soothe feelings of sadness and grief that can explode into anxiety. Finally, the rose petals nourish the subtle element of the heart, preventing it from the spasm caused by the feeling that there is no breathing space.

To make this recipe, simply:

  • Add one teaspoon of lemon balm and one teaspoon of rose petals to 150 mL of boiling water. Add 2 or 3 star anise, too. Let it steep for 10 minutes
  • Strain into a cup and add your preferred dose of CBD. 

Enjoy the taste, and your new breathing space.

A world of personalised medicine

Hopefully this article sheds some light on the more dynamic ways we can understand mental health. If it’s anything that herbalism has taught me, it’s that it’s unfair to lump all sufferers of a particular disease in a single compartment. Each and every body truly is different, and putting everyone under the same umbrella somewhat trivializes what that person is going through.

The three recipes I provided in this article are much closer to personalised medicine, although the true essence of personalised medicine can only really happen in the clinic after consultation. But even anxiety has many forms, and it’s more pertinent to treat the person based on the form that presents itself. 

Let us know in the comments which recipe you tried and how it worked for you!

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