|Nervine tonics act therapeutically on the nervous system to strengthen and restore it. They support the brain and help heal damaged nerves. They are also known as nervous system trophorestoratives. They offer a safe, nonaddictive way to help people maintain emotional balance.
Nervine tonics have the ability to provide key nutrients to feed the nervous system, as well as provide sedative properties to calm the mind and reduce worry which are essential during times of depletion such as nervous exhaustion, anxiety, stress and restlessness. They are also indicated in neuralgia, herpes infection, depression and insomnia.
The nervine tonics are a diverse class of herbs that have been widely used historically. Each herb requires detailed study to gain a better understanding of its specific indications. For example gotu kola is a nootropic (cognitive enhancing) and tends to be a little more energising to the nervous system while oats is more nutritive and subtle in its action.
Here is a selection of nervine tonics:
Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri): Bacopa is a very important plant in Ayurvedic medicine where it has been used for almost 3000 years. Ayurvedic practitioners typically use bacopa as a mental/nervous restorative to calm and balance the mind. It combines attributes of a multifaceted nervine, an adaptogen and a cognitive enhancer useful for treatment with patients in which anxiety, depression or mental function issues. Bacopa is also called brahmi, a Sanskrit name it shares with another nervine tonic, gotu kola (Centella asiatica) because both herbs are used to improve mental health, intellectual functioning and memory as well as promoting longevity and system restoration.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): The definition of balm is to heal and soothe, and this calming and delicious plant does just that. Lemon balm is specifically indicated when digestive symptoms associated with anxiety or depressive states are present. The German Commission E has approved the use of lemon balm for addressing nervous sleeping disorders and functional gastrointestinal complaints. Clinicians often prescribe lemon balm as a mild mood elevator. It is also indicated in viral herpes infection.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris): With a mild nervine tonic action mugwort can ease depression and tension, especially where associated with digestive weakness. Mugwort has been used traditionally in European folk medicine for aiding digestion because it is an aromatic bitter herb used for increasing digestion by stimulating digestive and bile secretions as well as helping to expel wind and relieve bloating. Author of A Modern Herbal (1931), Maude Grieve, says “as a nervine mugwort is valued in palsy, fits, epileptic and similar affections, being an old-fashioned popular remedy for epilepsy (especially in persons of a feeble constitution).”
Oats (seed and green) (Avena sativa): One of the safest and most popular nervine tonics is oats which is considered to have a rebuilding and restorative effect. It is specific to people who are going through acute nervous exhaustion.
Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata): Passion flower is frequently used in herbal sleep formulas as well as in calming formulas for treating anxiety. The German Commission E has approved the use of passion flower for addressing nervous restlessness.
Vervain (Verbena officinalis): As a nervine tonic vervain is often used when there is a component of anger or agitation present in the patient. Herbalist Michael Moore, director of the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, Bisbee, Arizona, gives the following clinical picture of a patient who is likely to benefit from the use of verbena. “Verbena is useful in a flushed, red faced or angry person, it is a menopausal nervine that chills and calms, allowing sleep; it also quiets those sudden angry outbursts that frequently occur in perimenopause. It will have the same effect on younger women with outbursts related to premenstrual syndrome. Dr. Moore also considers vervain to be a great occasional herb to use for children who are worked up, red in the face, overexcited and unable to calm down.”
Dip, Herbal Medicine