Word Of The Week

This week’s word is yet another “action” given to herbal medicine:  NERVINE.

A nervine in simple terms is any substance that is nourishing and calming to the nerves.  Their function is to feed, regulate, strengthen, and rehabilitate the nerves cells.  There are tonic and relaxant nervines which lessen the aberration, irritability, or pain in the nerves.   An herbalist believes that drugs should never be used to stimulate the nerves. This is because this form of stimulation is irritating to the nerve fiber itself and counterproductive to improving nerve fiber function.  Nerves are in essence live electrical wires with electrical impulses running through them at all times.  Our brains gather information from these nerve impulses and react instantly, an amazing creation we are.  Without going into the Nervous System fully, (that is another post 🙂 ), just know that many problems arise from the nerves being shorted out, frayed, malnourished, or stimulated too much.

The two main categories of nervines as I mentioned are tonic and relaxants.  Let’s look at some of each.

Tonic nervines strengthen and nourish tissue thus supporting organ and body functions.  And that’s what Vitalistic herbalists want, to support and help the function of the body.  Some tonic herbs are:  Oats, yes regular oatmeal not instant, oat straw, damiana, blue vervain, skullcap, and wood betony.




English: Wood Betony (Stachys officinalis ) An...

wood betony

Relaxant nervines lower the functional activity of the nerves engendering a calming effect.  I can hear you now “You said herbalists support the function of the body!”  That is absolutely right. There are times, whether due to malnourishment, over stimulation, or emotional upset, when the body is functioning too high.  And in the case of nerves – pain is produced, and no one wants to be in pain. So sedatives are a great way to alleviate the pain while nervine herbs along with other herbs work to nourish and cleanse to help bring back healthy functioning tissue.  Pain is our bodies’ number one way of telling us something is wrong.  If we simply take a pain reliever, the actual problem is ignored.  Because we feel better, we continue with movement that further damages tissue and the drug used can debilitate tissue to the point of damage for life.  Some relaxant herbs are:  Black cohosh, bugleweed, chamomile, catnip, cramp bark, hops, lady’s slipper, lobelia, peppermint, skullcap, and valerian.


Chamomile (Photo credit: Lynne Hand)

Headaches, stress, anxiety, depression, pms, hyperactivity, insomnia, MS, and shingles are some ailments that have been helped by the use of a nervine or a combo of nervines, anti-spasmodic and/or demulcent herbs.  Do your research to find what combo is best for you.

Love life and breathe deep,



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