Nervine Tonics 101: Natural Remedies for a Calmer Mind

Nervine Tonics 101: Natural Remedies for a Calmer Mind

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
June 26, 2024
7 min

If you’re seeking a natural way to calm your mind, improve your sleep, and boost your mental focus, nervine tonics are just what you need. For centuries, these herbs have been used to support the nervous system and promote overall well-being, offering a holistic approach to managing stress and anxiety. When used consistently, these herbs could be a valuable addition to your daily wellness routine so you can achieve a more balanced and resilient state of mind.

What are nervine tonics, and how do they work?

High levels of stress and anxiety can cause the nervous system to become overactive, resulting in a range of symptoms like restlessness, irritability, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms are the body’s way of letting us know that it’s struggling to cope with the demands placed on it. If the nervous system becomes overstimulated, it can enter a state of hyperarousal, making it difficult to relax or find peace.

Nervine tonics contain specialized compounds and other vital nutrients that help support nerve and adrenal health. As these herbs calm down overactive nervous systems, they help restore a sense of balance and tranquility. Similar to anti-anxiety medications, nervine tonics can reduce the excitatory signals in the brain in a more gentle, natural way. No matter what life throws your way, nervine tonics offer a holistic approach to supporting your overall resilience to the challenges of everyday life.

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Top nervine herbs and their benefits

Nervine Relaxants

Nervine relaxants promote calmness and soothe the mind, fostering a sense of peace. They can also help relieve the physical tension associated with stress and stabilize emotional balance.

1. Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora):

Skullcap is a part of the mint family and has been used traditionally in Native American herbal medicine. It contains compounds like baicalin, which help reduce anxiety, soothe nervous tension, and promote relaxation (1).

2. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla):

Chamomile is well-known for its calming effects and is commonly used to support restful sleep. It contains several flavonoids that bind to receptors in the brain, causing a mild, tranquilizing effect. Research has also found that chamomile could help increase levels of beneficial neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, which can help regulate mood (2).

3. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnate):

Passionflower is also traditionally used in Native American herbal medicine for its calming and nervine properties. It contains flavonoids and alkaloids, which have a gentle sedative effect on the body and help reduce restlessness and tension (3).

4. Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis):

Valerian root contains compounds like valerenic acid and valerenol, which have been found to modulate the GABA neurotransmitter. This effect contributes to its ability to reduce anxiety and improve sleep (4).

5. Milky Oats (Avena sativa):

Milky oats contain vitamins and minerals like B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc, which help support nervous system health (5). They have a direct calming effect on nerves and ward off effects related to nervous system imbalances such as anxiety and irritability. These relaxing properties can also promote better sleep patterns and reduce fatigue in the process (6).

6. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis):

Another fragrant herb from the mint family, lemon balm can calm stress and anxiety, enhance cognitive function, and lift mood by increasing GABA levels in the brain (7).

7. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia):

Lavendar’s soothing aroma and calming properties make it a widely popular herb for reducing anxiety, improving sleep, and regulating emotions (8) (9). Inhaling lavender essential oils has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate (10).

8. Kava Kava (Piper methysticum):

Kava Kava is a traditional herb from the Pacific Islands, consumed for its powerful relaxing effects. It contains compounds called kavalactones, which interact with GABA receptors to reduce anxiety and calm the body without reducing mental clarity (11).

9. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum):

St. John’s Wort is a commonly used natural herb for treating mild mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. It helps regulate the mood and emotional responses by increasing the production of neurotransmitters in the brain (12).

10. Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri):

Commonly used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine, Brahmi has been used by Indian herbalists for thousands of years to induce sleep and relieve stress. It is also known to improve brain function by boosting cerebral blood flow and stimulating neurotransmitters (13) (14).

Nervine Stimulants

Nervine stimulants can elevate mood, making you feel more positive and motivated. These herbs naturally increase energy levels and alertness, helping to combat fatigue and enhance mental sharpness. Since they directly stimulate the nervous system, nervine stimulants aren’t recommended during times of hyperactivity or nervousness.

1. Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis):

Yerba mate helps combat mental fatigue by stimulating the central nervous system (15). It contains natural stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, which can help maintain steady energy levels and boost alertness (16).

2. Green Tea (Camellia sinensis):

The L-theanine in green tea counteracts with its caffeine content, offering a smooth and sustained energy boost without the jitteriness associated with other stimulants. This combination allows for enhanced mental clarity and focus while promoting relaxation (17).

3. Coffee (Coffea arabica):

Coffee provides a quick and effective boost in energy, helping to combat fatigue. The high levels of caffeine in coffee can help improve multiple aspects of cognitive performance, like attention and mental processing speed (18).

Combining nervine tonic herbs with adaptogens

Adaptogens are natural compounds that can enhance the body’s resilience to environmental and psychological stressors. Combining nervine tonics with adaptogens can provide a well-rounded strategy for managing stress. Some popular nervine-adaptogen combinations include:

  • Ashwagandha and Lemonbalm: Ashwagandha is a popular adaptogen that can help the body respond better to stress by regulating cortisol levels and supporting adrenal health. When combined with lemon balm, the two herbs can work together to manage stress and support a balanced emotional state.
  • Rhodiola rosea and Camomile: Rhodiola rosea is known to enhance mental resilience and combat fatigue. Together, rhodiola rosea and camomile can promote relaxation and help maintain a stable and positive mood throughout the day.
  • Ginseng and Skullcap: Ginseng has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to strengthen the body’s resistance to stress, increase energy, and promote longevity. Since both ginseng and skullcap contribute to emotional balance, taking them together can help the body better manage stress and maintain consistent energy levels.
  • Reishi and Passionflower:Reishi is a functional mushroom often referred to as the “mushroom of immortality” because of its diverse range of health benefits. Both herbs have been found to promote better rest and relaxation, making them a great combo for improving sleep quality.

Safety and precautions

While nervine tonics are generally considered safe with minimal side effects, it’s important to always consult with a healthcare provider for medical advice before starting any new supplement regimen. This is especially important if you have any pre-existing conditions, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or are taking other medications. Follow the recommended dosages and avoid long-term use without breaks. Overuse can lead to dependency or diminish the herb’s effectiveness over time. Monitor your body’s response and discontinue use if adverse effects occur.


  1. Becker, Axel, Falko Felgentreff, Helmut Schröder, Beat Meier, and Axel Brattström. 2014. “The Anxiolytic Effects of a Valerian Extract Is Based on Valerenic Acid.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 14 (1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-14-267.
  2. Can Çiçek, Saadet, Şeyma Demir, Dilek Yılmaz, Aynur Açıkgöz, Sedat Yıldız, and Özgür Mehmet Yis. 2022. “The Effect of Aromatherapy on Blood Pressure and Stress Responses by Inhalation and Foot Massage in Patients with Essential Hypertension.” Holistic Nursing Practice 36 (4): 209–22. https://doi.org/10.1097/hnp.0000000000000526.
  3. Cho, Eun Hee, Mi-Young Lee, and Myung-Haeng Hur. 2017. “The Effects of Aromatherapy on Intensive Care Unit Patients’ Stress and Sleep Quality: A Nonrandomised Controlled Trial.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2017: 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/2856592.
  4. Chua, Han Chow, Emilie T. H. Christensen, Kirsten Hoestgaard-Jensen, Leonny Y. Hartiadi, Iqbal Ramzan, Anders A. Jensen, Nathan L. Absalom, and Mary Chebib. 2016. “Kavain, the Major Constituent of the Anxiolytic Kava Extract, Potentiates GABAA Receptors: Functional Characteristics and Molecular Mechanism.” Edited by Steven Barnes. PLOS ONE 11 (6): e0157700. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0157700.
  5. Dubey, Tushar, and Subashchandrabose Chinnathambi. 2019. “Brahmi (Bacopa Monnieri): An Ayurvedic Herb against the Alzheimer’s Disease.” Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics 676 (November): 108153. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.abb.2019.108153.
  6. Einöther, Suzanne J. L., and Timo Giesbrecht. 2012. “Caffeine as an Attention Enhancer: Reviewing Existing Assumptions.” Psychopharmacology 225 (2): 251–74. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-012-2917-4.
  7. Gazola, Andressa Corneo, Geison Modesti Costa, Silvana Maria Zucolotto, Leonardo Castellanos, Freddy Alejandro Ramos, Thereza Christina Monteiro de Lima, and Eloir Paulo Schenkel. 2018. “The Sedative Activity of Flavonoids from Passiflora Quadrangularis Is Mediated through the GABAergic Pathway.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy 100 (April): 388–93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2018.02.002.
  8. Giesbrecht, T., J.A. Rycroft, M.J. Rowson, and E.A. De Bruin. 2010. “The Combination of L-Theanine and Caffeine Improves Cognitive Performance and Increases Subjective Alertness.” Nutritional Neuroscience 13 (6): 283–90. https://doi.org/10.1179/147683010x12611460764840.
  9. Gómez-Juaristi, Miren, Sara Martínez-López, Beatriz Sarria, Laura Bravo, and Raquel Mateos. 2018. “Absorption and Metabolism of Yerba Mate Phenolic Compounds in Humans.” Food Chemistry 240 (February): 1028–38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.08.003.
  10. Kamkaew, Natakorn, C. Norman Scholfield, Kornkanok Ingkaninan, Niwat Taepavarapruk, and Krongkarn Chootip. 2012. “Bacopa Monnieri Increases Cerebral Blood Flow in Rat Independent of Blood Pressure.” Phytotherapy Research 27 (1): 135–38. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.4685.
  11. Karan, Nazife Begüm. 2019. “Influence of Lavender Oil Inhalation on Vital Signs and Anxiety: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” Physiology & Behavior 211 (November): 112676. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2019.112676.
  12. Kennedy, D. O, Andrew B Scholey, N. T. J Tildesley, E. K Perry, and K. A Wesnes. 2002. “Modulation of Mood and Cognitive Performance Following Acute Administration of Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm).” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 72 (4): 953–64. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0091-3057(02)00777-3.
  13. Mao, Jun J, and Qing S Li. 2015. “Long-Term Chamomile Therapy of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Study Protocol for a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo- Controlled Trial.” Journal of Clinical Trials 04 (05). https://doi.org/10.4172/2167-0870.1000188.
  14. NCBI. 2012. “Skullcap.” PubMed. Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548757/.
  15. Oellig, Claudia, Jacob Schunck, and Wolfgang Schwack. 2018. “Determination of Caffeine, Theobromine and Theophylline in Mate Beer and Mate Soft Drinks by High-Performance Thin-Layer Chromatography.” Journal of Chromatography A 1533 (January): 208–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chroma.2017.12.019.
  16. Sarris, Jerome, and David J. Kavanagh. 2009. “Kava and St. John’s Wort: Current Evidence for Use in Mood and Anxiety Disorders.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 15 (8): 827–36. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2009.0066.
  17. Singh, Rajinder, Subrata De, and Asma Belkheir. 2013. “Avena Sativa(Oat), a Potential Neutraceutical and Therapeutic Agent: An Overview.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 53 (2): 126–44. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2010.526725.
  18. Tardy, Anne-Laure, Etienne Pouteau, Daniel Marquez, Cansu Yilmaz, and Andrew Scholey. 2020. “Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence.” Nutrients 12 (1): 228. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010228.


Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

Content Editor

Table Of Contents

What are nervine tonics, and how do they work?
Top nervine herbs and their benefits
Combining nervine tonic herbs with adaptogens
Safety and precautions

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