In every century there have been sources of great stress, whether war, famine, political and religious upheaval, or epidemics and pandemics. Through all of these terrible times certain herbs have proved their worth and been turned to again and again, to give support and soothe emotional wounds. At this difficult time when loneliness and loss are so common the herb garden and certain herbs in particular offer solace.
Calming herbs range from lavender, which acts swiftly as you breathe in the fragrance to encourage deeper breathing and ease the mind, through gentle lime-blossom, a honeyed, enjoyable tea aiding relaxation for sleep, to the deep emotional healing of rose, appreciated through use of the aromatic water, herbal teas, creams and more.
Rose is the herb most appreciated for treating the grief of loss, while the delicate vervain may be given by herbalists to aid someone who is suffering from holding onto a grievance of some kind. Chamomile and lemon balm, passiflora, cowslips, clove pinks, orange blossom and in some circumstances, valerian, have all worked their own particular transformations, alone, or in combination on troubled minds and hearts.
Sleep pillows can contribute to a soothing night-time atmosphere and are useful to take with you when away from home. The panic pillow below, taken from the chapter on Compassionate Herbs for Stress in Herbwise Naturally, is smaller and can be carried in your bag to use for relief on stressful journeys, visits to the dentists or when you are anxious.
Panic Neck Pillow
2½ cups lavender, 1 cup chamomile flowers, 1 tablespoon marjoram, 1 heaped tablespoon sage, ½ cup lime-flowers and bracts, ½ tablespoon aniseed, ½ tablespoon orris root, 3 drops essential oil of clary sage, 2 drops essential oil of geranium.
Mix together dried herbs and flowers, being careful to see there are no sharp stalks left in.
Pound the aniseed and orris root and add to the blend.
Lastly add the oils, one drop at a time. The blend can be put straight away into a muslin case for a neck pillow, or into smaller sachets.
One of the recommended items in the survival kit for settlers travelling into the unknown of the New World of America in the 17th century was clove pink syrup.
This recipe is one I have given to modern patients for anxiety. The pinks used are Dianthus caryophyllus, readily grown from seed with a strong clove flavour and perfume.
Clove Pink Syrup
Gather 50-85g (2-3oz) of clove pink flowers, slice away the white heels (lower tips) of the petals and having rinsed away any insects, set the petals in a bowl.
Pour over 600ml (1 pint) of boiling water and cover immediately.
Leave overnight to stand.
Next morning strain the liquid into a thick-bottomed pan and heat gently stirring, adding 340g (12 oz) of caster sugar or honey and bringing to a syrupy consistency by simmering for no more than a few minutes.
Pour into sterilised bottles and dilute to taste.