From headaches, nausea, fatigue and insomnia to the common cold and moodiness, all collegiettes deal with aliments from time to time. While your first instinct may be to pop a pill when you’re feeling off, there are much better, more natural options that will not only relieve you of your symptoms, but also make you healthier and happier in the long run.
So the next time you’re feeling less than stellar or you’re just looking for a boost, try a natural plant! All of these herbs can be found in a variety of forms, such as teas and capsules, and you can find them in most grocery stores and health food stores.
Rhodiola, also known as “golden root” or “arctic root,” has a long list of health benefits. The herb reduces stress, aids in muscle recovery, strengthens the nervous system, fights depression, increases immunity, enhances memory and improves hearing, among other things. It is best taken if you want relief from stress or if you’re running low on energy and motivation (in other words, perfect during finals week!).
“Rhodiola has a regulating effect on cortisol,” says Mary Helen Lee, acupuncturist and co-manager of White Moon Healing Center in Chicago. “People get excess cortisol from stress. Rhodiola has a very calming and stabilizing effect on the nervous system because it’s able to help balance adrenal chemistry. Because of this, it helps support the immune system as well.”
Native to eastern North America, American ginseng is considered to be a stress reducer and energizer. American ginseng (one of many varieties of ginseng) has been proven to increase energy and endurance as well as physical and mental performance while nourishing your mind and body. “Ginseng will improve alertness and exercise performance,” says Virginia Hadley, registered nurse, nutritionist, counselor and herbalist at Bearfoot Herbals.
Amanda Ball, a freshman at Western Michigan University, had a good experience when she took ginseng. “Ginseng helped me become healthier; when I was taking it, my hair and nails grew significantly!” she says.
It might be better known in candy form, but the peppermint plant has a wide range of medicinal uses. “Peppermint is perhaps best known for helping digestion,” Lee says. Peppermint can help with gas, nausea, indigestion and cramps. It also relieves cold symptoms, such as a sore throat.
“Whenever I drink peppermint tea, I feel like it opens my airways and it soothes me, calms me down and makes me feel refreshed,” says Hannah Schuring, a senior at Portage Central High School in Michigan. The peppermint plant is best enjoyed in tea form; if you want to try it, try Celestial Seasonings Peppermint Herbal Tea.
4. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is used to treat a variety of aliments (and it really does smell and taste like fresh lemons!). “It aids digestion, decreases depression, decreases spasm (painful menstrual cramps, intestinal spasms of IBS/IBD) and, in higher doses, induces a state of relaxation,” says naturopathic physician Dr. Katie Stage, ND.
Lemon balm also has calming properties and can be used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Unlike Adderall, lemon balm does not have detrimental side effects – in fact, quite the opposite. “Lemon balm helps to quiet the mind and increase clarity and concentration,” Lee says. “It’s a safe herb (a member of the mint family) that can be taken daily as needed.” Focusing during your next history lecture will seem like a breeze!
Lemon balm is available in many forms, but capsules and teas are the most common. A good brand to try is Solaray. If you want to try lemon balm in a tea, Traditional Medicinals Organic Lemon Balm herbal tea is a good option.
Used as a treatment for insomnia, valerian root has a calming effect that enhances sleep, allowing for a restful night. “It improves sleep latency, meaning people who take it fall asleep faster,” Stage says. “They also report more restful sleep. [Valerian] does this by binding to GABA (a relaxing neurotransmitter in the brain) receptors, thus inducing a feeling of relaxation at lower doses and sleepiness at higher doses.”
As collegiettes, we often suffer from lack of sleep (loud neighbors, piles of homework, an eventful social life), and it can be difficult to wind down. With valerian, though, you’ll drift off comfortably and wake up rejuvenated! Valerian can be found in capsule form; a good choice is Nature’s Way Valerian Root.
Valued for centuries for its healing properties, ashwagandha, also known as “Indian winter cherry” or “Indian ginseng,” is useful in treating pain, fever and restlessness. This revitalizing herb has the ability to stabilize your mood, and it also boosts the immune system as well as brain function.
“It modulates the immune system, meaning it increases immune response when needed (such as when someone has a chronic infection like hepatitis C) and decreases immune response when needed (autoimmune diseases like lupus),” Stage says. “Ashwagandha also is great for energy, helping establish healthy sleep patterns and supporting people who are anemic or depleted after being sick (it increases red and white blood cells).”
If you’re feeling ill or like you’re fighting off a sickness, ashwagandha will help you return to full health. If you want to give ashwagandha a try, it is available in capsule form. Some reputable brands to try are Gaia Herbs or Nature’s Way.
It’s inevitable that we’ll experience health problems in life, but with some natural herbs to help alleviate your ailments, you’ll be free to spend more time being healthy and happy, and who wouldn’t want that?