Herbs and Oils for Brain & Nervous System Health
Your brain is designed to think -- but do you give much thought to your brain and nervous system?
As I study circulatory massage, herbal medicine, aromatherapy, and holistic healthcare I'm constantly reminded how amazing life is and what an beautiful masterpiece our bodies are.
As you go through your day you depend on your heart to beat and move your blood to deliver nutrients and oxygen to every single cell in the body from your brain to little toe. Your lungs take in life giving oxygen and expel carbon dioxide waste, your kidneys filter the blood and remove toxins and negotiate the balance of water and electrolytes, and your liver store nutrients and detoxifies the blood. All these systems are governed by our brain and carry on without us having to even think about it. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Our brain allows us to create, inspire, feel, love, move, and do. We think and we act. We think and we create. Our thoughts are powerful. Our body a magnificent work of art.
So it makes sense that keeping the nervous system healthy is vital to our overall health. Taking care of the basic things -- eating whole foods and getting adequate nutrients, getting enough sleep, and drinking plenty of water can go a long way towards keeping the body and nervous system healthy. In addition essential oils and herbs, massage, and "nature therapy" can support a healthy nervous system and nudge an unbalanced one back towards a healthier state.
In this blog we'll just touch a few ways you can support your body and nervous system naturally. Incorporating soothing herbs and essential oils into your lifestyle, taking time to relax, and making sure to nourish the body that works so hard for you each day can go a long way in supporting its functions.
Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth but this mineral is also important for the nervous and muscular skeletal system. And dairy foods are not the only source of calcium. Green leafy vegetables and seaweeds, sesame, flax, and chia seeds, oranges, broccoli, and many dried herbs are a good source of calcium and these foods are rich in other nutrients as well so they do double duty. If you choose to add a calcium supplement find one that is formulated for easier assimilation. You can find organic based products in natural food stores. B vitamins (there are eight of them) also support a healthy nervous system and foods rich in this group include meats, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and nutritional yeast. B12 is only found naturally in animal products so vegans need to make sure they are eating fortified foods to get enough of this nutrient.
Essential oils can be calming to the central nervous system (CNS) and support sleep and relaxation. Lavender (Lavendula angustafolia) of course comes to mind and research supports its role as a CNS sedative. Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), bergamont (Citrus bergamia), ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata), and basil (Ocimum basilicum) are other examples of essential oils useful at soothing the nervous system and promoting relaxation. People often find pine or fir oils to be very soothing as well. These can be diffused, used in an aroma inhaler, in a bath, or other topical application.
Herbal teas are also a wonderful way to support and soothe the body. Herbs like chamomile, lemon balm, and lavender can be steeped in hot water perhaps along with other tasty herbs such as spearmint or hibiscus to create a soothing evening tonic. Add a little honey or stevia to sweeten if desired.
Herbal or essential oil foot baths are also deeply soothing. It is kind of like making a tea for your feet. Try a mixture of 1 ounce of lavender, one ounce of chamomile, and 1/2 ounce of rosemary and place the herbs in water and simmer for five to ten minutes. Pour into a large basin and adjust the water temperature so it is very hot but not burning the feet. Make yourself comfortable in a cozy chair and immerse your feet in the water. You can cover the basin with a towel to keep the heat in. For an essential oil foot bath fill a basin with hot water (again be careful not to burn your feet) and dilute a drop or two of lavender, Roman chamomile, or other soothing oils into a teaspoon of carrier oil like fractionated coconut oil or jojoba oil and add to the water. You could try a drop each of rosemary, lavender, and chamomile as well. The oil will of course float on top but you'll get a wonderful aroma and agitating the water will allow some to absorb through your skin.
Another wonderful way to support the nervous system and encouraging a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state is through massage. It often seems like a luxury but massage can benefit the body in many ways: promote relaxation, encourage the flow of lymph, nutrients, oxygen, and blood, support immune health, and reduce muscle tension. Full body circulatory or Swedish massage is a good choice but even a hand or foot massage can do wonders especially if coupled with aromatherapy.
AromOx therapy is a rather novel way to support the brain. It provides a boost of oxygen to the brain while incorporating relaxing, refreshing, or uplifting essential oils. It's a way to give your support the brain and nervous system with extra oxygen while connecting to your breath and taking time to relax and reflect.
And "nature therapy" -- getting out for walks, hikes, gardening, or otherwise partaking in nature can do wonders for the nervous system and the spirit. Feeling the ocean breeze on your face and sand between your toes, filling your lungs with the aromas of a forest. The feel of rain or sun on your skin. Watching the birds and animals scutter about. These are all wonderful ways to reconnect with the fact that are also part of this vast ecosystem of earth and a way to take time for oneself to reflect, reconnect with breath, and enjoy beauty to fill our hearts and feed our souls.
This is not an exhaustive list but several wonderful ways to nurture your brain and nervous system. There are many things one can do to support brain and nervous system health and many additional ways oils, herbs, and holistic methods can help.
These supports can often be used in conjunction with allopathic medicine but be sure to consult a certified aromatherapist, herbalist, holistic healthcare provider, certified massage therapist, or talk with a doctor knowledgable about holistic approaches if you have questions about contraindications.
I hope you will take some time to nurture your nervous system this week and build a habit of appreciating your amazing brain and nervous system.
If you have questions about using aromatherapy, essential oils, or herbs to support the nervous system or body contact Tricia.
How do you support your nervous system health? Which of the above sound most appealing to you? I'd love to know your thoughts!