For many students as the summer time comes closer it means exam season is upon us, this can be a very stressful time and could do your body and health a lot of damage. I've listed below a few herbs that may help to gently relieve stress and anxiety and help to focus the mind.
I am no longer a student and although there are many great aspects to being a student, deadlines and exams are not one of them and I don't miss them! However from my first GCSE exam at age 15/16, going straight through to A-levels at ages 17/18 and then straight onto 3 years full-time at University, I've had to do a lot of revision and exams in my time. One of the most important things to remember is not deprive yourself; of sleep, nutrition, breaks... It is so easy to get stressed and panicky about revision and upcoming dread about actually sitting through an exam, but if you are not well-rested no matter how much last minute cramming you do it won't sink in!
My advice is whilst revising to have regular breaks even just for 10 minutes (revision timetables are great to organise this for example; for every hour do 45 minutes studying and 15 minute break, find what works for you!), especially when you feel your concentration and focusing lapsing, drink lots of water/ herbal teas rather than stimulants. And also have lots of nutritious snacks to hand - homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit and dark chocolate chips or oatcakes with peanut butter was always a favourite of mine at Uni! I would just pop them in a tuppaware so I could take them with me to the library.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinale)
The same herb used to accompany a lamb roast is very beneficial used medicinally. Its main indications are for headaches, anxiety, cardiovascular weakness and for poor concentration and memory, it is thought to work by stimulating the circulatory system in particular the smaller vessels like capillaries which are the main supplier of blood flow and therefore oxygen to the brain. Rosemary can be taken as an infusion up to 12 g a day or as a liquid tincture extract up to 15-30 ml of a 1:2 extraction, as it is quite a fragrant herb the essential oil is also very beneficial so can be used topically when diluted as a temple rub also. Avoid during pregnancy.
Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
I've added Liquorice here as it is an adrenal restorative, your adrenals are responsible for producing cortisol, a hormone released during stressful periods but its purpose is for times of 'flight or flight response' when a quick burst of energy and adrenaline is necessary for survival, when stress is prolonged however the adrenals can become overused and fatigued. It does this by converting cortisol to inactive cortisone which is stored in the kidneys, however this can promote sodium and water retention and as a result increase blood pressure so should be avoided in those with hypertension, heart disease or kidney disease but the amounts vary in how senstive people may be to this side effect and often lower doses would work fine.
Are an umbrella term for a group of herbs that all possess adaptogenic properties, meaning they will help you to adapt to stressful situations and restore balance if you are too high or too low they will bring your body back to its normal state. There are many examples, and although sharing this one similarity they all may have different approaches, for adapting to exam and revision situations my favourite is Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis), as it has a particular potency to increase mental performance, it stimulates the mid and is anti-fatigue, it also assists the immune system. A fun fact I remember learning at University is the berry, the part we use medicinally, triggers multiple taste buds as it tastes sweet, bitter and sour!
Essential oils to use in a burner:
Peppermint and Frankincense as both are mild stimulating fragrances that also help to focus the mind. Also Lavender would be useful once the studying is finished for the night to help wind down and help sleep.
My name is Helen Davison and I'm a NIMH registered practising Medical Herbalist based in Ramsbottom, Lancashire. I've had a keen interest in herbal remedies since my early teens and would experiment creating my own balms and bath bombs using natural ingredients, which prompted me in discovering and pursuing a career in Western Herbal Medicine.