What is a Nervine?

A nervine is a plant remedy that has
a beneficial effect upon the nervous system in some way. This makes the word nervine another catch-all expression,
and to study them properly it helps to differentiate them into a number of categories. It may be superfluous to point
this out, but any successful treatment of nervous system problems with herbs must involve treating the whole body,
heart and mind, not simply the signs of agitation and worry. Of course, the agitation can be reduced greatly, but
the whole system must be strengthened in the face of the storm! The main subdivisions include:

Nervine Tonic : Oats, St. John’s Wort, Scullcap

Nervine Relaxing : Scullcap, Valerian, Vervain

Nervine Stimulating : Cola, Guarana

Nervine Tonics

Perhaps the
most important contribution herbal medicine can make in the whole field of neurology is in strengthening and ‘feeding’
the nervous system. In cases of shock, stress or nervous debility, the nervine tonics strengthen and restore the tissues
directly. On the other hand they can contribute to the healing of damaged nervous tissue, whether this is due to a
pathological processor physical trauma. This invaluable group of remedies is best exemplified by Oats. Ginkgo is an
important tonic for the nervous system, but appears to work via its vaso-dilating action on the blood vessels of the
brain. This will increase oxygen availability to brain cells. Other nervine tonics that have, in addition, a relaxing effect
include Scutellarialaterifolia, Verbena officinalis, Hypericum perforatum andStachys betonica.
Of these relaxing nervine tonics, Scutellariais often the most effective, particularly for problems related to

Nervine Tonics with No Relaxing or Stimulating Effects


Avena savita


Ginkgo biloba

Nervine Tonics with a Relaxing Effect


Matricaria recutita St. John’s Wort

Hypericum perforatum


Hyssopus officinalis


Verbena officinalis


Lavandula officinalis

Wood Betony

Stachys betonica


Scutellaria laterifolia

Nervine Tonics & Their Secondary Actions

Analgesic : St. John’s Wort, Wood Betony

Anti-Catarrhal : Chamomile, Wood Betony

Anti-inflammatory: Chamomile

Anti-Microbial: Chamomile

Anti-Spasmodic: Chamomile, Hyssop, Lavender, Scullcap

Astringents : St. John’s Wort

Bitter: Chamomile, Wood Betony

Carminative : Chamomile, Hyssop, Lavender

Demulcent: Oat

Diaphoretic: Hyssop, Linden, Vervain

Diuretic : Linden

Emmenagogue :

Expectorant : Hyssop

Hepatic : Vervain

Hypnotic : Chamomile

Hypotensive : Linden, Scullcap

Tonic : St. John’s Wort, Scullcap, Vervain

Vulnerary : Chamomile, St. John’s Wort

Nervine Relaxants

group of nervines are most important in our times of stress and confusion, alleviating many of the accompanying
symptoms. They should always be used in a broad holistic way, not simply to tranquilize. Too much tranquilizing,
even that achieved through herbal medication, can in time deplete and weigh heavily on the whole nervous

As can be seen from the list of herbs below, many of the nervine relaxants also have other properties
and can be selected to aid in related problems. This is one of the great benefits of using herbal remedies to help
in stress and anxiety problems. The physical symptoms that can so often accompany the ill-ease of anxiety may be
treated with herbs that work on the anxiety itself.

In addition to the herbs that work directly on the nervous system,
the anti-spasmodic herbs – which affect the peripheral nerves and the muscle tissue – can have an indirect
relaxing effect on the whole system. When the physical body is at ease, ease in the psyche is promoted. Many of the
nervine relaxants have this anti-spasmodic action. Also refer to hypnotics, which in lower dosage will have a
relaxing action on the mind and body.

Nervine Relaxants for Different Parts of the Body

system of the body has plants that are particularly suited to it, some of which are nervines. Here we shall see which
relaxing nervines have an affinity for each of these systems.

Circulatory system: Balm, Linden and
Motherwort, while each being mild sedatives, are helpful to the cardiovascular system. However, most remedies
that reduce over activity in the nervous system will aid the heart and problems such as high blood pressure.

Respiratory system: Most sedatives will help in over-tense chest problems such as asthma, but specifically we
can mention Black Cohosh, Blood Root, Bugleweed, Cowslip, Lobelia, Motherwort, Wild Cherry Bark and Wild

Digestive system: All the anti-spasmodic remedies may be of value here to ease colic, but
sedatives that actively aid digestion include Balm, Chamomile and Lavender.

Urinary system:
By relaxing the system there may be an increase in water loss. This, however, does not make the herbs involved
diuretics. Saw Palmetto is a gentle sedative that does work on the urinary system.

Reproductive system:
Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, Crampbark, Motherwort, Saw Palmetto and Wild Lettuce all have an affinity for this

Muscles and Skeleton: All sedative remedies will ease muscular tension and thus pain in this
complex system. Remedies to bear in mind are Black Cohosh, Bladder wrack, Crampbark and Wild Yam.

Nervous system: All the remedies mentioned relate here.

Skin: All these remedies may help the skin
in an indirect way, but these herbs have a good reputation for the skin: Red Clover, St. John’s Wort, Pasque Flower
and Black Cohosh.

Nervine Relaxants


Melissa officinalis


Tilia spp.

Black Cohosh

Cimicifuga racemosa


Lobelia inflata

Black Haw

Viburnum prunifolium


Leonurus cardiaca

Black Horehound

Ballota nigra


Artemisia vulgaris


Borago officinalis

Pasque Flower

Anenome pulsatilla

Californian Poppy

Eschscholzia californica

Passion Flower

Passiflora incarnata


Matricaria recutita

Red Clover

Trifolium pratense

Cramp Bark

Viburnum opulus

Roman Chamomile

Anthemis nobilis


Turnera diffusa


Scutellaria laterifolia


Humulus lupulus

St. John’s Wort

Hypericum perforatum


Hyssopus officinalis


Valeriana officinalis

Jamaican Dogwood

Piscidia erythrina


Verbena officinalis


Lavandula officinalis

Wild Lettuce

Lactuca virosa

Wood Betony

Stachys betonica

Nervine Relaxants & Their Secondary Actions

Alterative : Black Cohosh, Red Clover

Analgesic : Chamomile, Jamaican Dogwood, Passion Flower, St.John’s Wort, Wild Lettuce, Wood Betony

Anti-Catarrhal : Chamomile, Hyssop, Linden, Wood Betony

Anti-Inflammatory : Balm,
Chamomile, Linden

Anti-Microbial: Chamomile, Hops, Pasque Flower

Balm, Black Cohosh, Black Haw, Chamomile, Cramp Bark, Hops, Hyssop, Lavender, Linden, Lobelia, Motherwort,
Pasque Flower, Passion Flower, Scullcap, St. John’s Wort, Valerian

Astringents : Black Haw, Black Horehound,
Cramp Bark, Hops, Linden, St.John’s Wort

Bitter: Chamomile, Hops, Mugwort, Wood Betony

Carminative : Balm, Chamomile, Hops, Hyssop, Lavender, Motherwort, Mugwort, Valerian

Diaphoretic: Black Cohosh, Hyssop, Linden, Vervain

Diuretic : Linden

Emmenagogue : Black
Cohosh, Black Horehound, Motherwort, Mugwort

Expectorant : Black Horehound, Hyssop, Lobelia

Hepatic : Vervain

Hypnotic : Californian Poppy, Chamomile, Hops, Passion Flower, Valerian,
Wild Lettuce

Hypotensive : Linden, Motherwort, Passion Flower, Scullcap, Valerian

Tonic : Borage,
Mugwort, Scullcap, St. John’s Wort, Vervain

Vulnerary : Borage, Chamomile, St. John’s Wort

Nervine Relaxants & Their System Affinity

Cardio-Vascular : Motherwort, Linden

Respiratory :Lobelia

Digestive : Chamomile, Vervain

Reproductive : Black Cohosh

Nervous : St. John’s Wort, Scullcap

The Skin : Red Clover

Nervine Stimulants

Direct stimulation of the nervous tissue is not often needed in our times of hyperactivity. In most cases it is
more appropriate to stimulate the body’s innate vitality with the help of nervine or bitter tonics, which work by
augmenting bodily harmony and thus have a much deeper and longer-lasting effect than nervine stimulants. In the
last century much more emphasis was placed by herbalist’s upon stimulant herbs. It is, perhaps, a sign of the times
that our world is supplying us with more than enough stimulus.

When direct nervine stimulation is indicated, the
best herb to use is Kola Nut, although Guarana, Coffee, Mate, and Tea should also be remembered. A problem with
these commonly used stimulants is that they have a number of side-effects and can themselves be involved in causing
many minor psychological problems such as anxiety and tension.

Some of the herbs rich in volatile oils are also
valuable stimulants, among them the commonest and best are Rosemary and Peppermint.

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Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

Explore Wellness in 2021