Sep 27, 2023

8 Herbal Stress Relievers That Can Help You Calm Down

Woman looking relaxing sipping on a warm beverage

You have a work deadline this Friday and a happy hour immediately after. Before that happens, you’ve got to find a babysitter. And don’t forget there are three birthdays and two holidays this month, and you’re also completely out of groceries. Also, remember how you mispronounced “Worcestershire” today in front of everyone? Actually, did you mispronounce it? 

And it doesn’t stop there. While we often think of stress only in the emotional and psychological sense, many other factors can cause stress on our body, from exposure to toxins, pollutants, and poor food choices to excessive exercise without sufficient recovery. 

The interesting thing is that our bodies don’t discriminate between these different types of stress factors — they all impact our stress response in the same way. So, to say we’re stressed is a bit of an understatement.

Our mental health and physical health are important, and taking care of our health holistically is vital to ensuring we don’t implode. Thankfully, we can look to nature for powerful, stress-relieving ingredients that help our body and mind effectively relax. 

Let’s talk about the physical mechanisms of stress, what herbs can help, and how to use them to chill out. 

Woman stressed at desk

What Causes the Body To Experience Stress?

Stress comes from various sources, and what stresses one person may not stress another. However, the internal response of our bodies is the same. When we experience a stressor (also known as a stress factor), it sets off a chain reaction of events in the body called the stress response

It all starts in the amygdala. When you perceive a danger or stressor, the amygdala determines whether it’s worth sounding the alarm. If it is, it shuttles a message to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus activates the fight-or-flight response in your body. 

Using the central nervous system as its communication vehicle, the fight-or-flight response causes the heartbeat to quicken and blood pressure to elevate as adrenaline (also known as the hormone epinephrine) is released by the adrenal glands. Adrenaline also causes blood sugar and fat stores to be released into the bloodstream for immediate use, so if you really do need to fight, you’ll have the energy to do it.

After this initial surge of adrenaline subsides, if the brain continues to perceive danger, the hypothalamus then activates the second stage of the stress response, telling the pituitary gland that more stress hormones are needed. In response, the pituitary signals the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol into the bloodstream.

Is Stress Good or Bad for You?

It might seem like an easy answer, but stress is actually both good and bad for your body. Acute stress is necessary to keep us safe. For instance, you touch a hot stove and immediately recoil your hand. 

Also, regular mild stress strengthens our stress response, creating an ‘immunity’ to more intense stress that we may later experience. (Think of it like the effect of regular exercise — over time, it increases muscle strength and stamina.)

However, long-term stress has negative impacts on your health. 

Chronic stress, also known as chronic low-level stress, can lead to: 

  • Unhealthy levels of inflammation in the body and brain
  • Depleted immune function
  • Chronic musculoskeletal pain
  • Respiratory issues
  • Unhealthy blood pressure levels
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High blood sugar
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Stress that lasts too long is no joke, not to mention the mental breakdown that many of us experience when stress levels get too high. Learning to manage stress healthfully is a multifaceted task that includes lifestyle practices, and using adaptogenic herbs can be a natural, holistic way to help reduce stress levels

What Herbs Can Help Relieve Stress?

There are many stress management supplements, and it can be a challenge to figure out which ones work best for you. Luckily, herbal remedies that have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to relieve stress are still in use today. Here are a few of our favorites.

Ashwagandha red berries


Ashwagandha is a plant that is native to parts of Africa, India, and the Middle East, but can basically be grown anywhere. 

Ashwagandha is adaptogenic, which means it helps support your stress response by enhancing your body’s resistance to stress and helping to restore balance. 

Ayurvedic medicine has supported the use of ashwagandha for stress relief for millennia, and studies of ashwagandha show that it has a calming effect on the brain. One study found that ashwagandha helps lower cortisol levels, which can, in turn, help lower perceived stress levels and mitigate the effects of stress on your body.

Another study suggested that the reason for ashwagandha’s stress-reducing benefits is because of its ability to modulate communication between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenals

Adding ashwagandha to your wellness stack is easy. For a quick stress-relieving snack, try a JOYÀ Balance Functional Chocolate bar. Our 70 percent cacao dark chocolate is fortified with 300 mg of ashwagandha extract, which can help you calm your nervous system and reduce your stress. Sounds like instant serotonin to us!

Lavender flowers with bees


If you aren’t already using a lavender essential oil as one of your go-to stress-relief techniques, we suggest you jump on this one! Lavender has long been thought to bring a sense of peace and well-being simply by being inhaled.

But lavender’s ability to alleviate the effects of stress isn’t just anecdotal. Another systematic review of herbal supplements used to treat stress asserts that lavender can lower stress and anxiety levels after usage. This might be because the aromatherapy effects of lavender’s essential oils may have a regulating effect on cortisol levels, although the research is still in the early stages.

At the very least, using lavender as a natural remedy for stress will probably transport your mind to your last spa experience, and leave you feeling more relaxed.

Chamomile flowers


More like Calm-omile! Even the name “chamomile” elicits a feeling of calm and probably makes you long for a cup of tea. One of the oldest herbal treatments, chamomile has been used for over 5,000 years for its soothing effects on the brain and body

While you’ve probably enjoyed chamomile in herbal teas, it’s also included in other stress-relieving products. JOYÀ’s Zen Functional Chocolate bar, for instance, contains chamomile, cacao, and reishi mushroom, three ingredients that can help calm nerves and reduce big feelings. 

Lemon balm leaves

Lemon Balm

Stress can also impact our sleep quality. Lemon balm (a member of the mint family) can help calm your nervous system and help you get to sleep faster. In one study, lemon balm extract was found to elevate mood and cognitive function

Reishi mushrooms growing on stump


The perfect compliment to your next Reiki session? How about reishi? Reishi mushroom is another adaptogenic herb that has been used to help the body fight stress, support the immune system, and help restore feelings of calm and balance

Before you hit the yard looking for fungi, just head over to JOYÀ where you can find reishi in our Zen and Balance Functional Chocolate bars, delicious herbal supplements that give you the added bonus of a decadent treat when you need it most. 

Valerian Root flowers

Valerian Root

Another herb that is frequently used to help calm nerves is valerian root. Research is still ongoing as to why valerian root has such an anxiolytic effect on the brain, but researchers believe that it may be linked to the regulation of GABA, a chemical in the brain that helps regulate the nerve cells involved with anxiety. 

FYI, valerian is known for making some people valer-y sleepy, an effect that could be seen as a health benefit if you have trouble sleeping at night. 

Holy Basil plant

Holy Basil

Your prayers for stress relief have been answered. Holy basil (also known as tulsi) probably won’t give you a higher level of spirituality, but it could very well help ease the effects of stress from your mind and help you activate higher levels of consciousness. 

Another herb with traditional use that dates back thousands of years, holy basil is said to be known as the “Mother Medicine of Nature” in Ayurveda, revered for both its medicinal and spiritual properties.

This miraculous herb has been studied in hundreds of scientific studies including in vitro, animal and human experiments, revealing that the medicinal properties that have long been revered traditionally are due to numerous actions including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, adaptogenic, neuroprotective, central nervous system calming, just to name a few. 

Findings from human studies suggest that holy basil may help reduce side effects from not only psychological stress but also physical stress. Research is still ongoing, but the current results are promising.

How Else Can You Minimize Stress?

Stress management takes more than just an herbal remedy. When stress hits heavy, you’ll need to hit back with every tool in your arsenal (or at least a few of them). 

Getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and eating a well-balanced diet can all help support your body’s natural and healthy stress response. In addition, finding methods of stress reduction, like therapy, yoga, deep breathing, or meditation, can help carry you through periods of extreme stress or hardship. 

The Bottom Line

Stress is, well, stressful. However, herbal remedies can make it easier for you to get relief without unwanted side effects. For the purest, most transparent herbal supplements available, you can trust JOYÀ. We make it easy and delicious to reduce your stress levels, support your body, and feel and live your best. 

Physiology, Stress Reaction - StatPearls | NCBI Bookshelf 
Ashwagandha for Stress and Anxiety | KSM-66 
An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study 
The effect of lavender on stress in individuals: A systematic review and meta-analysis - ScienceDirect 
Effect of lavender essence inhalation on the level of anxiety and blood cortisol in candidates for open-heart surgery | PMC 
Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future - PMC 
Anti-Stress Effects of Lemon Balm-Containing Foods | 
Reishi Mushroom | Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
GABA A receptors as in vivo substrate for the anxiolytic action of valerenic acid, a major constituent of valerian root extracts | PMC   
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial investigating the effects of an Ocimum tenuiflorum (Holy Basil) extract (HolixerTM) on stress, mood, and sleep in adults experiencing stress | PMC 
Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons | PubMed