Three Must-Know Nervous System Botanicals

Traditional Nervines

By Dr. Chris D. Meletis, N.D.

November 2016

Oregon's Wild Harvest Three Must-Have Herbs - Meletis

Each edible-herb on this planet can serve as a food source that nourishes the body while at the same time conferring some level of medicinal properties, as demonstrated by the traditional uses of cultures from around the world.

Herbals can be categorized by their general properties. Valerian, Holy Basil and Skullcap are often referred to as nervines. A nervine is a plant remedy that has a beneficial effect upon the nervous system.

In an article that I recently authored for Oregon’s Wild Harvest on a combination herbal product called, Stress Guard, I discussed the impacts of stress on the health and wellbeing of the human body. Allow me to share with you why, as a clinician, the following three herbs are routinely part of my patient wellness “tool box” as they help support the often “frazzled” nerves that result from modern living.


Sleep disturbances and other nervous system complaints have sharply risen over the last decade in my clinical practice. Valerian has been traditionally used to help the body get into a calmer state in the evening, which is more conducive to a better night’s sleep. In a study in Sweden they found that 44 percent of the participants reported perfect sleep while 89 percent of reported improved sleep.

One of the proposed mechanisms for how Valerian works is that it supports the body’s ability to produce GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. Thus, it is not surprising that Valerian can help with the stress response. Many of my patients have used it successfully to mitigate that anxious feeling that comes all too often with modern living.

A calmer body is more likely to be healthier and enjoy a greater level of harmonious existence in our world of excess connectivity. With stress comes tight muscles whether that be the shoulders, lower back, neck or, at times, even menstrual cramps.

Holy Basil

Used for at least the last 3,000 years, this dynamic herb has a rich history in traditional medicine. We often forget that the local drug store over the course of history was nature, and for many around the world it still is.

Whether it is that inner sense of nervousness or feeling burnt-out due to ongoing life challenges, Holy Basil often offers my patients that extra little nudge that they so desperately needed. Holy Basil also has traditionally been used to bolster the immune system and the support inflammatory responses that often gets disrupted in the course of body’s stress response.

I also routinely incorporate Holy Basil into my adrenal, thyroid and blood sugar protocols. There is growing scientific literature on the effects of this revered herb when it comes to helping support blood sugars when combines with a healthy diet and lifestyle.


Skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora, should not be confused with other herbs that also are referred to as Skullcap. Always look at the ingredient label and ensure that the latin name of a botanical is listed. Otherwise, it is anyone’s guess as to which species of a plant you may be taking.

Skullcap lateriflora is one of the tools I use in my clinical practice to help mitigate some of the effects of stress to improve a sense of mental well-being and focus. This nervine herb is commonly used amongst herbalist for support in the pursuit of wellness, both emotionally and physically.

Setting a health promoting diet and lifestyle, including higher quality sleep and stress reduction with the added effects of nervine herbs like Valerian, Holy Basil and Skullcap can help you reach your goals of a more balanced nervous system from my over two decades of clinical experience.


Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D.Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D., has 24-years of experience practicing as a Naturopathic Doctor in Portland, Oregon.  He is dedicated to using his vast knowledge about alternative medicine to help his patients and generously give to those in need. He has written over a dozen books and 100's of national articles, and was named Naturopathic Physician of the Year in 2003 by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.  Read more about Dr. Meletis here.  Or, visit our "Ask Dr. Meletis, N.D." page for additional articles. 

*Statements herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to treat or diagnose any disease or health condition. The information on this website, and provided by Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D., is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is recommended that patients check with their doctors before taking herbs, to ensure that there are no contraindications with prescription medications. There is additional information linked within this site to HealthNotes®, a third party educational source, containing the latest research on health and supplements. Oregon's Wild Harvest will not be held accountable for this information and consider it an education reference only.  

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