Nerve Tonics – Don’t Worry, Be Happy


In TAM and TCM medical theory, the Qi (or Prana) increases when there is mind-body harmony.  Conversely, signs of Qi deficiency include muscle weakness, slow pulse, mental confusion, digestive disturbances, immune system weakness and mood disorders.  Properly prescribed tonic herbs such as astragalus root, ginseng root, gotu kola, shilajatu, Siberian ginseng root bark, and white atractylodes can increase the vital force and help alleviate these conditions.

The ideal nerve tonic is one that would make us smarter, happier and more physically and biochemically efficient.  The search for such medicines began in ancient times.  In the Himalayan Mountains, sages and wealthy merchants and Kings coveted medicinal plants believed to bestow happiness, intelligence and even enlightenment.  They were called “Soma” plants, but they reportedly died out thanks to greed, secretiveness and hoarding.  Today we do not have any plants that possess this level of power, but we do have some excellent herbal nerve tonics.  Of course, any of these herbs can be used in combination.

•  My favorite calming nerve tonics from our nervine group are ashwaghanda root (both forms), milky oat seed, scullcap, kava root and American ginseng root.

• My favorite stimulating nerve tonics are ginseng root, shilajatu, bacopa, gotu kola, St. John’s wort and ginkgo leaf.

Following are my personal recommendations for treating specific conditions with nerve tonics:

•  If a patient tends toward moderate to severe nervousness or nerve exhaustion, I choose scullcap and milky oat seed, both of which seem to cause an immediate calmness.  This sometimes occurs within thirty minutes, partially because I use both herbs in the easily assimilated tincture form.

• If a patient needs nourishment and calm strength, I choose American ginseng, ashwaghanda root or bala, all of which fortify nerve strength over time.  Cordyceps mushroom, schisandra berries, wild asparagus root and shilajatu are also useful for strengthening the nervous system.

• I make a simple and convenient Ayurvedic nerve tonic (used since ancient times) by combining wild asparagus root taken in the same meal with organic eggs.  We now know that eggs contain lecithin, a convenient source of choline, as well as easy to assimilate protein (as well at lutein, good for the eyes).

• To increase general mental and physical energy I frequently use Siberian ginseng root bark, at a dosage of two 500-mg pills of extract concentrated 10:1,  three times per day, or in tincture form 45-60 drops three or more times per day.

Bacopa is very very good for improving memory and concentration, in both adults and children. It can be an effective tool for ADD. The dose for 500 mg concentrated extract pills (for adults) is one pill twice a day.

St. John’s wort is very effective for depression combined with poor liver function.

A Note of Caution

The complexity of psychological problems often dictates the need for professional help often needed, particularly in moderate to severe cases.  If you are taking a prescription medication for depression or anxiety, you must consult with your physician before discontinuing it.  Discontinuation without medical supervision may be life threatening.