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6 More Tea Ingredients That Can Help You Unwind, Relax and Chill Out

Posted By Mark Sisson On April 16, 2013 @ 8:00 am In Health,Stress,Supplements | 50 Comments

Last week, I made the case for the inclusion of chill-out, relaxing, and otherwise anti-stress teas and herbs [7], particularly for the stress-wracked among us (and who doesn’t deal with significant amounts of stress?). Several readers on the last post made the comment that, while effective, these tea ingredients don’t necessarily please the palate. I believe one even used “feet” to describe the flavor and aroma of valerian tea. That may be true, but I’d argue that when your sanity, your testosterone:cortisol ratio, and your mental well-being are on the line, pharmacological efficacy of a particular herb supersedes any concerns regarding its flavor. Stress kills [8], and, well, we want to live – and live well [9].

With that said, let’s look at a few more options. With any luck, you’ll find at least a couple that you can stomach and perhaps even enjoy.


What is it?

Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, is often said to be the granddaddy of Ayurvedic herbal medicines. It’s made from the roots of Withania somnifera, a member of the nightshade family, and usually comes in powder form. Roughly translated, ashwagandha means “smell of the horse” – a reference not only to its distinct odor but also to its purported health benefits (“strong like horse”).


It seems ashwagandha has been used as a traditional medicine for around 4,000 years across India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, giving it a pretty substantial history of use.

What is it purported to do?

It’s billed as an adaptogen, or a substance that helps the body resist stress and maintain homeostasis in the face of it. By virtue of this stress-reducing effect, ashwagandha may help improve or mitigate other stress-related conditions, like insomnia, lack of libido/erection, and anxiety.

Does the research back that up?

For the most part, yes – ashwagandha appears to be the real deal.

Only problem, as I see it, is the horse thing.

Is it safe?

Yes. Although high doses can cause sedation to the point of sexual impairment [15], the LD50 (the dose at which 50% of test subjects die) is high enough [16] to say it has “little or no associated toxicity.”

Where to find it?

Amazon.com has several options available, including both extracts [17] and whole root powder [18].

Lemon Balm

What is it?

Lemon balm is a culinary and medicinal herb from the mint family. There are several different cultivars, including “citronella” and “lemonella.” Overall, lemon balm has a bit of a lemony minty scent that lends itself well to fish dishes.


The ancient Greeks and Romans employed lemon balm as a medicinal herb, and it was catalogued in the Historia Plantarum as far back as 300 BC. Homer’s The Odyssey mentions “balm,” which scholars assume refers to lemon balm. Something to keep in mind, however much you admire the classic Hellenists: Jackie Chiles is adamantly against [19] the unprescribed application of any and all balms, including lemon balm.

What is it purported to do?

Lemon balm has historically been used to reduce anxiety and lower stress [20], along with the associated symptoms. It also makes a pleasant tea.

Does the research back that up?

Yes, it appears to lower the negative effects of stress, reduce anxiety, and increase overall relaxation, as these studies suggest:

Is it safe?

I saw a couple references claiming that lemon balm is a bit goitrogenic [27] and may even reduce thyroid [28] hormone absorption, but I wasn’t able to substantiate that with any solid studies. Overall, it’s non-toxic, although some people may get contact dermatitis from the leaves (PDF [29]).

Where to find it?

You can get lemon balm tea [30], lemon balm extract [31], or lemon balm leaf [32]. All are effective.

Passion Flower

What is it?

A flowering vine that appears in most countries. With over 500 species, it’s a fairly successful plant. It produces lovely flowers, tasty passion fruit, and its roots and leaves are dried and used as medicines. Today, we’re most interested in the roots and leaves – the herb.


The use of passion flower as a medicinal herb seems to date back to the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Since then, it’s taken off in popularity across the world, with some varieties even possessing MAO-inhibiting properties that increase the bioactivity of certain psychoactive substances (the traditional visionary medicine ayahuasca, for example, requires a similar naturally-occurring MAO inhibitor to work).

What is it purported to do?

Since it contains myriad alkaloids, flavonoids, phenolic compounds, glycosides, and other bioactive plant compounds [33], it seems to do a lot. Foremost, though, is its ability to reduce anxiety and stress.

Does the research back that up?

Yes, several studies show efficacy:

Is it safe?

It’s generally safe, but it has been shown to interact poorly with anti-anxiety medications like Ativan [37]. Don’t mix medicines – even herbal ones – without instruction from a professional.

Where to find it?

Passion flower tea [38], extract [39], and dried leaf [40] are all widely available online.


What is it?

The female flowers (which kinda look like cones) of a species of hop.


Hops are most famous for their role in beer brewing, where they provide stability and flavor. India pale ales, which were brewed to survive the long voyage to Asia, contained extra hops as a preservative – that’s why they’re so incredibly bitter. Hops seem to have originated in Asia, and medieval Germany was the site of the first European cultivation.

What is it purported to do?

It’s said to be a mild sleep [41] aid, especially when combined with valerian.

Does the research back that up?

There are a few studies that support the claims:

Is it safe?

Hops themselves are safe, but drinking a twelve pack just “to get your hops in” might cause some health issues.

Where to find it?

You could drink beer (either alcoholic or non-alcoholic), particularly pale ales (or India pale ales), which contain the most hops, but also plenty of grain [46]. Or, you could go for a hops extract [47] or a hops tea [48].

Holy Basil

What is it?

Also known as tulsi, holy basil is another cherished Ayurvedic herb. It grows all over the eastern tropics as both a cultivated and wild plant.


Ancient Hindu and Ayurvedic texts speak highly of holy basil. Thai restaurants (good, traditional ones) frequently employ it in their cooking.

What is it purported to do?

In Ayurvedic traditions, it’s said to promote general health, well-being, and longevity, but most modern usage is predicated on its supposed adaptogenic effects [49].

Does the research back that up?

What little evidence exists seems to:

  • Holy basil is effective in patients with generalized anxiety disorder, reducing the disorder [50] itself as well as the concomitant stress and depression.
  • Extracts of holy basil have been shown [51] to reduce cortisol, lower adrenal gland hypertrophy, and normalize stress-induced hyperglycemia in rodents.

Human research is very preliminary (bordering on non-existent), but Ayurvedic herbs seem to do pretty well once the studies are actually conducted. I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be a strong adaptogen and ally in the fight against stress. For what it’s worth, it seems to be hepato-protective, too.

Is it safe?

The LD50 of the oil extract [52] is 42.5 mL/kg.

Where to find it?

Amazon has holy basil tea [53], extracts [54], and dried leaves [55]. My favorite way is to go eat some great Thai food, however. Look around for pad krapow moo – holy basil stir-fried pork. Bring a jar of coconut oil and they’ll probably even cook with it.

Siberian Ginseng

What is it?

It’s actually not a type of ginseng. Instead, it comes from a woody shrub that grows in Northeastern Asia (including, obviously, Siberia).


Traditional Chinese medicine has used it for many centuries.

What is it purported to do?

While not a sedative by any means, Siberian ginseng apparently improves one’s resistance to stress and reduces the stress response. This can have an “energizing” effect, if stress is beating you down or causing fatigue (like in overtraining [56]).

Does the research back that up?

For the most part, yes:

So, while Siberian ginseng isn’t going to sedate or necessarily chill you out, it will help you adapt to and resist the negative effects of stress – which do often manifest as anxiety or excitability. I know when I’m stressed out, I’m often wired.

Is it safe?

The LD50 is around 3 g/kg of the extract or 25 g/kg of the dry root (PDF [60]). In other words, it’s quite safe.

Where to find it?

Siberian ginseng capsules [61] work quite well, as does the bulk tea [62].

That’s it for this time, guys. I hope you’re able to stomach enough of these and other stress-reducing herbs to obtain all the benefits. Thanks for reading and be sure to let me know if I forgot anything!

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[7] chill-out, relaxing, and otherwise anti-stress teas and herbs: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/6-tea-ingredients-that-can-help-you-unwind-relax-and-chill-out/#axzz2Q8LODT94

[8] Stress kills: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/dear-mark-sleep-and-oxidative-stress/

[9] live well: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/compression-of-morbidity/

[10] Among adults with a history of chronic stress: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798

[11] PDF: http://www.lifeforce.net/pdfs/withania_review.pdf

[12] ashwagandha reduces anxiety: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19718255

[13] ashwagandha improves semen quality: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19501822

[14] prevents the normal rise: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9582008

[15] sedation to the point of sexual impairment: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12508132

[16] high enough: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10956379

[17] extracts: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0013OQIJY/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0013OQIJY&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

[18] whole root powder: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000OO3T5K/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000OO3T5K&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

[19] Jackie Chiles is adamantly against: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzowSs9mNOM

[20] lower stress: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/15-ways-to-fight-stress/#axzz2Q8JR33Fk

[21] lemon balm reduces lab-induced stress: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16444660

[22] reduces restlessness in afflicted children: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16487692

[23] appears to reduce cortisol concentrations: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21076869

[24] inhibiting the enzyme which degrades GABA: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19165747

[25] lower the negative effects of lab-induced stress: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15272110

[26] improves mood: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12888775

[27] goitrogenic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goitrogen

[28] thyroid: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/hypothyroid/

[29] PDF: http://www.herbsociety.org/factsheets/Lemon%20Balm%20Guide.pdf

[30] lemon balm tea: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000HB9TOA/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000HB9TOA&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

[31] lemon balm extract: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000158C9A/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000158C9A&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

[32] lemon balm leaf: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002DY1EHO/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B002DY1EHO&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

[33] bioactive plant compounds: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-you-should-eat-brightly-colored-fruits-and-vegetables/

[34] improved sleep quality: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21294203

[35] effective against generalized anxiety disorder: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11679026

[36] reduce anxiety without causing sedation: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18499602

[37] interact poorly with anti-anxiety medications like Ativan: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19441067

[38] Passion flower tea: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001IZ4DGS/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B001IZ4DGS&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

[39] extract: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0006O2KOO/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0006O2KOO&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

[40] dried leaf: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006MS70KM/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B006MS70KM&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

[41] sleep: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-definitive-guide-to-sleep/#axzz2Q8KcTa9w

[42] effective: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18559301

[43] opposing caffeine’s antagonistic effect on adenosine: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15254851

[44] improves sleep quality: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22815680

[45] increases sedation: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22849837

[46] grain: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/soaked-sprouted-fermented-grains/

[47] hops extract: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0014AUH8U/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0014AUH8U&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

[48] hops tea: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001W3IN6M/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B001W3IN6M&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

[49] adaptogenic effects: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptogen

[50] reducing the disorder: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19253862

[51] have been shown: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17850106

[52] LD50 of the oil extract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=holy+basil+ld50

[53] holy basil tea: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000Z1GLGQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000Z1GLGQ&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

[54] extracts: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0013OUP8O/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0013OUP8O&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

[55] dried leaves: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008WXHRRQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B008WXHRRQ&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

[56] overtraining: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/overtraining/#axzz2Q8LODT94

[57] reduce: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15507373

[58] induces vaso-relaxation: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15095033

[59] Siberian ginseng improves endurance performance and capacity: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21793317

[60] PDF: http://www.chinaphar.com/1671-4083/2/281.pdf

[61] Siberian ginseng capsules: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00185VHJ4/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00185VHJ4&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

[62] bulk tea: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008TUX852/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B008TUX852&linkCode=as2&tag=marsdaiapp07-20

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