According to the ancient healing science of Ayurveda, we are in Vata season. The word Vata means to blow or to move like the wind. Made up of the elements air and space, Vata
controls all movements in the body as well as communication. Think of the flow of the breath, cellular mobility, all muscle contractions, the pulsation of the heart, tissue movements—and throughout the mind and the nervous system.
Good Hair, Chilled Bones
Vata’s qualities are dry, cold, light, moving, changeable, subtle, rough, and quick. It has the same qualities as the fall season. What does that look like in your day-to-day life?
If you live in a colder climate, it may bring many good hair days (remember, Vata is dry so there is very little moisture in the air). But the air is cold, and the windy days hit the bones. We know that in Ayurveda like increases like. If you don’t cover your ears or layer up smartly, it’s quite easy for the Vata to go out of balance.
What happens when this mobile Vata gets accumulated in the nervous system? From an Ayurvedic perspective, this looks like anxiety.
An imbalance of Vata is associated with an overabundance of lightness or movement. Too much energy in the head and not enough at the feet creates instability and un-centeredness. This might show up as irregular thoughts, worries, obsession, confusion, nervousness, and difficulty focusing. This ungrounded feeling also creates sleeplessness and a sensitive, hyper-excitable nervous system.
[Read: “Candle Gazing and 4 Other Ways to Balance an Overactive Mind.”]
Ayurvedic Herbs for Anxiety
Anxiety is a complex problem and, thus, there are no simple solutions, however there are Ayurvedic herbal remedies that can help stabilize Vata and lower anxiety. (Caution: While it might be tempting to rush to a health food store or order these herbs online, seeing an Ayurvedic practitioner is recommended to assess if the herb is right for you, including recommended dosage, duration of use, and any contraindications.)
According to a study published by Sebastian Pole in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine,
“Ashwagandha strengthens an exhausted nervous system that can manifest with ‘hyper’ signs such as emotional instability, agitation, or feeling stressed out.”
[Read: “How to Use Ashwagandha Root.”]
It can help to reduce the level of cortisol in the body, which is the hormone responsible for stress. Ashwagandha
also promotes restorative sleep and balances energies in the body to reduce insomnia and boost energy as well as stamina. If you have excess Pitta and Ama, use with caution. Be cautious in your usage when pregnant.
The brahmi herb derives its name from the same roots as Brahma (Hindu god responsible for all creative forces in the world) and Brahman (Hindu name for universal consciousness).
Brahmi is known for its mind-enhancing effects as well as for reducing stress. Some studies reveal that brahmi may boost brain function and improve memory, learning ability, and concentration. It may also play a role in alleviating anxiety and stress. It is also used to treat insomnia.
More technically, brahmi is the herb of choice for all conditions with a deficient Majja Dhatu. One of the seven dhatus/tissues in Ayurveda, Majja Dhatu is responsible for functions of the brain and nervous system, body strength, bone nourishment, and our mental or emotional state.
Tulsi (Holy Basil)
Tulsi is a common herb found in almost every Hindu household in India. Considered a sacred plant with sattvic qualities, some people even bow to the tulsi plant every morning after they’ve showered.
Tulsi is used to bring spiritual clarity. During winter, some make masala tea with its leaves to lift the heaviness of cold, cough, and fevers. Tulsi tea is also great for tension headaches from high Vata and can be used as a mild nervine to treat anxiety and stress. If you are high Pitta and have a respiratory infection, use this herb in moderation and in combination with cooling herbs.
Calm Vata—or any flighty, fractured, can’t-settle-down sort of energy—with this deep sleep Ayurvedic tonic.