Herb Health: The Christmas Survival Guide

Christmas it a time to eat, drink and be merry, but it can also become a time of high stress and overindulgence.

Editor Jane Garton shares some top herbs to help beat Christmas stress before it beats you.

‘Tis the season to be jolly but all too often we can end up stressed or feeling under the weather from too much festive eating and drinking.  The secret is to pace yourself and be prepared for any festive mishaps. Read on for the danger zones and the herbs that can help you on your way to the healthiest, happiest Christmas ever.


Office parties or drinks with the neighbours can soon tot and before you know it you are well on the way to waking up with a pounding head. The secret is to avoid alcohol until you have eaten and to stick within recommended levels – 14 units a week for women and  men (a unit is a small glass of wine, a pub measure of spirits or half a pint of normal strength beer).

Look out for herbal remedies containing extracts of artichoke. They can help the digestive process by stimulating the production of bile, which in turn can help to eliminate alcohol from the body. Alternatively try milk thistle. It can help protect the liver against toxins as well as speeding up the regeneration of new cells.


It’s hard not to pile up your plate at festive parties but Christmas foods are often fattier and richer than what you eat normally. And before you know it you are feeling bloated and suffering from indigestion.

To help fight symptoms try remedies containing extracts of artichoke. Either take a daily supplement as a protective measure throughout the festive season or for immediate relief from the symptoms of overindulgence you can increase the dose to up to six capsules.

A cup of freshly grated ginger tea can do wonders for settling an upset stomach. Just grate 1.25cm (1/2in) of ginger root into a cup and cover with boiling water. Leave to infuse for a few moments before sipping slowly.


Trying to get all your work done before the holiday period can often see you still at your desk well into the evenings in the weeks before Christmas. The result? Exhaustion sets in and you haven’t the energy to go out partying.

You need something that will give you a quick boost to kick-start you into action. And the herb that springs to mind is ginseng. Long regarded as something of a wonder drug, it is a highly respected herbal tonic, which will give your body the injection of energy you are looking for. And don’t be tempted by a cup of coffee, It may give you an instant lift  but the effects will be short lived. Instead make yourself a cup of revitalising peppermint tea.


Endless parties, catching up with family and friends not to mention all that Christmas shopping and getting work done before the break probably mean too little sleep. Before you know it you’ll be running on empty.  So take stock now and schedule in some early nights.

If you find you’re so wound up when you get to bed that you can’t get to sleep or you keep on waking up in the middle of the night worrying about all the things that need doing, it’s time for a dose of soothing valerian. Long used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a mild sedative, its active ingredients include volatile oils, iridoids and alkaloids, which help to calm you down ready for a sound night’s sleep.


School holidays not to mention having family and friends to stay for Christmas can be stressful. You may have been looking forward to it for months but things don’t always turn out as you expected. The result? You end up feeling emotionally stressed.

Look out for rhodiola.  Extracts of this alpine plant from the East have been used traditionally to treat stress for more than 30 years.  Now a new study confirms its usefulness in helping symptoms of stress including irritability, fatigue and tension.

Herbal remedies containing skullcap, passionflower leaf, hops or valerina root are also worth a try. You can take them during the day to calm you down or last thing at night to help you sleep. Relaxing teas include lime flower, verbena and lemon balm.


If chaos threatens breathe in deeply to a count of four, then breathe out to a count of four. Repeat four times.

Give in to tiredness. Whatever the time of day take a 10-minute nap. You could be amazed by what a difference it can make.

Dab a drop of lavender essential oil on your wrists and temples to help relax you.

Rejuvenate tired eyes with a few minutes of palming: rub your hands together to warm them up then cup over closed eyes.

Keep moving. Running up and down stairs as fast as you can will help boost levels of endorphins, the body’s own feel-good hormones.