What the Hell are Nervines, Adaptogens and Alteratives? – WishGarden Herbs


All 3 of these unique categories of herbs have two elements in common: they focus on their individual jobs and they each have different effects on our bodies and their systems.


A nervine is an extensive spectrum of plants or herbs that are used to interplay with the nervous system. Nervine’s have been known to help the nervous system restore balance. They help to bring ease back within ourselves and support our systems to calm down and take a “chill pill.” Nervine’s are subcategorized into three different columns: relaxants, stimulants, and tonics. It’s important to know the differences between these categories because they provide contrasting effects.

  • Nervine tonics come in handy when a person has undergone extreme stress. Nervine tonics can also be helpful when a person is recovering from substance abuse or when a person has been exposed to trauma. Whether the trauma be physical or mental, nervine tonics will make their ways into your heart. Nervine tonics are deeply restorative, which is why they are useful when taken over a long period of time. This will allow for the herbs to build up with in your system, while targeting the tissues directly.
  • Nervine relaxants are herbs that help bring a sense of peace and stillness within a person’s nervous system. Nervine relaxants can be used any time of day as they are known to help bring stability to our minds and digestive tracts. Some lovely nervines to help calm and soothe your soul are Chamomile (great in tea) Skullcap, Milky Oats, California Poppy, and Valerian. One of my favorite herbal combinations is WishGarden’s formula “Serious Relaxer.” Personally I have experienced not only physical relaxation, but it has helped bring me mentally clarity and serenity.
  • Nervine stimulants do exactly what you would think they do: they stimulate the nervous system! If you suffer from sluggishness, this is the nervine group for you. Nervine stimulants cause a direct stimulation to the nervous system, which in turn promotes re-balancing and harmony within the mind and body. If you are prone to having occasional anxious feelings or an overactive nervous system, nervine stimulants are not to be used. This can lead to elevated feelings of anxiousness and unwanted energy.



Adaptogens are classified as therapeutic botanicals. They help to strengthen our body’s natural response to stress. In order to be considered a true adaptogen, there are three criteria the herbs must meet. First, an adaptogen must be considered non-toxic, when taken in the recommended serving size. Second, It must be able to support the body’s overall ability to combat stress and have a rebalancing effect to help lead the body back into homeostasis. Being that adaptogens help to regulate stress, studies have shown that adaptogens are working through the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This mechanism creates an environment that can help regulate the production of stress hormones. As humans we are naturally wired for “fight or flight” mode, which is our bodies natural stress response. Stress has many ways of presenting itself. Studying for an exam, going through a painful break-up, or experiencing the death of someone close, can activate this response.


When our flight or fight mode is activated the hypothalamus in our brains signal to increase the production of cortisol. Cortisol is our stress hormone and is used in combination with adaptogens to support our body’s functioning needs. Without cortisol, our bodies wouldn’t be able to regulate themselves through inflammation, low energy levels, metabolic processes and more.  By incorporating adaptogenic herbs, we can help to stabilize our bodies and regulate our flight or fight response. Some examples of widely known adaptogens are: Ashwagandha, Eleuthero, Rhodiola, Licorice and my personal favorite, Turmeric!  WishGarden’s formula “Emotional Ally” contains the adaptogens Milky Oats and Skullcap, which are perfect support during times of loss and grief.



Looking for overall improved health? Alteratives are it. They are used to support our body’s natural processes along with helping to restore overall vitality. There is a quote by Jim McDonald that sums it up perfectly: “Alterative herbs feed and nourish the body to promote systemic harmony.” A plant known to contain alterative actions has been said to open up our elimination channels, while supporting the body’s natural detoxification processes.  When we experience a buildup of waste, whether it be linked to pesticides, cellular debris, environmental toxins, or gut imbalances, our bodies need alterative herbs more than ever because they can support the body’s natural process of elimination. An excess of toxins and waste in our tissues can makes us feel sluggish and it lowers our immunity. The 5 main channels of elimination are: skin, kidney, lungs, liver and bowels. Rosemary, Yarrow, Calendula, Ginger & Nettle are all herbs that support these organs.

If we listen close enough, our bodies will tell us what it needs. Be sure to listen and follow through with an open heart. There are amazing herbal remedies to support our natural ability to thrive!

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Taylor Marie Fleshman is an aspiring herbalist. She is currently attending courses through Herbalism Roots in Denver, Colorado. Her goal is to teach her community about the power behind medicinal herbs and the importance in staying connected with Mother Nature. She works as a customer journey representative here at WishGarden Herbs.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.

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