5 Calm-Down Drinks that Will Relax You, Naturally

Stressful day? Soothe yourself with these natural, calm-inducing cocktails.

August 17, 2009

Drinks that lower stress are making a major comeback. Industry experts say this is a spillover effect from the rise in popularity of energy drinks. Sure, energy drinks will remain popular, but sometimes being amped up isn't all it's cracked up to be!

Look inside any minimarket cooler, and you’ll see can upon can of energy drinks waiting to jazz you up. Mini energy shots stare you down at the cash register, promising five hours of energy if you just take a swig. But recent studies have found that high levels of caffeine can cause heart palpitations, depression, antisocial personality disorder, sleeplessness, and nervousness. Much worse, a 2008 study out of Australia found that one hour after drinking just one can of Red Bull, otherwise-healthy participants developed changes associated with cardiovascular disease. So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that several drink companies are going in a different direction, and marketing new products as "relaxing soda" or anti-energy drinks. But these drinks could also contain herbal mixtures that haven't been carefully studied, along with excess sugar and questionable preservatives and/or fake colors and flavors. Some even include gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter said to calm people down, and 5-hydroxytryptophan, something that sparks seratonin, a brain chemical that affects your sleep and moods.

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If you really want to cozy up with a liquid to calm down, these do-it-yourself-recipes could be a better ticket to relaxation. (Note—always check with your physician before starting a new remedy.)

#1: Hot or warm milk. If your nerves are shot and you’re having trouble falling asleep, give this familiar remedy a try. The amino acid tryptophan in milk is what helps relax you. You can add a little honey for a sweet antioxidant boost. But whatever you do, don’t turn to alcohol for shut-eye—drinking too much close to bedtime might help you doze off, but it's likely to interfere with your sleep cycle and keep you from getting the rest you need.

#2: Herbal tea. Eric Yarnell, ND, assistant professor of botanical medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle, recommends teas of catnip, lemon balm, skullcap, passionflower, hops, and/or valerian to help relax. Pick up the raw herbs from an herb seller and steep in hot water at the strength you prefer, or check your favorite market for commercial versions.

#3: Honey-infused tea. If herbal tea doesn’t hit the spot, Yarnell recommends taking any of the aforementioned dried herbs, and infusing them in some honey for two weeks. Steep the herbs in just enough honey to cover. When you’re ready to enjoy a cup, mix 1 tablespoon of the honey/tea mixture into some hot water, hot coconut milk, or hot milk.

#4: Green tea. Green tea has long been touted as a healthy superstar, and stress relief is among its many benefits. That's because it naturally contains theanine, a calming agent. Just make sure you choose decaffeinated tea, so the theanine predominates, says Yarnell.

#5: Oat straw. If you're more of a shot person versus a tea-sipper, oat straw might be for you. This traditional remedy has long been used for depression and nervous exhaustion. It's not a quick fix—you'll have to use it for at least a month before it kicks in. It's available where most herbs and natural remedies are sold. Adults can take 1 teaspoon of 1:5 tincture three times a day.

To figure out if you're experiencing unhealthy levels of stress, read 6 Weird Signs You're Way Too Stressed Out.