Since the beginning of time, humans have been drawn to flowers for their beauty and medicinal wisdom. Even the most basic bouquet of flowers has an instantaneous effect on us psychologically and physiologically. I can understand how that statement could stimulate skepticism, but continue reading and consider doing this exercise:
Close your eyes. Imagine a loved one is walking toward you. They're presenting the most brilliant bouquet you’ve ever seen. All of your favorites are there, bursts of color that are only matched in exuberance by their soothing scents. You receive them in your hands, feeling the velvety softness of their petals on your skin.
Now open your eyes. How do you feel? I would assume you probably experienced a wave of gentle relief and maybe even pleasure. As a student of nature’s kingdoms, the next question that comes to mind for me is this: If the mere thought of flowers can have this effect, what’s the full extent of what they can do for us?
This question has taken me down many-a-rabbit-hole, and the amalgamation of science-backed and traditional answers I uncovered are partly what drove me to formulate Stress Therapy 7-Flower Infusion. Here’s some of what I found:
Flowers Are Potent Neuromodulators
“Neuromodulators” are compounds that are capable of binding to receptors in the brain responsible for signaling the central nervous system. When it comes to soothing the central nervous system, flowers are a clever bunch. Their ability to do this is essential not only for stress management, but immune health.
Chronic Stress And Your Immune System
Stress is an important modulator of the immune response and can increase and decrease bodily defenses. Not all stress is harmful, in fact, acute stress is healthy and initiates necessary responses throughout the body to overcome a challenge. Ideally, that’s exactly what stress is—your body’s response when it’s challenged. There are many “upsides” to stress, but our belief that stress is harmful to our health can be even more unhealthy than stress itself; in essence, we are stressed that we are stressed, and this is what creates feelings of overwhelm. When stress becomes chronic, or overwhelming, this can deteriorate and confuse your immune response. Chronic stress has consequences on the immune cells' readiness to mobilize and migrate in response to acute stressors and implicitly on an organism's ability to defend itself.1
While reacting to a pathogen, there is a continuous interchange between the nervous and immune systems in the attempt to keep the organism in balance and free of infecting organisms. This interaction is called psychoneuroimmunology, where mental alterations translate into immune changes and products of the immune cells influence neuronal circuits.2
In other words, your immune system and central nervous system are constantly communicating with each other, and your ability to soothe one impacts the other. Since flowers are potent neuromodulators, this also makes them viable solutions for immune support.
7 Of The Top Neuromodulating Flowers
Flowers contain a vast matrix of phytoactives including polyphenols, which are like an evolutionary gift to the plant kingdom that also benefits human beings. All these nutrients work in tandem to provide protection from stressors. Modern nutritional science has even linked the consumption of plant-based polyphenols with an array of improved health biomarkers3, including longevity*4. These seven flowers are at the top of my list when it comes to designing formulas that support overall systemic wellbeing:
- Chamomile:The power of chamomile lies in both the quality and dose of the flower. Research shows that 5g of chamomile flower infusion is strongly associated with improved gut microflora—as evidenced by increased levels of hippurate—and increasing production of intestinal barrier-fortifying amino acids like glycine.*5 These gut-supportive benefits are a reflection of phytoactive intake, and the absorption of potent neuromodulating compounds like luteolin, apigenin, and several fractions that are able to selectively bind to key neurotransmitter pathways for a calming effect.*6
- Passionflower: A pilot clinical trial using passionflower extract revealed equivocal efficacy in reducing feelings of anxiousness.*7In fact, in another study, passionflower was extremely effective in relieving feelings of anxiousness in dental patients, with the average symptom score being significantly different pre- and post-dosing. The authors concluded that passionflower extract was significantly effective in reducing feelings of anxiousness during dental procedures, it was easy to use, and no side effects were observed.8 This superb neuromodulating effect is what also makes passionflower a wonderful flower for supporting more restful, deeper sleep.*9
- Calendula:A generally soothing flower, calendula is treasured around the world for its cooling and balancing properties. Calendula contains a rich matrix of polyphenols, compounds that are considered important signaling factors for gut, immune, and emotional wellbeing. Studies show that calendula delivers neuromodulating results that deliver substantial relief of feelings of anxiousness.*10
- Elderflower: You might be very familiar with elderberry, but focus is starting to shift to the polyphenol-rich elderflower, and for good reason. Assays revealed that tea prepared from elderflowers had higher antioxidative activities than tea prepared from elderberries and could be important dietary sources of natural antioxidants that contribute to supporting overall health through the reduction of oxidative stress.*11
- Hibiscus: Clinical research has demonstrated that consumption of hibiscus, which is rich in polyphenols, was associated with energized cells and protection of the cardiovascular system. These findings suggest beneficial actions in the management of inflammation as there was a decrease in the fight-flight-freeze hormone, cortisol, and a significant increase in the blood vessel vasodilation, which is the widening of blood vessels to improve blood flow—both key actions for cooling the central nervous system.*12
- Rose: An ancient plant known as the Queen of Flowers, Damask rose and its oil are celebrated for their neuromodulating prowess in helping with feelings of sadness, grief, anxiousness, and tension.* Rose oil has demonstrated beneficial effects on the central nervous system that are partly attributed to itsabundance of polyphenolic compounds like terpenes, glycosides, flavonoids, and anthocyanins including myrcene, kaempferol, and quercetin.*13
- Saffron: One of the most exotic and beneficial flowers, saffron is a known anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective plant.* It has traditionally been used as an analgesic and sedative, and as a treatment for gastrointestinal, respiratory, and infectious diseases. More recently, saffron has been shown to be a safe and effective natural ingredient that possesses the ability to help soothe feelings of sadness.*14
The Esoteric Power Of Flowers
I would be remiss to only highlight the chemical compositions and neuromodulating benefits of flowers when I believe their healing power is so much more than this. Let’s go back to the idea of the bouquet, the colors of the petals—this is one of the most important aspects of how flowers are able to disarm our feelings of overwhelm and begin to work their magic. Leaning more toward the esoteric, there is a science of color called chromotherapy that is an ancient study of how colors can help balance vibrations throughout the body to bring it back to balance.
According to Traditional Chinese healers, different colors create different light-wave frequencies that travel from the retina to the optic nerve, signaling the release of neurotransmitters like melatonin and serotonin. In the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine, here’s what different colors could signal to the body:
Red: Stimulates adrenal glands, boosting energy
Indigo: Stimulates pineal gland, regulating sleep patterns. Frees worries, fear, and inhibition.
Yellow: Stimulates alert, clear-headed, and decisive behavior. Associated with optimism.
Blue: Triggers melatonin. Stimulates thyroid gland release thyroxin, regulating metabolic rate.
Green: Slows and deepens breathing, slowing stress hormones, and helping the heart relax.
Orange: Strengthens immunity and lungs. Supports digestive system.
Violet: Cools, alleviating “hot” conditions, balancing metabolism. Stimulates the pituitary gland, releasing tension-fighting beta-endorphins.
The theory of chromotherapy could be seen as the cherry on top of why I designed Stress Therapy 7-Flower Infusion the way that I did. Each of our infusion bags is a therapeutic serving of these flowers in a sachet that reveals the vibrant colors of each flower as follows:
If there’s one takeaway you leave with after reading this, it’s that the delicate beings we call flowers are a viable answer to the need for working with feelings of overwhelm, and more.