This Nervine Tonic Is My New Alcohol-Free Wine O’Clock

Relax faster with herbs

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nervine tonic review universal
Dasha Burobina

Ever since the pandemic, when women (especially those who lived with children and worked at home) who experienced psychological distress reported hitting the sauce harder than ever, I’ve been looking for ways to duplicate the positive effects of wine and spirits (stress relief, relaxation, mood elevation) without the negative ones (intoxication, functional impairment, physical and psychological hangovers). While beverages with cannabinoids and mocktails are popular, I was curious to find an ingredient that could actively chill a person out, with no risk of the punchy feeling that low-volume alcohol or even CBD can leave you with. When I discovered a bestselling nervine tonic called Take the Edge Off ($39; $33), I was psyched to try it. (Just as soon as I figured out what a “nervine tonic” even is.)

Meet the Expert

Dr. Rafaat W. Girgis is triple board-certified in psychiatry, addictionology and psychosomatic medicine. He is the medical Director of the Rehab Center Moment of Clarity in Orange County, California. His mission is to make sure all groups of people receive compassionate and targeted support needed to tackle mental health disorders.

What are Examples of Nervine Tonics?

I discovered that nervine tonics are liquid forms of herbs that have anti-stress properties. They are part of the Ayurvedic tradition and integrative medical practices, which is why you perhaps have never heard of them or seen them for sale in your local Western drugstore. Dr. Rafaat W. Girgis, a psychiatrist who is a specialist in addiction treatment, says he’s learned about nervines through “self-reporting from individuals I have worked with over the years that are leery of traditional medicines that I have suggested, and they wanted to try an herbal extract instead.”

What are the Ingredients in Take the Edge Off?

According to creator Shizu Okusa, the CEO of Apothékary, the company that makes Take the Edge Off, this tincture includes a collection of botanicals extracted using alcohol, with the alcohol subsequently evaporated away. Then the active ingredients—passionflower, linden, skullcap and oatstraw—are suspended in glycerin to be shelf-stable.

Of course, I wanted to ask a physician if these plants had any actual physiological properties. Sure enough, Dr. Girgis noted that each of these herbs have unique but complementary properties. “Relaxing passionflower has been used traditionally to ease feelings of restlessness, stress and body discomfort,” he says, “Research shows it has been used for centuries as a remedy for various ailments. It is scientifically known as Passiflora Incarnata, promising as an alternative to pharmaceuticals like Xanax—mind you, not to replace traditional [Western medical] methods, but assist with calming and sedative effects. It is also suggested to be helpful with neuropathic pain.”

Linden and skull cap, Dr. Girgis says, help soothe the nervous and cardiovascular systems. And “the research on oat straw extract is amazing, suggesting it to be helpful with skin, blood sugar levels, balancing cholesterol, improvement of blood flow, reducing inflammation and enhancing mental health."

How Do You Use It?

Per the brand’s suggestions, I made a little evening cocktail out of the stuff. I concocted a Rosemary + Blueberry Spritzer by throwing some blueberries, a squeeze of lemon, a teaspoon of honey and a sprig of rosemary from my garden into a glass with two droppers full of Take the Edge Off and some Pellegrino. A few cubes of ice and I was ready to relax, which for me meant stepping away from the laptop and chatting with my family. Surprisingly, after I finished the slightly sweet and herbal-tasting drink (I could only detect the sugar-free tincture as a slight grassy fragrance), I felt my shoulders ease ever-so-slightly downward and started moving a little slower and smiling a little wider. My brow didn’t clench as much. This had to be a placebo effect, right?

Perhaps this isn’t just suggestion. Dr. Girgis says the research states, “Liquid herbal extracts are well-absorbed and begin working very quickly, within 10 to 30 minutes. But the keyword here is begin. Noticeable effects or results can vary greatly. Some herbs that affect the nervous system can produce noticeable effects in a short period of time." Other sources say they can begin to work within 1 to 3 days.

When I helped myself to another TTEO beverage (this time, a Sober Paloma: Grapefruit juice, sparkling water and two droppers full of the nervine tonic), I experienced a similar relaxed state, so consider me hooked.

Who Shouldn't Drink Nervine Tonics?

Dr. Girgis endorses nervine tonics, with caution. “As a physician I am of the mindset to choose alternatives to alcohol as a tool for improving your well-being," he says. "That being said, I also warn against being uninformed on the side effects of herbs and pharmaceuticals alike.” Okusa advises avoiding the tonic during pregnancy and breastfeeding due to the lack of safety data regarding its use during those times (or only using them under the care of an experienced clinical herbalist). Some nervine herbs, like skullcap and passionflower, could be contraindicated with SSRI and sedative medications so she recommends checking with your primary care doctor before combining the tincture with medications, especially those that impact the nervous system.

The Final Verdict

Honestly, this is my new cocktail-hour go-to. I especially like how this nervine tonic relaxes me without making me slow-witted (well, any more than usual) or sluggish. It’s a nice way to break my daily work life from my evening chill-out time with friends and family, but without the health hassles that wine can bring. Also, since this tincture comes in a cute little opaque white bottle, it doesn’t spoil. And with frequent use, one bottle lasts for over a month. Plus, the neutral grassy flavor is as versatile as vodka—you can mix it with everything from citrus and fruit juices to sparkling water and ginger ale.

In the month I’ve been taking it a few times a week, I’ve enjoyed how it helps me to lighten up and slow down for a moment and reflect on the day. I can’t speak to long-term effects of using it (although CEO Okusa reports that 95 percent of users they polled reported long-term stress relief after sustained use), but I’m happy with it as being a part of my daily flow. And I’m looking forward to brand extensions Rosé-Tinted Glasses, an adaptogen tincture  for managing long-term stress relief, mood support, and nourished skin and another one that supports digestion. Better living through gentle herbs? I’ll drink to that.

dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...

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