Herbal Supplements for Stress: Handling Stress Naturally
Stress is a regular occurrence in today’s world. But you should understand that there are ways on how you can handle the daily tension. Herbal supplements for stress, exercise, and relaxation techniques are among the most effective ways to manage the situation.
What is stress?
Stress is “the state of physical, emotional and mental tension”. It may come from your own relationships, work or school, money matters, health, or even the small things around you. Everyone – young and old- has experienced it at different points in their lives. Whether you are sitting in traffic and late for an appointment or the waiter incorrectly delivered your food after several minutes of waiting, negative feelings are associated with it.
What are the side effects of stress?
The American Institute of Stress estimates that 77% of people regularly experience the physical symptoms of stress. While there are times that it can be a positive and motivating factor, stress often has a negative impact. Health experts say that around 90% of all doctor visits and hospitalizations are caused by it. Here are some of the diseases considered as side effects of chronic stress.
- Heart disease
- Mental disorders
- Autoimmune disorders
To avoid suffering from these debilitating diseases, you should begin protecting your body against the detrimental effects of stress. You can start the journey to a more revived body by taking herbal supplements for stress. They are the most natural way to boost your body’s innate ability to fight stressful conditions.
How does stress affect the body?
While the body has been designed to regularly handle stress and adapt to it, chronic stress leads to hormonal changes that cascade into physical problems and bring your whole system in trouble. Stressful situations coming from negative thoughts, new job, modified diet, lack of sleep or any change in your usual routine, increase the stress hormones called cortisol. This is the substance associated with the adrenaline rush in a “fight or flight” situation. The frequent spiking in the level of cortisol leads to symptoms like headache, fatigue, high blood pressure, anxiety, eating disorders and many more. If this regularly happens, it can accelerate cellular aging and damage different organs in the body.
Patients under constant stress experience disruptions in the central nervous system, endocrine, cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, immune, and respiratory functions. In short, the stress that you regularly encounter can be detrimental to your whole being. It can break down your emotional and cognitive abilities, lead to depression and mental disorder, and it can make you sick in the long run.
What are the natural ways to relieve stress?
Stress comes as an inevitable part of our everyday life. Because it is impossible to remove it entirely, the ideal setup is to learn how to manage it.
While there are drugs that help reduce the symptoms of stress, the goal is always to go for natural ways like the use of herbal supplements for stress. Pharmaceutical drugs are expensive, have safety issues and very addictive. They may help you in the initial phases but in the long run, these medicines will only add up to your problem. Instead of popping on that pill to calm you down, why not try any of these strategies to help you relax and find peace.
Exercise is a natural remedy for anxiety because it releases the happy hormone called “endorphin”. The substance is an innate pain killer and mood lifter. Any form of physical activity - from brisk walking to aerobics to cardiovascular training - can act as a stress reliever. Many physicians recommend exercise to be a regular part of stress management programs. A few minutes of exercise can bring tension out of your body. It can improve your fitness level too and enhance your overall confidence.
Many times, just taking a time to pause and rest the mind is sufficient to feel better. A quiet time doing yoga or other meditation techniques can help your body calm down. The relaxation strategy allows your mind to connect with your body. Years of research have been dedicated to proving its healing power. Regular meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety attacks, improve sleep, avoid substance abuse and boost physical health. Focusing on your body movements during yoga results in a calmer and clearer mind. Meditation offers a sense of command over your body and your life in general.
Connect to Nature, Society, and Self
Making your connections strong can be another effective way to relax. First, find time to reattach yourself with nature and appreciate scenic places. A few hours or even days close to nature can help recharge your spirit and give you a better perspective.
Next is to connect with a positive social circle. Call on your most trusted friend or ask your spouse for a date or simply do enjoyable activities with your kids. The idea is to release your stress by spending more time nurturing your relationship.
Lastly, keep in touch with yourself. Keep track of your feelings and know the stimuli that are causing your stress. You may want to use a journal to write your thoughts and release your negative feelings.
What are adaptogens and how are they related to stress?
Adaptogens are under the group of non-toxic healing plants. The different parts of these herbs like the roots have been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. The term first appeared in 1947 and then in 1958 from Russian scientists.
According to Dr. Brenda Powell, co-director at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, adaptogens help train your body to handle stress. They are the herbal supplements for stress that help restore the body’s homeostasis or balance in a natural way. Although there is no exact definition for the term, naturopaths agree that they are substances that offer a “state of non-specific resistance”. This means that adaptogen does not have a single action. Instead, it has a systemic effect that influences the various physiological responses in the body.
How do adaptogens deal with stress?
Adaptogens or the herbal supplements for stress have been proven to have neuroprotective, anti-depressive, and anti-fatigue properties. They have been studied among animal models and clinical trials involving human patients. Herbal supplements for stress influence hormone production to ensure that your body – starting from your mind to your emotions and down to your physical aspect – functions the way they should.
In various studies that appeared in peer-reviewed journals, adaptogens protect the adrenal glands and the cells against the oxidative effects of stress. The herbal supplements do this by regulating the key mediators in stress response. Clinical trials show that the plant extracts normalize the level of cortisol and serve as an important link in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the system crucial in managing stress in the body. Because of the important role of adaptogens, well-known herbalists like David Winston regularly recommend the use of herbal supplements for stress to counteract the negative effects of it.
What are the top herbal supplements for stress?
Ginseng is a very popular adaptogen used by traditional Chinese healers. It has many benefits including memory enhancement, normalizing the levels of chemicals in the blood such as glucose and cholesterol and enhancing the energy level. Since the 1980s, the herb has been well studied in various clinical trials. In animal models, Panax ginseng blocks the production of ACTH, a hormone that stimulates stress reactions in the body. The anti-stress properties are related to the saponin component. One study published in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences in 2003 tested the herb against rats under acute and chronic stress. The results showed that Panax ginseng is a better option for chronic stress and can be used as a treatment for stress-induced disorders. This study is further supported by other scientific claims that the plant facilitates recovery from exhaustive activities.
Another important herbal supplement for stress is the Indian ginseng called Ashwagandha. Its action has been the subject of numerous scientific studies for many years. It has been tested among rats and mice against bacteria-induced stress and stress-related gastric ulcer. Researchers observed that the plant prevents oxidative processes that cause cell damage and weight increase of adrenal glands. It also helps stabilize cortisol levels in order to control the symptoms of stress.
Apart from animal models, it is interesting to note that ashwagandha has also been tested in human clinical trials. In 2012, a prospective randomized double-blinded study was conducted to test the full efficacy of Ashwagandha roots in reducing anxiety and stress in adults. Researchers included 64 adults and were asked to take one capsule of Ashwagandha per day for 60 days. After the experimental period, the subjects showed a significant reduction in stress using an assessment scale and a decrease in the cortisol level. Furthermore, the researchers concluded that the use of herbal supplements for stress is safe since no serious side effect was reported during the whole study period.
Cordyceps mushrooms are not only rich in nutrients but also with nature’s healing power. Chinese healers include the plant in their list of herbal medicines. This variety of mushrooms have been observed to possess anti-stress and anti-oxidative properties. The polysaccharide component in cordyceps has been the topic of several pieces of research. For example, one study conducted in 2013 and published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Biology tested for the effects of this adaptogen on exercise-induced oxidative stress. Mice were exposed to different dosage of cordyceps and after one month, the animals who received a higher amount of cordyceps had better tolerance to stress.
Astragalus root boosts the immune system by decreasing the number of inflammatory substances and corticosteroids in the blood. What is interesting about it is its ability to increase the cortisol level in the initial phases of stress and subsequently, reduce it once the stressor has been successfully removed by the body.
Apart from its ability to counteract stress, a systemic review of various experimental studies also showed that the adaptogen possesses a renal protective effect for patients with diabetic nephropathy. This makes astragalus root an important herbal supplement in managing diabetes and its complications.
More studies link stress with the development of cancer. This prompted one study to explore the effects of licorice root in interfering with protein expression of cancer biomarkers. Researchers from The State University of New Jersey examined the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative activities of licorice root along with another adaptogen. The result of their experiment is promising as they found that the herb has an overall health-promoting effect against stress-related diseases including cancer.
Rhodiola has been studied in two separate clinical trials involving students with reported stress and another among physicians with stress-induced fatigue. Both studies showed that the plant has the ability to reduce mental fatigue and boost brain performance after taking the supplements for 2 weeks. Both the physicians and the students reported better performance related to their respective activities.
In 1994, Rhodiola was also tested for its effect on stress-induced cardiac damage and found to have cardioprotective properties. Moreover, it also exhibited anti-stressor properties making it one of the best herbal supplements for stress.
Bacopa monniera is a popular herbal supplement because of its neuropharmacological abilities. Its role in stress has been studied using plasma corticosterone and brain monoamine levels as indicators. Researchers used animal models and exposed them for 7 days to acute stress and chronic unpredictable stress. After the study period, they found out that Bacopa’s adaptogenic activity comes from its ability to normalize corticosterone and other monoamine substances related to stress.
If there is a health issue that is pandemic in nature, that would be stress. It affects millions of people worldwide. It is a regular problem that almost all people have to handle on a daily basis. Stress has always been associated with unwanted consequences like depression, irritability, sleep disorders, and debilitating diseases.
Far too often, people rely on vices and drugs to manage stress. But instead of solving the real issue, the addiction only perpetuates the negative effects. The best way to live despite the presence of stress is to learn how to control it in the most natural way possible.
Give exercise and meditation a try. Reconnect with nature, mend relationships and get in touch with your own self. Find the best herbal supplements for stress and combat its symptoms before they bring you down. With these natural relievers, you can literally add more years to your life and bring more happiness into it.
Bonus: Watch this video to learn the difference between good and bad stress from Dr. Ware!
American Institute of Stress - Stress Research
American Institute of Stress - "America's #1 Health Problem"