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Let’s face it, most people spend a good bit of time feeling stressed out. And there are times in life when stress is even higher than normal. When stress is at it’s peak, having multiple ways to reduce it can be good! Meditation, deep breathing, laughter and exercise are just a few of the common ways that people lower stress.
But one overlooked way to kick stress to the curb is through the use of herbs. There are many herbs that help to soothe the nervous system. And we’re going to look at five that can help you to feel calmer when stress levels are high.
Why is it important to tame stress?
Chronic stress is connected with as much as 90% of all chronic illness. The body was designed to react with a stress response as protection…but only for short periods of time. If you face a bear in the woods the perceived danger of that would trigger the stress response. That response would cause you to either freeze, run or fight. When the stress response is activated, the amygdala in the brain sends a warning signal to the hypothalamus. This triggers the hypothalamus to send signals to the sympathetic nervous system.
This distress signal prompts the nervous system to release adrenaline and cortisol. This causes changes in the body such as an increase in heart rate, rise in blood pressure and faster breathing. Hearing and sight get sharper. Extra blood sugar is released from special storage cells throughout the body to help provide extra energy to face the impending danger. Digestive and reproductive system function is significantly reduced to funnel energy to the body.
Most people rarely face a bear in the woods. But our thought patterns can create a perception of danger. And consistently negative thought patterns can chronically trigger the stress response. This is one of the main causes of chronic stress today. And the number of people who are struggling with chronic stress levels is at epidemic levels. And why you absolutely must take steps to lower stress levels regularly.
The herbs I’ve included on this list are from a group call the adaptogens. Adaptogens work with the body and help it adapt so that it can better manage physical, emotional, chemical and environmental stress. These herbs help to restore balance and are known to help strengthen the body and boost overall wellness. They can be taken as a tea, tincture or in capsule form.
Tulsi (Holy Basil)
Tulsi (ocimum sanctum) is a well known herb that has been used in India for thousands of year. Commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, this gentle herb is known not only to help reduce stress but to also reduce anxiety levels. It has also been shown to lower blood sugar and can help adrenal function.
Ashwagandha (withanea somnifera) is another herb that’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. If there is one adaptogenic herb that reigns supreme, this would be it. Not only does it help to reduce stress, but it reduces anxiety. It also is known to boost the immune system. Studies have shows that ashwagandha also helps to improve thyroid function, stabilizes blood sugar, reduces the degeneration of brain cells, stops adrenal dysfunction and acts as an anti-inflammatory. It’s a great herb for building endurance.
Rhodiola (rhodiola rosea) has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. In studies it has been shown to lower cortisol, the stress hormone. It also increases energy, lowers both mental and physical fatigue, helps fight depression, supports and improves brain function and even helps with weight loss.
Most people may be familiar with the candy version of licorice. But that version comes no where close to doing what licorice root can do. Licorice root (glycyrrhiza glabra) is another herb common in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Licorice root easily helps to lower stress levels and helps adrenal function. But it is also proven to help with heartburn, is a natural ulcer remedy, helps relieve pain, can help with the symptoms of PMS and menopause and boosts the immune system.
There is a caution with using licorice root. Regular versions of this herb are contraindicated for those with high blood pressure, liver and kidney issues as well as pregnant women. This is because a component of the herb, glycyrrhizin, can increase blood pressure and edema as well as reducing potassium levels. There is a type of licorice root that removes the glycyrrhizin. This type of licorice root is known as DGL licorice and does not cause the same side effects.
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is another powerful adaptogen. Like other adaptogens it helps to reduce stress. It has also been shown to improve mood, stimulates brain function, boosts metabolism, reduces inflammation, balances blood sugar levels, helps fight cancer and helps lung function.
I wanted to introduce you to the herbs that can play a part of helping you to better manage stress. But this post is an introduction to the herbs, not a comprehensive breakdown of what each herb can do, contraindications, history, etc. It’s up to you to learn more about an herb if you are considering taking it. Be sure to talk with your doctor about starting a new herb. Although these herbs are gentle, there may be contraindications with medications you may currently be on.
Also, remember that different herbs will impact individual body chemistry in different ways. One herb may work well for one person, but not for another.
Your health is in your hands, and herbs like these can be an asset to your health!