Stress Series: 3 Herbs to Help You Manage Stress
If you haven’t noticed already, I’m a huge fan of plants. From watering my mini jungle to dosing tinctures to taming my garden, I interact with plants on a daily basis. In my naturopathic practice, I use herbal medicine with almost all my patients to assist with a variety of health concerns. When it comes to coping with stress, plants are definitely my go to.
Many herbs possess an action we call adaptogenic. In the simplest form, it means the plant helps us adapt to daily stress. Adaptogens support the body to resist damage from physical and mental stressors. They can increase our resistance to disease, balance our vital force and reduce the stress response in the body. Physiologically, they can assist in the body’s regulation of cortisol, our main stress hormone, either increasing or decreasing its production. They can even boost our immune system. Some herbs are more yang/stimulating in nature, such as panax ginseng, while others such as rehmannia are more yin/building. I find that most patients in my practice need some form of adaptogenic support – because lets be honest, life is more stressful then we would like!
Here are 3 of my favourite herbs to help manage stress:
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera):
Originating in India and the Middle East, ashwagandha is a generally balancing herb that is especially indicated for long-term stress. It has been shown to improve fatigue and anxiety, as well as improve memory and stamina. It is anti-inflammatory and has been useful for conditions of the thyroid. Studies have shown ashwagandha to promote improved function of the central nervous system and balance neurotransmitters such as GABA and 5-HTP. Many sources describe ashwagandha as rejuvenating – and who wouldn’t want that!
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea):
Rhodiola has been described as one of the most important adaptogenic plants in modern alternative medicine. It has been used in folk medicine to increase physical endurance, longevity, productivity and fatigue. This herb can relieve symptoms of stress including mental fatigue and sensation of weakness. It has been shown to improve mental stamina, and increase work capacity. Research has found rhodiola to be specifically important as a mood stabilizer for activity of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. It also plays a role on the central nervous system and balancing of adrenal hormones, such as cortisol, produced by acute stress.
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, schisandra is both a yin and yang tonic, making it balancing in nature. Traditionally, it quiets the spirit and calms the heart. Historically, it has been used as a preserver of youth, as well as for improving memory and sharpening the mind. While helping the body manage stress, it also supports the immune system. Research has shown its benefit for people who were exhausted by mental work, and increased both endurance and mental performance in patients experiencing fatigue and weakness. Animal studies have shown a benefit to both cortisol levels and glucose regulation.
Honorable Mentions: I could go on and on about adaptogens…. Here are a few more of my favourites: panax and siberian ginseng, holy basil/tulsi, licorice, astragalus and codonopsis !
How to Consume Adaptogenic Herbs:
Adapotgenic herbs can be consumed in a variety of ways, including teas and powder/capsules. I often prepare patient custom formulas of adaptogens in the form of tinctures (liquid extracts) to have the most fitting blend to their symptoms and situation. As always, it is important to consult a health care practitioner before beginning any herbal product, including if you are on medication, are pregnant or are breast-feeding.
Interested in learning more about adaptogens, the body’s stress response, and which herbs would be beneficial for you? Contact me for a complimentary meet and greet at firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources: 1. Ashwagandha Monograph by NFH. From www.nfh.ca
2. Ashwagandha: An overview of the research and clinical indications. From: https://www.gaiaherbs.com/uploads/A_Research_Review_of_Ashwagandha-1371567339.pdf
3. Rhodiola Rosea: An overview of its versatility, effectiveness and indications. From: https://www.gaiaherbs.com/uploads/A_Research_Review_of_Rhodiola_Rosea-1327938082.pdf
4. Schisandra: An overview of the research and clinical indications. From: https://www.gaiaherbs.com/uploads/A_Research_Review_of_Schisandra-1366989279.pdf
6. Course notes BOT202 (From CCNM 2014)
Disclaimer: Any information is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in place of professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care practitioner with any questions or health concerns you may have.