Your Essential Guide To Herbal and Natural Stress Relief
Before I commence to document this guide, I thought it would be appropriate to acknowledge the various schools of thought that exist when it comes to the topic of Herbal or nature based compounds and their overall effectiveness in the relieving of stress and anxiety.
On one end of the scale are medications like serotonin and dopamine. Doctors use these to target the chemical balance in the brain in order to minimize the symptoms of anxiety.
While they can help to block symptoms in some people, they can in some cases cause more problems. Others choose to rely on a combination of herbal medication and natural methods like meditation and exercise.
The thing to keep in mind is this; whether its prescription medications or natural supplements, neither will address the underlying cause of stress. They are only there to help the sufferer manage their situation.
Although there have been many claims about the benefits of certain natural supplements, the only ones that I feel confident recommending as having some ‘effect’ in helping to reduce anxiety and keep you calm are;
Lemon Balm has been shown to be effective at diminishing stress for short periods of time. Research has found that this supplement can induce a feeling of calmness for up to 6 hours in subjects with no apparent negative side effects.
Valerian is better known as a treatment for sleep disorders rather than stress. It has also been used in combination with St. John’s Wort to treat anxiety. However, the jury is still out on whether there is any consistent effect for patients. There have just not been enough studies to produce any conclusive evidence. Low doses of Valerian appear to be reasonably safe; although larger doses have been linked to changes in heart rhythm.
Ashwagandha This herbal supplement is an adaptogen. Fundamentally, this means that it has the ability to enhance your body’s natural response mechanism during physical and emotional stress. It has also shown to be able to lower cortisol levels and reduce stress.
Holy Basil is also an adaptogen. It seems to support the body’s natural ability to handle stress and anxiety. It is often consumed as a tea.
Passionflower has not shown itself to be potent enough for severe stress or even anxiety disorders. Its use may be more for those with daily, manageable anxiety levels.
These are just some of the herbal supplements available.
Most have shown little real effect in relieving stress. Herbs like chamomile and peppermint may be relaxing when consumed as a tea, but they are unlikely to have any real benefit with persistent levels of stress.
We should always keep in mind that many herbal supplements are sedatives and should not be mixed with other sedative-based medications.
We can’t always control sources of stress in our lives, but we can change how we react to them. We need to identify the root cause or our stress and make fundamental changes in our lifestyles to create a more lasting reduction in stress.
Here are some of the best ways in which we can effect real change in our level of stress.
Natural Stress Relievers
Exercise has long been established as vital for maintaining mental and physical fitness. Additionally, it is also an excellent way to reduce stress. Research has shown its benefit in reducing fatigue, improving alertness and benefiting our overall cognitive functions. It can help to build up our reserve of energy when stress has depleted our natural levels. If our body feels better, so will our mind!
When we exercise we release powerful chemicals called endorphins in our brain. These elevate and stabilize our mood and also help us to sleep better which in turn will reduces stress.
Studies have shown that people who are inactive and far more susceptible to the negative effects of stress. However when we exercise regularly, our bodies are better able to regulate our metabolic processes involving our moods, blood sugar levels and importantly our ability to sleep deeply. Having quality, uninterrupted sleep is critical in regulating hormones and building a healthy system.
The benefits of exercise are almost endless! From improving self-confidence and self-esteem to better emotional balance and a lower risk of overall stress and anxiety.
Some studies have shown that regular exercise can work as well as medication with some individuals.
As with all therapy, effects can vary from person to person. Some respond very well while others experience a short-term benefit. On balance though, the evidence is overwhelming that regular exercise works as a positive defense against the symptoms of stress.
Meditation and Yoga
There are many simple stress relieving meditation techniques that can be practiced every day to help to feel more at peace and grounded. Meditation and prayer are both wonderful stress relievers that have literally been used for hundreds of years; long before the research came along to prove ‘scientifically’ their worth.
Meditation has shown benefits to combating emotional issues such as depression and persistent stress. Even physical issues like eating disorders and drug and alcohol abuse can benefit from forms of meditation.
Yoga has similar benefits in helping the body and mind to control the negative extremes produced by experiencing stress and anxiety. Again the studies have shown that the physical and psychological benefits of Yoga are just too prevalent to ignore.
For more information on stress relief, I have compiled a list of the top 10 books to read on stress management here.
I hope you have enjoyed this Guide to Natural and Herbal Stress Relief.