Stress and Herbs
Stress. One of the unwelcomed factors of living a modern life. I am sure you can count how many times you've been under a great amount of stress due to something, or even when nothing is going on at all. Project deadlines at work, children's program rehearsals for school, buying a house, selling a house, moving to a new area, the never ending pile of laundry, health concerns, college exams, kids talking your ear off about all things YouTube, things breaking and needing replaced or repaired...... do any of these sound familiar?
So what exactly is stress? What is going on in our body to make us feel so icky? Psychology Today explains to us that stress is the psychological perception of pressure and how our body responds to it. When our body comes under stress, we are put into what is known as the fight-or-flight mode. Because of hormones, our body is preparing us to either fight off a threat, or to get ready to run from it. (Psychology Today, n.d.) This response happens in situations where we need to save our life, or even save someone else's life. It isn't exactly supposed to happen due to other factors such as being extremely busy, taking an exam, or tackling that big pile of laundry. These things are not putting our lives in danger.
In an article from 2016 published on MedicineNet, Melissa Conrad Stoppler M.D. explains to us the many symptoms of stress. When stress is not properly managed, our body will show us little signs or signals to let us know. These symptoms show as physical, emotional, as well as behavioral. (MedicineNet, 2016) Below you will find a list of some of the symptoms Melissa mentions. Keep in mind, these symptoms differ from person to person.
- Sleep disturbances
- Change in sleep habits
- Muscle tension
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Change in eating habits
- Loss of enthusiasm
- Lack of energy
- Engaging in unhealthy behaviors
Medline Plus offers some wonderful resources on ways you can work towards managing your stress. Some of these include yoga, tai chi, meditation, exercise, positive thinking, as well as learning when and how to say "no". (Medline Plus, 2018)
Another way to help manage stress is the use of medicinal herbs. A category of herbs that can be beneficial in helping manage stress is called nervines. These herbs work on the nervous system. In the book Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth written by Dr. Sharol Marie Tilgner lists the following herbs as nerve relaxants which "soothes and quiets the nervous system." (Tilgner, 2009, p. 28)
* Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
* California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
* Cat Nip (Nepeta cataria)
* Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
* Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus)
* Kava Kava (Piper methysticum)
* Hops (Humulus lupulus)
* Lavender (Lavandula officinalis)
* Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
* Linden Flower (Tilia spp)
* Mother Wort (Leonurus cardiaca)
* Pasque Flower (Anemone spp)
* Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
* St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
* Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
* Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Two ways that herbs can be used or prepared is in the form of teas and tinctures. These are my favorite ways of using herbs. Teas are fairly self-explanatory and can be made at home or anywhere where you have access to hot water. Tinctures are stronger than herbal teas and are prepared using alcohol or glycerin. Some are designed to be taken sublingually directly under the tongue, where others have to be added to a beverage before consuming. So it is important to fully read the product labels for dosage directions. I prefer tinctures personally because of their convenience and I can bring them with me when I am away from home.
As you can see, there is quite the variety of herbs that can be used to help manage stress and to help get us out of the fight-or-flight response. What are some of your favorite herbs for stress? Remember, before using any herbs it is vital to speak to a professional herbalist or your doctor before adding herbal products into your routine. Many herbs have contraindications for certain medical illnesses and medications. Also, herbs should be used in conjunction with healthy lifestyle changes.
MedicineNet. (2016, June 3). Stress: Facts on Symptoms and Stress Management. Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/stress/article.htm#what_are_the_signs_and_symptoms_of_poorly_managed_stress
Medline Plus. (2018, February 21). Stress: MedlinePlus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/stress.html
Psychology Today. (n.d.). Stress | Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/stress
Tilgner, S. M. (2009). Properties & Actions of Herbs. In Herbal medicine from the heart of the earth (2nd ed., p. 28).
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