Hans Selye coined the term “stress” in 1936, based on his findings in animal studies. He noted harmful changes in animals exposed to acute unpleasant physical and emotional stimuli such as: stomach ulcerations, shrinkage of lymphoid tissue and enlargement of the adrenal glands. He observed that stress could lead to similar diseases as those we see in humans like, heart attacks, autoimmune disorders, strokes and kidney disease. Years later we have learned that stress can exacerbate and promote disease in humans or give rise to other unhealthful conditions.
Epigenetics has become a popular topic in the last few years. It is the study of non- genetic factors that lead to the expression or silencing of particular genes. Each person is born with a particular genetic make-up; however, whether a gene is actually expressed may be influenced by factors like one’s experience of stress or one’s thought processes. Such recent findings suggest that, though someone may be genetically predisposed to a particular disease or disorder, individuals may have more control over the expression of these genes than previously understood. These findings, as well as the known negative effects of chronic stress on every
system in the body, provide further evidence that each person should attempt to minimize his or her experience of stress.
One must accept that stress, whether mental, emotional or physical, is part of life. Therefore, the next step is to limit the negative effects. Firstly, one should make healthy lifestyle and diet choices, including getting adequate sleep. Another recommendation is to set aside some time each day to engage in an activity that is stress relieving. For some this may be meditating, practicing yoga, spending time in nature, and for others it
may be going for a run, playing a sport or playing an instrument. Whatever the activity may be, it should be something that allows one to quiet the mind for a period of time. Deep breathing can also have a significant impact on the experience of stress and mood. It is even beneficial for lowering blood pressure. There are also botanicals and other nutrients that can help to regulate stress hormones in the body and lessen the physiological impact of chronic stress.
This is considered an adaptogenic herb. A pharmacologist named Lazarev first defined adaptogens as, “agents which help an organism to counteract any adverse effects of a physical, chemical or biological stressor by generating non specific resistance”. Holy Basil is also know as Tulsi and is considered a sacred plant by Hindu’s. Aside from the stress relieving properties, Holy Basil is also used in the treatment of acne, lowering blood sugar and preventing chronic illness.
This is another herb that is very good for those with prolonged stress. Siberian Ginseng also modulates blood pressure and is helpful for those with either high or low blood pressure. Further, it helps to increase performance and stamina as well as regulate the immune system. It is also a natural anti-inflammatory.
This herb is excellent for long-term chronic stress. It is an adaptogen and helps to regulate cortisol (the stress hormone) as well as thyroid hormones. It is also used to reduce anxiety and modulate the immune system, something that can become weakened during chronic stress. In India it is known as “the strength of the stallion” due to Ashwagandha’s ability to help people regain strength after illness.
Chinese folklore says Schisandra can “calm the heart and quiet the spirit”. It has been used for centuries to prolong life, increase energy and as a sexual tonic for both sexes. Like many of the other herbs discussed, it has adaptogenic qualities and is often used to combat stress through its ability to decrease fatigue, enhance physical performance and promote endurance. It also directly lowers stress hormones in the blood.
This botanical, also known as Brahmi, is best known for enhancing cognitive function and memory. There is some evidence that Bacopa may be helpful for preventing or reducing the degenerating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. It is further used to combat stress and anxiety.
Rhodiola was used for centuries in Russia to enhance the productivity of workers. It has an energizing quality and is used by athletes to boost performance. Some of the other benefits are reduction of fatigue and improvement of memory and concentration. This herb is particularly helpful for those under a lot of physical or mental stress needing an extra boost to keep them going.
This has been named the “anti-stress vitamin”. Vitamin B5, or Pantothenic acid, acts like the adaptogenic herbs described above. It helps the body to manage the effects of stress and also boosts the immune system. One of the ways it helps to regulate the effects of stress on the body is by acting on the adrenal glands and controlling the secretion of cortisol (one of the main hormones associated with stress). It has also been found that Vitamin B5 may be helpful for those who suffer from depression and anxiety.
Adults take 1-2 capsules twice daily.
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