Stress is often an unavoidable part of life. Work, school, family, and relationships usually involve at least some stress. Life can mean a lot of juggling. Bills, pressure from your boss, illness of a loved one, or family conflict all lead to stress. Unaddressed, long-term stress can cause a long list of health issues, affecting your heart, gut, brain, and immune system. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, stress levels are higher than before the pandemic and more Americans find daily stress levels affect their ability to live out their lives. Sometimes you may need to make a change to your life or seek professional help to get your stress under control. However, other times some support managing and recovering from stress is what you need. Helping your body handle stress properly is vital for a healthy lifestyle. Several herbal remedies offer help for managing stress and anxiety. These herbs can be a very effective way to calm your body and mind, allowing you to face life’s challenges head on.
Ashwagandha is fast becoming widely known as a natural option for lowering anxiety. Peruse your local grocery store and you will quickly find ashwagandha on the supplement shelves and as an ingredient in a variety of teas. This shrub native to India has been used in traditional Indian medicine for a long time. With its rising popularity in the United States, researchers are beginning to study its effects more closely. So far, it shows promise for calming, destressing, and focusing the mind. One study found that ashwagandha supplements gave college students improved mental clarity, better sleep, and long-lasting energy. Another study showed taking ashwagandha while under chronic stress helped manage perceived stress and food cravings, resulting in less weight gain. It’s power to calm and soothe seem to be linked to its effect on the part of the brain that controls and manages stress response.
Sceletium Tortuosum, or Zembrin
One herb that can help calm and keep you focused during stress is Sceletium tortuosum, or Zembrin, as it is sold. This herb was traditionally used by the San and Khoikhoi people of South Africa, who chewed the leaves of the plant for its medicinal purposes. In more recent years, this plant has received attention for its potential to reduce stress and anxiety in healthy individuals. Initial research shows promise. Zembrin lowered fear reactions and stress and anxiety reactions in healthy individuals.
Another stress relieving herb, native to the sandy, arctic, high-altitudes of Europe and Asia, Rhodiola rosea has been used for centuries in Siberia, Mongolia, and Scandinavia for medicine. From fertility to altitude sickness, the roots of this plant treated ailments for centuries. Today, researchers find a multitude of polyphenols within it. Rhodiola is most notably useful for its ability to help cope with stress and anxiety. Studies show that it can protect the body from anxiety and stress, lower anxiety during stressful circumstances, and help the body recover from stress. This shows the herb’s power to aid your body’s coping mechanisms, allowing you to handle stress better while your face challenging situations and as you bounce back afterward.
Passionflower, a vine native to the Southeastern United States and South and Central America, has long been used throughout the world to lower anxiety. This power plant shows similar results to certain medications to treat anxiety and depression. It is also sometimes used to help calm patients prior to surgery or dental procedures. Passionflower, like many antianxiety medications, helps with GABA regulation in the brain, lowering anxiety reactions.
Commonly used and recognized for its soothing effects, research shows chamomile has real and significant potential for lowering anxiety. Several studies found that taking chamomile extract lowered anxiety in patients with General Anxiety Disorder and symptoms of depression. Chamomile essential oil is also an effective method for managing anxiety and depression.
Because of the soothing effects these herbs produce, you may want to try them at night when you don’t have anywhere to go early in the morning of the following day. Many of these herbs have the potential to cause drowsiness or in some cases, lightheadedness. Your body is unique, so it will handle these herbs uniquely.
Other changes to your lifestyle will also help you manage your stress and lower your anxiety. Here is a short list of tried-and-true methods to attack anxiety.
Prayer or mediation
Meditation, mindfulness, and prayer are great ways to pause, take a moment to reset, and clear your mind and body of anxiety and stress. A variety of meditation and mindfulness apps are available to help guide your exercise. Take some time each day to focus on something for which you are grateful. Notice and record the good in each day. This can help reprogram your brain for positive thoughts, getting you out of ruts of anxiety and negativity.
Taking time to exercise regularly has so many positives for you. It will improve your physical health, but it also boosts your mood and lowers anxiety. It’s worth the time to carve out 30 minutes or an hour each day to move your body. Find an exercise you enjoy, whether it’s joining a class at the gym, finding a fitness app for you, or biking to work each day.
Your food fuels your mind and body’s response to stress. After an initial high, sugar and processed foods will quickly bring you down. And over time these foods will mean your brain and gut do not have what they need to function properly. Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and focus on whole grains, fish, and lean proteins. Drink in moderation and limit your caffeine. These sustaining changes for your body will help create a more positive, balanced mindset, too.
Poor time management and anxiety often go hand in hand. You may find your anxiety increasing as you lounge on the couch avoiding the tasks that you find stressful. Putting them off only lengthens your anxiety. Use timers, reminders, and calendars to help manage your time and section it into manageable tasks. You may also want to set aside specific times during the day to check your phone and respond to emails, so the constant distracting barrage does not further add anxiety and hinder you accomplishing what you need to do. Be mindful of what you agree to do. You may not be able to attend every social event or take on every task that your boss needs someone to handle. Learning how and when to say no is an important tool for managing anxiety.
Just like eating right and exercising, sleep is top on the list of ways to help manage stress and anxiety. Sleep is absolutely vital for your body to function properly. Stress and anxiety can often hamper sleep, leading to a vicious cycle. You may even find yourself becoming anxious about sleep if you’ve spent enough wakeful hours willing yourself to sleep. The good news is the herbs listed above can help with sleep. Your healthy bedtime routine that helps you wind down and feel sleepy, not just tired, may benefit from a dose or cup of tea made from one of these herbs.
This article has been adapted from information provided by David Foreman RPh, a pharmacist, author and media personality known to consumers nationwide as, “The Herbal Pharmacist. For more health tips: www.herbalpharmacist.com, facebook.com/TheHerbalPharmacist or follow at @Herbalrph.