Herbal remedies for stress
In today’s world, there’s no shortage of daily stressors, big and small, that can make you feel overwhelmed. There are many ways to manage daily stress, including meditation, a healthy diet, good sleep, and spending time with loved ones. You also may want to consider adding some herbal supplements to your diet, suggests chronic disease specialist Dr Susan Blum.
Using the right herbs, particularly adaptogens, can make a significant difference in your daily life, she says. Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help support the body as it responds to stressors, particularly by bolstering the adrenal glands. “There’s no avoiding stress but herbs can help your body deal with it more effectively,” she explains.
The right herbal remedies can be effective. But it’s important to remember that just because something is considered ‘herbal’ or ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it’s safe, Dr Blum cautions. The key is to exercise caution and talk to your doctor before starting any supplements. That’s especially important if you are on any prescription medications or have a pre-existing health condition like diabetes or heart disease, she says. If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction, including hives, chest pain, or difficulty breathing, get immediate medical help.
Panax ginseng, also known as Korean ginseng, is an adaptogen, says dietitian Lindsey Toth. “I like to say this herb is ‘namaste all day’ for its power to help you de-stress,” she says. “It also helps the body fight stress by helping to improve your mood and increase your immune function. Plus it supports sexual health which can help reduce stress in a different way.” Ginseng may help regulate the immune response and hormonal changes due to stress, reduce inflammation, and alleviate the anxiety and depression caused by stress, according to research published in the Journal of Ginseng Research.
Warnings: ginseng has been shown to interact with other medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, particularly those for heart disease or high blood pressure, she says.
Ashwagandha is another adaptogen, one that’s been used in India for thousands of years to reduce several types of stress, says Dr Lily Kiswani. “It helps reduce stress on the body by lowering stress hormones and increasing the immune system. But it works on the mental side as well, by reducing depression and anxiety,” she explains. People given 600mg a day of high-concentration full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract for two months showed a significant reduction in scores on stress-assessment scales and had lower levels of cortisol (the “stress” hormone) in their blood, in a small study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine.
A larger study, published in PLoS One found that people given ashwagandha for eight weeks, as part of a naturopathic intervention, improved in scores of concentration, fatigue, social functioning, vitality, and overall quality of life compared to the control group that received only traditional psychotherapy.
Warnings: avoid this if you take medication to suppress your immune system or benzodiazepines, she says.