"Stress" is a buzzword of the 21st century and many of us are looking for solutions to deal with it better. At the end of 2015, Google revealed that "how to get rid of stress" was the the most searched term. This suggests that reducing stress was a common goal for many people as we made the transition to the New Year.
On a larger scale, we seem to be more stressed and exhausted than ever. However, the world is not about to slow down in the short term, so how can we cope with the pressures of modern life?
Read on to discover how an elite group of herbal extracts, known as adaptogens, can naturally help you manage stress and thrive in our rush society!
Why does it matter if I'm stressed?
When we feel stressed, our bloodstream receives a massive blow of adrenaline, cortisol and other stimulating chemicals. The heart rate increases and the metabolism of the sugar in the blood changes to prepare our body with the necessary energy to "fight or flee".
Alternatively, many of the physiological processes involved in digestion and immunity are actually suppressed temporarily. This is because functions such as eating and fighting colds are not considered top priorities when our body is dealing with stress.
This response worked perfectly when our ancestors pivoted in clubs and kicked in loincloths. In this previous environment, our body needed a quick "change" to prepare our body to fight or flee.
While we can never know for sure, we can assume that daily life between these periods of danger was much less stressful. Therefore, stress was a short and intermittent experience for our ancestors.
In comparison with these ancient times, the current world is changing at a speed that has exceeded our capacity to evolve with it. Once upon a time, the human genome had literally thousands of years to cope with a slowly changing natural environment. Today, all our lifestyles are changing in the blink of a generation!
Consider, for example, that today we are exposed to more information in a simple newspaper than our great-grandparents ever learned in their lives! In fact, for the first time in the history of humanity, we live with a constant level of stress and background stimulation.
The result? Stress and constant stimulation mean that our body is receiving a prolonged dose of all the stress chemicals that were initially designed to help our bodies face a short-term physical threat.
This can cause your adrenal glands to stop working effectively and can also lead to a lot of health problems. These range from inflammation, chronic diseases and heart problems to weight gain, insomnia and much more. You may also feel "tied but tired"; in other words, stressed and exhausted but unable to find a restful sleep.
What can we do about stress?
Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic therapies have historically used a special group of herbs that are now classified as "adaptogens". It is believed that these herbs help our bodies adapt to stress and regulate our energy levels.
Adaptogens work mainly by regulating our adrenal system, which oversees much of our responses to hormonal stress. Part of its magic has to do with an "adaptive" ability, which can be used to regulate or decrease our stress hormones as needed.
This works like a dial; When our body needs a little more energy, adaptogens can increase the chemicals needed to concentrate and resist. When our body is stressed, adaptogens also reduce stimulating chemicals. Hence his name and ability to "adapt" to what our body needs.
Essentially, adaptogens can help us feel calm and energized … the perfect combination for breeze through our busy lives!
What adaptogens should I use?
There are many adaptogenic herbs that have been used with great success throughout the history of herbal medicine. We recommend that you seek the professional opinion of a trusted healthcare provider to find the best ones for you, but there are some options to present your wonderful benefits:
There are many types of ginseng available, but the Asian variety is the superhero you're looking for here! It is thought to help the body cope with stress, improve cellular metabolism, improve immunity, reduce free radical damage and promote healthy aging.
Before using: This herb is not recommended for people with diabetes, a history of breast cancer, autoimmune diseases or pregnant or lactating women. Occasionally it can cause heart palpitations, insomnia or increased blood pressure. It also interacts with many medications, so be sure to check the suitability for this first. It is also advisable to take periodic and cyclical pauses when taking this herbal supplement.
This herb has been used for millennia by ancient Ayurvedic practitioners to improve hormone function, particularly in the adrenal glands. Ashwagandha is also believed to improve endurance, immunity, energy, vitality and endurance. It can be more useful to treat insomnia, anxiety and chronic fatigue … which makes it an excellent herb to consider if you feel exhausted in both the mind and the body!
Before using: This adaptogen is not recommended if you are taking sedative medications, you are pregnant, you are sensitive to Nighthade vegetables or if you suffer from severe gastric irritation.
Technically, a berry instead of an herb, the schisandra offers a wide range of potential health benefits and is believed to reduce fatigue. This berry essentially counteracts stress by reducing our levels of stress hormones.
Before using: Schisandra is not recommended during pregnancy or for anyone with epilepsy, reflux, gastric ulcers or high intracranial pressure.
Traditionally used in Chinese medicine, Eleuthero is particularly useful in relieving the physical symptoms of stress. It can relieve muscle spasms and painful joints; The typical aches and pains of a stressed body! Eleuthero has also been prescribed for chronic fatigue, and can further support memory and mood.
Before using: While Eleuthero is generally considered safe, it can sometimes cause heart palpitations and insomnia. It is also better to control your blood pressure if you have hypertension and are taking Eleuthero. The use of this herb is not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
It is believed that this adaptogenic herb is particularly good at "adapting" your cortisol levels to healthier levels. It can also support energy production, healthy brain function, good mood and cardiovascular health. Although the evidence is inconclusive, Rhodiola may also offer some neuroprotective action against toxins, and increase our serotonin levels (the "wellness hormone").
Before using: Rhodiola Rosea is not recommended for people with manic depression, bipolar illness or pregnancy / lactation. It can also cause insomnia if taken in high doses.
While there is a wide variety of adaptogenic herbs, today we have covered some of the best options to help your body fight stress. What adaptogens have you used? Do you find that they help you feel less stressed and more energized?
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