Written by Michelle Matthews (Naturopath, BNat.)
Did you know feeling stressed is a normal physiological and physical response the body manifests to protect itself?
Stress can be classified into positive and negative forms which the body experiences:
Positive stress (referred to as eustress) is often temporary or short-lived experience which can include, excitement, anticipation, happiness and joy. A new job, wedding or sporting event which has an anticipated change that will result in a good outcome, is positive stress.
Negative stress (referred to as distress) is often all too familiar to many of us. Negative stress can be short term but sometimes results in a long term scenario which can include an experience or a state of dis-ease within the body. Commonly, our emotional system can be heavily taxed in negative stressful situations. This can give rise to mild anxiety, mood imbalance or irritability, nervous tension, irrational thoughts or behaviour and physical symptoms as well.
Out of control?
The most common feeling that we experience with negative stress is being “out of control”. This feeling can present itself in many ways and can compound the current state of stress.
Never fear! There are many herbs at your disposal which can help with reducing the negative effects of stress. The power of herbs is fascinating as herbs or plants have many different actions. No one single herb may resolve all your stress, however, there are some key herbs to consider. Herbs have many actions or effects on the body and it is often easier to look at herbs by their action on the body.
Let’s look at the actions of some herbs:
Adaptogen – This term applies to herbs that, “help the body adapt to stress”, whether it be emotional or physical stress. Primarily, adaptogens can help support the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system (or HPA system or axis) of the body. The HPA system is the driver of the “fight or flight” response within the body, and also helps the body adapt to the more chronic states of stress we may experience. In today’s world, we live in a state of constant stress, not from fear of being chased by a lion, but from the stress of daily living, family, ill health and work, the list is endless! We all need a little helping hand at times to give us the support we need. Here are some top adaptogenic herbs:
Ashwagandha (Withania sominfera)
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Borage (Borago officinalis)
Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Schisandra (Schisandra chinesis)
Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa)
Nervine- This term refers to the herbs ability to “relax the nervous system or nerves” and a part of the brain (Limbic system) to evoke a state of calm in periods of stress. When in a relaxed and calm state the body can cope with stress better and rationalise the stress, which may seem like a threat or overwhelming experience. Here are common nervine herbs to support the nervous system:
Skullcap (Scutallaria lateriflora)
Oats (Avena sativa)
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lavender (Lavendula officinalis)
More than one herb may be needed to help you through your stressful period. In fact, some of these herbs combine well with each other and can be taken as a tea, in liquid or as a tablet form. Try some of these herbs as a tea to help you create a sense of balance, calm and ahhhh….