STRESSED? HERBAL HELPERS FOR OUR WORLD
Updated: May 30, 2019
Stress is pretty much a given these days. As soon as most of us wake up, its on. Organising the kids, big queue at the café, then the motorway on ramp is jammed, the radio is stuck on 1ZB, some dick is parked in your space and when you finally rush in the door at 9.03, your boss looks at her watch and shakes her head. Now, even though all of these things may seem like thoroughly modern day occurrences, our bodies respond in a very primitive way.
Whether we are being chased by a lion or losing our rag when we cant find a park at the mall, in response to this perceived stress, our adrenal glands secrete hormones and neuroendocrine chemicals. This cacophony of chemicals, called fight or flight response, is secreted to allow survival. It mobilises energy, gets your heart pumping more blood to your muscles and your brain to think better and run or fight and it shuts down all the bodily functions not necessary - like digestion, immunity and reproduction. Which is great, if you are going to run away from that lion and then relax but if you are just going to be sitting in your car stewing then going home and arguing with the husband, probably not so great.
What happens if stress is ongoing?
The issue is not really the stress response, the issue is that, in this day and age, our stress is ongoing so we never have a chance to come back to balance. That means we are always on high alert and all of those responses that are helpful in the short term can cause some pretty dire issues if they are allowed to go on unchecked. Like what? I hear you ask.... well, for starters..
Feeling tired but tossing and turning all night
Forgetfulness and feeling moody
Low libido and menstrual irregularities
High blood pressure
Cravings and weight gain
Low immunity and autoimmune diseases
Skin conditions and premature aging
Lifestyle helpers if stress is a problem
Find some time just for you
Even if it is just ten minutes in the morning drinking a potion and reading the horoscopes, finding time to yourself can be very regenerating and destressing. If you are graced with more time and finances maybe go do a course, or get into that hobby you have always wanted to do. Just make sure you are not spreading yourself even more thinly!
Getting adequate sleep is pertinent to reducing stress levels but can be difficult when you are tired but wired. Try minimizing harsh lights and screens after dinner, having a bath with Epsom salts, having some Moon Potion, going to bed at the same time every day, progressive relaxation and meditating. Some people find magnesium can help and whatever you do – don’t work in bed - it is for sleep and sex only!
Reduce coffee & alcohol
A lot of us are in that upper /downer merry go round! Can’t wake up without a coffee and then can’t relax without a wine. Sorry to say coffee elevates an already buggered stress system and alcohol is even worse! Try some potions or herbal teas in the morning and maybe go practice some yoga or go for a quick walk in the evenings with a friend to relax your mind after a busy stressful day.
When you are under stress – your body is basically priming you to run, fight and think. Take advantage of that! Go move your body – not only does it help to dissipate those stress hormones, it’s also helps release endorphins and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin. Note here though – moderate exercise is great for stress – go too hard, too often and you are making those cortisol levels higher! Some folks like yoga and meditation- some people like aqua aerobics or weightlifting - its all good!
Choose carefully what you give a f**k about
This is really just another way of saying – don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff). Life is really too short to get pissed off that the traffic is slow or the coffee line is too long. Put things in to perspective and try just to give a f**k about the important stuff like your friends, family and raw chocolate slices. Think about those little constant bursts of stress hormones coursing through your veins and check yourself before you wreck yourself as all those little stress attacks add up into chronic stress and health conditions!
Put down your phone
Constant connection is shown to overstimulate and increase cortisol levels. Most of us check our phones incessantly which not only makes us less productive at work but also less present in our personal lives. In fact, checking work emails on your phone is shown to stimulate cortisol secretion, even while relaxing at home. Turn it off. If not at work then maybe just for an hour after work and do something that matters.
As many veges as you are eating now - double it. Get some good protein into you and ditch the packaged stuff. Try and minimize the sugary treats and implement more stress busting and energy boosting adaptogens into your diet!!
What are these Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are herbs which are shown to help support the body against all those crappy effects of stress. New research shows that they act like a stress immunization. How? They make the body a little stressed and then when a proper stressor comes along the hormonal stress system (the HPA axis) knows what to do and reacts more appropriately and flexibly, bringing it back to baseline more quickly. Following are my fave adaptogens, what they are commonly used for and which potions these magickal herbs are in!
ASHWAGANDHA – STRESS & MOOD
Actions - adaptogen, stamina enhancer, immune modulator, mild sedative, anti-anaemic and thyroid modulator.
Who is it for? The tired but wired. The person that has too many balls in the air and suffers from the mental effects of it. The anxiety and depression, the feelings of being overwhelmed. Getting home from work and feeling too tired to cook dinner but then having a second wind at 9pm and not being able to go to sleep.
These people might also suffer from funny aches and pains and their fatigue may be exacerbated by iron deficiency and symptoms of low thyroid even though their thyroid results look fine.
HOLY BASIL _ STRESS & CALM & BLOOD SUGAR
Actions adaptogen, nervine (restores the proper functioning if the nervous system) anti-inflammatory, hypo-glycaemic, immune simulant
Who is it for? This is the herb for those stressed people that get low in energy and then find themselves stopping at the shop for sweet treats as it has a great action in regulating blood sugar levels.
Perfect for those that live in the past as it nourishes and clears out old stuck energy and emotions from the past that are impacting on moving forward. Great calming action for those that overthink, worry and become indecisive in response to stress. It’s a great meditation aid and great for yoga practitioners to quiet the mind – also great for kids!
SHATAVARI – STRESS & LIBIDO
Actions adaptogen, reproductive tonic, diuretic, digestive tonic
Who is it for? This is THE herb for stress in women. For those that have hormonal issues related to stress – those who get stressed and their period disappears or those that get stressed and they can’t relax enough to get in the mood! Balances the hormones so great for PMT (especially water retention) and also has moistening qualities so good for vaginal dryness and also dryness in the urinary tract that results in recurrent urinary tract infections. It also protects the stomach lining and helps to treat diarrhea- perfect for those who get stressed and end up eating quickeze and running to the toilet. And for diarrhea/IBS related to your cycle.
CORDYCEPS - STRESS & ENERGY & PERFORMANCE
Actions Adaptogen, antioxidant, physical performance enhancer, energy enhancer, stimulant, immune modulator, liver & kidney protection, lung support
Who is it for? This is a great one for the athletes or physical workers amongst us. It is a mild stimulant and helps to improve athletic performance and muscle recovery after exercise. Cordyceps has an immune modulating action so is great for reducing the risk of illness in athletes due to overtraining. It is also thought to protect the liver and kidneys from chemical damage – probably as it is such a great antioxidant. It also has benefits for the lungs so great for people with stress related asthma.
CHAGA _ STRESS & ANTI-INFLAMMATORY
Actions: Potential adaptogen, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, third eye activation, hormonal balance, sleep support, immune stimulant, antiviral, detoxification
Who is it for? This is for the person that has any kind of inflammatory diseases – anything that ends in “itis” has low immunity or cellular dysfunction.
As it also has an action on the pineal gland or third eye it is a great herb for those looking for spiritual connection or guidance and from the physical level, those with poor sleep patterns especially when associated with aging.
REISHI - CALMING & IMMUNE TONIC
Actions: Adaptogen, anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory, heart health, liver function and detoxification, calming, sleep support
Who is it for? This is for the person that is having trouble with feeling tense and perhaps anxious as reishi calms an anxious spirit and is shown to improve sleep. As its also has great anti allergic actions, it can be of benefit for those with skin, food and constitutional allergies made worse by stress. Reishi is also a liver protector and regenerator so is a helping hand for those that maybe reach for the wine a bit too often in the face of stress.
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