What is Stress?
The stress response of the body is a physical reaction which is meant to protect us. When faced with a threat, whether it be to our physical safety or emotional equilibrium, the body reacts by kicking us into high gear. Lots of physical effects happen as a result of stress. The sympathetic nervous system pumps out adrenaline, our heart rate increases, blood flow to the large muscles increases, blood vessels under the skin constrict to prevent blood loss in case of injury, and blood sugar levels increase, giving us an energy boost. These are ancient physical responses that were important to our survival as a species and
these same responses serve us very well in emergency situations. If you suddenly see a car losing control and heading toward you - your ability to react quickly could save you from harm.
While everyone can expect to experience some stress, we must be careful to manage our lives to avoid long term chronic stress. The American Psychological Association describes chronic stress as “unrelenting demands and pressures for seemingly interminable periods of time.” Chronic stress is stress that wears you down day after day. It grinds away at both mental and physical health. Some of the disorders associated with stress are:
- High blood pressure
- Weakened Immune System
- Higher Cholesterol Levels
- Migraine Headaches
- Loss of Appetite
- Increased Appetite
If stress is not handled properly, more serious illnesses can result.
Herbs for Stress Relief
There are a number of herbs which can be used to help alleviate stress.
Here are just a few:
Hops (Humulus Lupulus L.)
has been used traditionally for nervous disorders, irritability and insomnia. The part used is the strobile. Hops gained acceptance in England as an ingredient in beer and as a medicinal herb in 17th century.
Hops are most commonly used for their calming effect on the nervous system. Hop tea is recommended for nervous diarrhea, insomnia, and restlessness. It will also help to stimulate appetite, dispel flatulence, and relieve intestinal cramps. Do not use hops if you are experiencing depression.
Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata L.) has a depressant effect on Central Nervous System activity and is also hypotensive. Passionflower is used for its sedative and soothing properties Passion flower is also used to lower blood pressure, prevent tachycardia and relieve insomnia. It promotes restful sleep without any 'narcotic' hangover.
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora L.) is considered the best general nerve tonic of all the nervine herbs.
Skullcap soothes nervous tension and may be used in for nervous exhaustion.. Skullcap can be used in the easing of premenstrual tension. A clinical study1 demonstrated that skullcap has anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) properties - The proposed mechanism suggested flavonoid interactions with the GABA
1) Wolfson P, Hoffman DL. An investigation into the efficacy of Scutellaria lateriflora in healthy volunteers. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 2003 Mar-Apr; 9(2):74-8
Whenever dealing with stress, remember to avoid caffeine and take a quality daily Multivitamin/Mineral Supplement. A good diet will give you the strength to keep your nervous system and immune system in shape.