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Archive for herbs for stress

September

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Labor Day:
Although this holiday has its origins as being a day set aside for people to meet with their labor unions, today it’s used as a day of rest and a time to destress. Stress (resulting from demands placed on the brain and body) is a situation that triggers a particular biological response. When you perceive a threat or a major challenge, chemicals and hormones surge throughout your body-such as adrenaline and cortisol.

Stress triggers one’s fight-or-flight response in order to fight the stressor or run away from it. Typically, after the response occurs, one’s body should relax. Too much constant stress can have negative effects on long-term health. Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s what helped our hunter-gatherer ancestors survive, and it’s just as important in today’s world. It can be healthy when it helps one avoid an accident, meet a tight deadline, or keep one’s wits about them amid chaos.

But stress should be temporary. Once one passed the fight-or-flight moment, their heart rate and breathing should slow down and the muscles should relax. In a short time, one’s body should return to its natural state without any lasting negative effects.

On the other hand, severe, frequent, or prolonged stress can be mentally and physically harmful. This is due to the long-term effects of high levels of the stress chemicals and hormones. When asked, 80% of Americans reported they’d had at least one symptom of stress in the past month. Twenty percent reported being under extreme stress. Anxiety (resulting from feeling high levels of worry, unease, or fear) can be an offshoot of episodic or chronic stress.

Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, or the fight-or-flight hormone; increases heartbeat, increases breathing rate, makes it easier for muscles to use glucose, contracts blood vessels so blood is directed to the muscles, stimulates perspiration, and inhibits insulin production. Frequent adrenaline surges can lead to damaged blood vessels, high blood pressure or hypertension, higher risk of heart attack and stroke, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, and weight gain.

Cortisol raises the amount of glucose in the bloodstream, helps the brain use glucose more effectively, raises the accessibility of substances that help with tissue repair, restrains functions that are nonessential in a life-threatening situation, alters immune system response, dampens the reproductive system and growth process, affects parts of the brain that control fear, motivation, and mood. Negative effects of cortisol are weight gain, high blood pressure, sleep problems, lack of energy, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, mental cloudiness (brain fog) and memory problems, a weakened immune system, impacts mood.

Symptoms of stress and anxiety include tension headaches, chronic pain, insomnia, and other sleep problems, lower sex drive, digestive problems, eating too much or too little, stomach ulcers, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed/irritable/fearful, alcohol/tobacco/drug misuse, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, panic disorder, depression, panic disorder, suicidal thoughts, restlessness, anger outbursts, lack of motivation/focus, social withdrawal, and exercising less often.

Stress and anxiety can be helped by using various strategies and resources to develop a stress management plan. Start by seeing a primary doctor, who can check one’s overall health and refer one for counseling with a therapist or other mental health professional. If one’s having thoughts of harming themselves or others, get help immediately. (See my August blog for more information.) Also, get emergency help immediately if one is having chest pains, especially if also having shortness of breath, jaw or back pain, pain radiating into the shoulder and arm, sweating, dizziness, or nausea. (These may be warning signs of a heart attack and not simply stress symptoms.)

The goal of stress management isn’t to get rid of it completely. In order to manage one’s stress, first one has to identify the things (triggers) that are causing the stress. Figure out which of these can be avoided. Then, find ways to cope with those negative stressors that can’t be avoided. Over time, managing stress levels may help lower the risk of stress-related diseases.

Some basic ways to start managing stress are to maintain a healthy diet, aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night, exercise regularly, minimize the use of caffeine and alcohol, stay socially connected so one can get and give support, make time for rest/relaxation/self-care, setting aside time for hobbies, read a book/listen to music/sing (stick with calming subject matter), learn meditation techniques such as deep breathing/yoga/tai chi/massage, keeping a sense of humor, spend time with animals, reconnect with one’s faith, and taking medication or natural remedies for stress. (Note: watching television, surfing the internet, or playing video games may seem relaxing, but they may increase stress over the long term.)

Some natural treatments for stress symptoms include magnesium, potassium, flower essences, St. John’s wort, S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM-e), B vitamins, inositol, choline, probiotics, fiber, citrus fruits, chamomile, hops, kava kava, essential fatty acids, holy basil, ashwagandha, astragalus, Schisandra, valerian, lavender, melatonin, passionflower, skullcap, hops, lemon balm, sage, marjoram, rosemary, elderflower, mugwort, cedarwood, black cohosh, ginkgo Biloba, ginseng, magnolia, Phellodendron, hibiscus, peppermint, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), l-theanine, l-tryptophan, and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP).

Recipes:
Sweet Sleep Infusion: 1/4 cup lavender buds; 1/2 cup chamomile flowers; 1/4 cup dried orange peel; 2 tablespoons rose petals; honey; milk; water
Directions: Mix all herbs gently together and store them in a glass jar.
To Make: Heat water to boiling and pour over herbs. Use 2 teaspoons of herbs per 8 oz water. Steep for 3-5 minutes. Strain out the herbs and stir in honey and milk to taste-such as 1/4 cup milk and 1 teaspoon honey per serving.

Chamomile Infusion Latte: 2 servings
Equipment: saucepan; mesh strainer; French press
Ingredients: 2 cups milk; 2 tablespoons chamomile; 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; 5 cloves, crushed; 1 cinnamon stick + ground cinnamon for garnish
Directions: In a saucepan, heat milk on medium-low heat with chamomile, cinnamon stick, and cloves. When little bubbles form along the sides of the pan, let it simmer for a couple of minutes before turning off the heat. With the heat turned off, steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain hot chamomile latte into a French press. Add vanilla extract. Move the French press plunger 5-8 times to froth. Pour latte into 2 cups and garnish with ground cinnamon.

Lemon and Ginger Magnesium Tonic: Serves: 2
Ingredients: 1 teaspoon fresh ginger root, grated; 1 tablespoon powdered magnesium; 1 fresh lemon, sliced; 2 cups boiling water; honey, to taste (optional)
Directions: Mix ginger and magnesium with boiling water and honey. Add the lemon slices to the cups. Serve warm.

Orange Lavender Herbal Infusion: 2 oranges, any variety; 1 lemon; 1 apple; 1 bunch sage leaves; 1 tablespoon lavender; 8 dried apricot halves, chopped
Directions: Cut the citrus and apple into chunks and lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Add the sage, lavender, and apricots and spread into an even layer. Leave out in the open for 24 hours or so, until there is no more juice from the citrus. Preheat oven to the lowest temperature, around 200 degrees. Put the baking pan in the oven, leave the door open, and let the fruit dry out completely until there is no moisture whatsoever. Crumble the herbs and bigger pieces. Steep in boiling water for 5-6 minutes. Store the rest of the dry mixture in an airtight container.

—-Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ—-
Jolene Grffiths, Master Herbalist

Natural Help for Anxiety and Stress

Some of the most anxiety-producing and stressful events in life are all simultaneously happening in our lives right now; financial problems due to job losses and national economic challenges, the deaths of many loved ones, worry over the family illness and frustration over the inability to care for and comfort them, etc. I certainly don’t have many answers to these struggles. But I would like to highlight some of the numerous ways we can help ourselves and our loved ones endure and persist. Here are some product categories:

Creams and lotions: We all use hand sanitizers now and we have one now that has CBD in it. The CBD will help some with calming. Colloidal Silver comes in cream form as do many of the zinc products. And alcohol-based astringents, lavender, oregano or tea tree-based lotions, and magnesium oils are common.

Drinks: As always, stay away from sugars. They feed pathogens in our systems and give “false energy”. They give you a quick burst of energy followed by a nosedive. Use drinks that hydrate – plenty of water containing known immune system boosters, like elderberry, ginger, vitamin C, electrolyte mixes and honey or JUST water.

Respiration: Sanitize your air with diffused respiratory products; essential oils of ginger, eucalyptus, lavender, or numerous blends offered by a number of reputable companies.

Potpourris: These used to be very popular before the advent of diffusers. But they still have a great place in home care. Their coverage is almost as great as the diffusers, but more subtle and easier on those with depressed respiratory systems. Plus, you can use some beneficial oils that we don’t usually diffuse, like frankincense and myrrh, chamomile, or camphor crystals.

Two other categories lesser known are homeopathy and flower essences. For lack of space, I’ll only mention them here, but you can look them up on the internet, or drop by the store and talk to us about them.

Remember, stress is mostly managed by your adrenal glands – little “snow cap peaks’ that sit on top of the kidneys — that allow the body to regulate stress. They produce some 50+ hormones, the body’s internal messengers, which signal other organs and body systems to react appropriately. So, I would be remiss not to recommend herbal supplements to help you care for both anxiety and stress. Here’s a paragraph from a previous blog:

“While there are many ways (and in many forms) to obtain the needed nutrients useful to reduce stress, one should consider taking a nutraceutical. Wikipedia defines a nutraceutical as “a pharmaceutical-grade and standardized nutrient.” The adrenals feed on B-vitamins, among other nutrients, such as vitamin C, folic acid, biotin, gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) and pantothenic acid. Other de-stressors are herbs like schizandra, passionflower, hops, chamomile, and valerian, and popular anti-stress minerals include magnesium and zinc. L-theanine is also a helpful amino acid for stress’s “partner” – anxiety.”

In-house herbal combinations are numerous, by many companies, and bear names like “AnxiousLess” and “Stress Relief”, “Nutri-Calm” and “Nervous Fatigue”. “AdaptaMax” is advertised to contain apoptogenic herbs to help your body adapt to physical and environmental stresses.

These are stressful times. We can’t take away the conditions or “cure” your reactions. But there are numerous avenues to help you cope better. May God bless and comfort you in this season of stress and anxiety.

Randy Lee, ND, Owner, The Health Patch – Alternative Health Clinic & Market, 1024 S. Douglas Blvd, Midwest City, 736-1030, e-mail: pawpaw@thehealthpatch.com, offering private consultations by appointment.

Stay Calm-Protect Your Emotions and Your Will!

I believe we are spiritual beings whose brains incorporate our minds, our will and our emotions.  The mind is the “thinking, memory, art & logic” parts of our being.  Most of us are cognizant of that and usually work to keep them healthy and “in check” because it’s how we function.  Harder to control is our “will” – what we choose to feel or carry out, and our “emotions” – how we react to surroundings and circumstances.

One of my favorite stories is about some doctors who took identical looking brothers and placed them in separate rooms full of manure and a shovel. They observed one brother sitting in the corner of the room crying while the other brother was shoveling manure like crazy. On questioning, the first brother stated that there was nothing to do but smell the awfully putrid manure. The other brother remarked, “With that much manure, I was looking for the pony!” The obvious key to their happiness differed in attitude and expectations.

Stress is an obvious contributor to healthy functioning in life for all of us. We all have times when things are going ok, and times when everything around us seems to be falling apart. At the root, stress is not always bad.  Let’s face it, if it were not for “motivation to accomplish something (stress?)” would we ever get anything done? So what can we do to manage these diverse situations in our lives?  I think a primary contributor is to “train the brain!”

Stress causes added demands on our bodies.  The adrenal glands produce some 50 different hormones.  Several of them are for the purpose of helping us handle stress. Added stress requires more work from the adrenals.  And the adrenals “feed” on B-vitamins. As a minimum then, I recommend B Vitamins during times of increased stress.  There may also be a place for nervine sedative herbals like hops, valerian root, passion flower, and skullcap – all in either teas or capsules. Some mineral products using the name “Calm” are also useful and contain just magnesium, a mineral that is used rapidly during times of stress.

Kava is an herbal known to relax muscles and ease tension, and pantothenic acid provides added adrenal support.

I am not a medical doctor and don’t presume to treat any named diseases, but anecdotally I believe that the loss of the adrenal’s ability to produce anti-stress hormones may be a root cause of chronic stress breakdowns. A Loma Linda University study found laughter is one of the best things to fight stress. Also practice deep breathing and meditative prayer; practice relaxation, find calming activities to brighten every day, and train your mind to evaluate stressful activities. And get professional help when you can’t manage your reactions.

Another of my favorite sayings: “Like a great violin, may your life have enough stress (tension) to make beautiful music, but not so much as to cause the strings to break!”  Live long and in good health. Genesis 1:29.

–  Randy Lee, ND, Owner, Nana’s Pawpaw Patch – Herbs, Oils & Teas for Health, 1024 S. Douglas Blvd, MWC, 736-1030, e-mail: pawpaw@promoteyourhealth.com.