Monday, October 1, 2007

Ask a Herbalist - Stress

Dear James,

Going back to University always makes me feel a bit stressed. Are there any herbs that I can take for that?
Janine – Vancouver

Dear Janine,

Although modern day living provides many new conveniences, there is still a large portion of the population that suffer from various degrees of stress. But what is stress and how does it affect people’s health? Basically stress can be described as any outside force that disrupts the internal balance or harmony within the body. These can include relationships (both personal and professional), work conditions and bodily health among others. Living in the city requires the ability to withstand some stress, but when it becomes overwhelming and begins causing physical complaints such as high blood pressure, insomnia, digestive upset and the inability to concentrate and focus, it is indicative that balance needs to be restored within the body.

By nature, stress is not a condition that can be “treated” itself, but rather the body can be given support through the use of healing plants, supplements, relaxation techniques and lifestyle adjustments to work through the stress in a healthy way.

Herbs to Use:
Herbal Medicine provides us with herbs with various actions that are beneficial in the treatment of stress. Herbalists use plants with adaptogenic, relaxant, adrenal tonic and nervous system restorative actions. Adaptogenic herbs include Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian Ginseng) and Withania somnifera (Ashwaghanda) which both effectively help the body adapt and cope with stress. Relaxing herbs are important as they can help calm the mind. Some great herbs for relaxation include Valeriana officinalis (Valerian) and Scutalleria lateriflora (Skullcap). As stress can sometimes lead to an over-use of adrenalin from the body to cope with stress, your adrenal glands (located on top of your kidneys) become exhausted and begin to cause other health problems. Borago officinalis (Borage) is a herb that works well to restore healthy adrenal function. Nervous system tonic herbs are used to help bring balance back to your nervous system and help you function and cope with stress by providing nutrition to nerve cells and restoring healthy cell activity. Herbs that have this action include Avena sativa (Oats) and Stachys officinalis (Wood Betony)

Lifestyle and Supplements:
One of the most important things to help with lifestyle stress is to examine the circumstances that trigger the stress and see how you can change your lifestyle patterns to minimize them. It is very beneficial to try to incorporate relaxation techniques into your life routine including yoga and meditation. If you feel that you are unable to cope with the stress in your life on your own, you should consult a Counsellor or Psychologist to help work through the issues professionally. Good supplements to use during stressful periods of life include Vitamin A, B-complex, B6 and B12, C, D, E, Magnesium, Zinc and Oils of Evening Primrose or Borage.

Every individual is different and different herbs may be required. For a more customized approach to your allergies, consult your local Medical Herbalist

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