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Handling Stress Naturally

Posted on March 2nd, 2013 by | 7 views
by Anne Salazar-Dunbar, Therapeutic Herbalist

Stress is a fact of life, no matter who you are, or what your circumstances are. Stress can be a good thing, when it is handled properly. It can be the source of healthy change and growth in our lives. But most of us are familiar with stress that becomes out of control, and creates deficiencies and problems in our lives. Our modern lifestyle certainly pushes us in that direction.

Imbalanced stress can be the source of anxiety, insomnia, headaches, malnutrition, high blood pressure, immune dysfunction, and any manner of physical and emotional challenges. Physiologically, stress is the ‚fight or flight response in our bodies.

Persistent stress causes a draining on our Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis, or HPA axis for short. This eventually leads to exhaustion of our physiological systems.

Although we cannot and do not want to remove all stress from our lives, it helps to know how to balance ourselves, and handle the effects of excessive or persistent stress.

Adaptogens(herbs that appear to normalize the functional response to stress, whether the response is excessive or deficient) are very effective for this challenge.

A few examples-

Eleuthro (formerly known as Siberian Ginseng): The World Health Organization says of this herb, as a prophylactic and restorative tonic for enhancement of mental and physical capacities in cases of weakness, exhaustion and tiredness, and during convalescence." Eleuthro is known as a tonic and should be taken over long periods of time.

Rhodiola: A powerful adaptogen, rhodiola is useful wherever there is physical and mental stress and fatigue. It can improve athletic and work performance and help to facilitate learning and memory retention. Rhodiola is also reported to increase the nervous system‚ control over heart function. It is a powerful antioxidant, and it appears to possess some antidepressant activity. Energetically speaking, it is cooler then many of the other adaptogens.

Schisandra berry: Another adaptogen that helps to increase stamina and endurance and enhance resistance to stress. Human studies have shown that Schisandra is able to reduce fatigue and error rates associated with repetitive tasks in the workplace. Another powerful antioxidant, Schisandra is also highly protective of liver function.

Ashwaganda: Like all adaptogens, Ashwaganda enhances stamina, strength, and endurance. One clinical trial demonstrated that, compared to Ginseng or placebo, Ashwagandha use resulted in an improvement in cognitive ability and coordination. This, coupled with its ability to enhance resistance to stress and promote an increase in stamina and physical energy, make Ashwagandha an excellent adaptogenic choice for both ancient and modern living.

In addition, nervine herbs (those that feed and support, and relax the nervous system), are very useful for symptoms of nervous exhaustion. Herbs like chamomile, kava, lemonbalm, skullcap, oatseed, and many others are an important adjunt to a protocol helpful to handle stress issues.

Persistent stress can deplete us of essential nutrients, so it can be important to look at supplementing some of these nutrients, such as:

Magnesium: Blocks the damaging effects of too much adrenaline. Great for agitation, hyperactivity, and sleeplessness.

B Vitamins: Stress depletes our bodies of these vitally important vitamins.

Vitamin C: Also depleted by stress. Stress is handled easier by the body, when this nutrient is available.

I hope it goes without saying that eating a nutritious, whole-food diet is KEY to handling stress. In addition, sleep is vital to balance the body and to assist it in its rejuvenation from stress. And last, but not least, exercise. Exercise is not only an excellent stress reliever, it also helps us to deal with stress better on a daily basis.

Nature provides us with many tools to handle the stress of our lives. Consistent attention to our personal needs can go a long way in helping ourselves benefit from stress, rather than become harmed by it.


Anne is a second generation native San Diegan, and mother of three. She is a certified clinical herbalist with training and experience in both Western and Eastern modalities. She is a graduate of Self Heal School and the East West School of Herbal Medicine. Along with a private practice specializing in women and children (though not exclusive to them), Anne also teaches classes in herbal medicine and nutritional health. In addition she works as the Lead Practitioner at Pharmaca, La Jolla. She is happy to join the Natural BabyPros team, and to assist our membership in finding balance in their health, and learning how to use herbs and nutrition for the overall well-being of themselves and their families.

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