In a very basic sense, when we look at the nervous system we have two states; fight or flight (sympathetic) or rest and digest (parasympathetic). In our not so distant past, when we heard a rumbling in a bush or the snapping of a twig, our nervous system would mount a response in our body and we would rush into action to either fight for our lives or run away from the danger.
In modern times, the snapping of the twig has been replaced by our boss, a constant flood of emails, and the ever increasing “to do” list. When our bodies decide to use the same tactic it has evolved from centuries before, this tactic tends to come up short. We simply cannot fight or run from our day to day activities like we could from the beasts that were ready to eat us.
Furthermore, if left uncheck, this stress response can have detrimental effects on the body. Chronic stress contributes to a host of negative signs, symptoms, diseases, and disorders including but not limited to:
- Memory and concentration impairment
- Heart disease
- Digestive problems
- Aches and pains
- Exacerbation of any chronic disorder or diseases
Having healthy lifestyle habits in place can contribute towards diminishing chronic stress. Our experience has shown us that when people are working really hard, their good habits drop off.
This is where adaptogenic herbs can contribute the most. When people are too busy to exercise, eat healthy, and sleep well. Adaptogenic herbs can buy us time to reestablish a balance in the nervous system and supports the body to better handle the stress.
Adaptogenic herbs are classified as herbs that help protect the body from various stressors, including physical, mental, or emotional stress. These herbs have been used for centuries and across many civilizations. Stress is by no means a modern condition and we are only the latest generation to grapple with how to best defuse it.
Astragulas has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Known primarily for its wonderful benefit as an immune system enhancer. It typically is used to combat colds, influenza (flu), and upper respiratory tract infections. It has the additional bonus of providing energy for people suffering from fatigue due to chronic stress
Ashwagandha, known in the ayurvedic traditions as Indian ginseng, has been associated with promoting good health for centuries. A study indicated that administration of this herb effectively increased tolerance to stress in individuals and improved overall scores in in quality of life samplings. Ashwagandha can also be used to help with reducing inflammation and decreasing pain.
Grown in the artic regions of Asia and Europe, rhodiola is our go to herb for chronically high stressed patients. This plant can increase physical endurance, mental performance, and reduce stress induced fatigue in humans. In a study of military cadets undergoing sleep deprivation and stress found that rhodiola greatly helped the cadets with the effects of fatigue. Athletes are also taking advantage of rhodiola’s properties while training. Rhodiola is great at improving endurance capacity during exercises and shortening the recovery time from high endurance activities.
These are just the tip of the ice burg when it comes to adaptogenic herbs. There are many more adaptogenic herbs that can assist in treating chronic stress. Not to mention an entire pharmacopia of herbal therapies for acute and chronic conditions. If you would like to know more please talk to your local acupuncturist about what they can do for your health.
Lastly, we want to hear from you, our readers. What do you do to manage chronic stress? Are there certain regimens that you use that help with stress? We would love to hear from you and how you go about tackling this common condition.
- University of Maryland Center of Medicine. Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD. http://umm.edu/health/medical-reference-guide/complementary-and-alternative-medicine-guide/herb/astragalus last updated: May 7, 2013.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/astragalus Created: May 2007 Updated: April 2012
- Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. Chen, John K & Chen, Tina T. Art of Medicine Press. 2001
- A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of AshwagandhaRoot in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul-Sep; 34(3): 255–262 K. Chandrasekhar, Jyoti Kapoor, and Sridhar Anishetty
- http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress/SR00001, July 11, 2013
- Shevtsov VA, Zholus BI, Shervarly VI, et al. A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiolarosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomedicine . 2003;10:95-105.
- · http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400399/Rhodiola-for-What-Ails-You.html Originally published, May 2008. Updated, October, 2012.
- Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. De Bock K, Eijnde BO, Ramaekers M, Hespel P. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Jun;14(3):298-307.