Stress plays a part in all our lives. Healthy levels of stress can increase our drive and determination but more often than not stress can significantly impact our physical and mental wellbeing. Medical herbalist Gabriella Clarke looks inside the herbal medicine chest for some calming remedies.
We all feel stressed and unable to cope from time to time. Relationship problems, money worries and problems at work are common triggers, whilst symptoms can include difficulty in concentrating, sleep problems, self esteem issues, muscle tension and even nausea, headaches and loss of appetite. Pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, IBS and migraines can also be exacerbated by stress.
While some sort of stress in life is unavoidable there is a lot we can do to help manage our symptoms and reduce the negative impact they can have on our physical and emotional health. It is important to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking and drinking and to look instead at relaxation therapies such as to yoga or mindfulness. If stress becomes long term and you are still having a problem managing it, counselling may be the answer.
Help is at hand. As well as lifestyle changes there are some fantastic herbs that help combat stress and support a calmer existence.
The root from this Siberian plant is fantastic for combating mental and physical fatigue including nervous exhaustion and it works very quickly. As it is an adaptogen (herbs that help the body adapt to physical, emotional and environmental stress) it is a great choice if you are starting a new job, moving home and even if you have suffered a bereavement. Rhodiola has also been shown to improve physical stamina and increase concentration and cognitive function as well as having an anti-depressant effect.
A popular garden flower since it was introduced to Europe in the 17th Century, it wasn’t long before it was discovered that this lovely plant had medical benefits. Medical herbalists favour passionflower for treating anxiety as well as for alleviating palpitations, butterfly stomach and shakiness.
This gentle but powerful herb is great for stress and anxiety and is suitable for almost everyone including children. It makes a lovely soothing tea but is also available in tablet and tincture form. It’s particularly indicated for people who suffer stomach and digestive issues when under stress, and herbalists commonly refer to it as ‘mother of the gut’.
Lemon balm is regarded as a common weed and most people try to eliminate it from their gardens but it’s actually a great herb for treating stress as well as having a mood-enhancing effect. The fresh herb can be made into a delicious tea, which has a relaxing effect on the body inducing calmness.
Using lavender oil in an aromatherapy burner can help create a relaxing and calming environment. The oil is also now available in capsules and is great for alleviating tension headaches and treating nervous exhaustion.
Many of us are deficient in both B vitamins and magnesium, especially in times of stress. In fact stress can actually speed up the depletion of these essential nutrients. B vitamins are important in helping us manage stress and balance hormones, as well as aiding energy production. Magnesium also acts as a muscle relaxant helping with muscle pain and tension.