The Best Herbs For Stress And Anxiety
Herbs and spices were some of the earliest substances traded on a global scale. Christopher Columbus wasn’t looking for America, he was looking for herbs and spices. “Seems like an awful lot of trouble to spice up some pasta”. Or at least that’s what I thought to myself in second grade history class. But as it turns out, many of the compounds which give herbs and spices their characteristic flavors, colors, and aromas, also offer impressive medicinal benefits.
Top picks for adaptogenic herbs
Today, I want to go over my top picks for Adaptogenic herbs.
But first, what the heck does Adaptogenic even mean?
You can think of adaptogens as any substance that helps your body adapt, or get used to the environment it’s in. For example, if you walk into a cold room your body will shift gears to make itself more comfortable. Your metabolism will probably speed up to make more heat, your blood vessel will tighten up to save blood for the important stuff, and you may even start to shiver to warm up. This is your body matching what’s happening on the inside, to what’s happening on the outside. Adaptogens, help you match your environment, better. And this adaptability makes you more resilient to stress!
You may be wondering how Adaptogens pull this off. And the answer – Glands. Glands are little organs in your body, that kick out hormones to help the body get stuff done. For example, the hypothalamus helps control hormones related to stress and relaxation. The thyroid gland helps control metabolism. And the adrenal glands releases hormones related to stress and energy production. Adaptogens help stimulate these glands, which can help your body shift gears more effectively.
So how do adaptogens help with stress?
You can think of stress, and anxiety, as having your foot stuck on the gas pedal. This is like coffee. Which may give you energy but leaves you anxious and unable to relax. On the other end, we have things like sedatives. These may help you relax but leave you feeling tired and sedated. You can think of this like having your foot stuck on the brake.
Adaptogens reduce stress by helping the body relax when it needs to, but also have the added benefit of helping your body ramp up when it needs to. It’s like being able to switch between gas, and brakes, depending on traffic. Pretty sweet.
So, what are some adaptogenic herbs that can help with stress?
I’m glad you ask, keep reading to find out!
Dr. Aaron’s Top 3 adaptogens for stress, and a whole lot more!
Research has shown ashwagandha to positively affect the Hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal Axis (AKA HPA axis). This is a network of multiple glands that work together to control your stress level. Ashwagandha has also been shown to increase testosterone, improve sleep and even provide a small cognitive boost! Always look for a clean form like Ashwagandha “KSM – 66”. Which is a concentrated full spectrum blend, processed without solvents.
Check out this full spectrum blend!
Reishi is a reddish brown, fan shaped mushroom. Though it is not technically an herb, it sports some pretty impressive medicinal benefits. Specifically, Reishi can help regulate the immune system by stimulating special white blood cells. This makes Reishi tea my ‘go to’ supplement when I’m feeling under the weather. Like Ashwagandha, Reishi also helps to balance the HPA Axis. This can help quiet the mind, reduce anxiety, and make the body more resilient to stress. Reishi can also help balance sex hormones. However, unlike Ashwagandha, this mushroom may slightly lower the effects of testosterone, by preventing it from being converted to the more potent DHT form.
Check out this Reishi blend! I like this one for sleep:
Tulsi, aka Holy Basil, aka the “Queen of all Herbs”, is a stapple of Ayurvedic medicine. And that’s because it’s good for just about everything. In terms of immunity, Tulsi boosts white blood cells and is naturally anti-viral and anti-microbial. In terms of anxiety, Tulsi helps regulate the adrenals and is considered an “anxiolytic”. This means it helps reduce anxiety, can help manage depression and help you relax enough to improve sleep. But my favorite benefit, and the reason I keep a Tulsi plant in my kitchen window, is for luck! Tulsi plants are traditionally thought to be lucky, and bring good fortune, and who doesn’t want that?
Check out this organic Tulsi Tea Blend:Organic India Tulsi Original
Want to be Cool?
Herbs are cool, and they can help you keep it cool, by helping you keep your stress under control. Specifically, adaptogens help your body regulate hormones in a way that makes you more resilient to stress. These adaptogens can help you ramp up in times of stress, and help you wind down when it’s time to relax. Some of these herbs even have benefits like immune, and cognitive boosting!
While herbs can help you level up your health regimen, it’s important to work with someone who is familiar with them. At this clinic we have several trained herbalists. If you’re interested in finding the right herbs for you, I highly recommend scheduling an appointment with one of our herbal specialists today!
And if you’re interested in finding some of these awesome herbs, you can get everything you need at Mountain Rose Herbs, right here in Eugene!
Written by Dr. Aaron Barnard, DPT Physical Therapist