Do you want to find natural stress remedies that work for you? Here are four herbs to reduce stress levels at home and work.
As you no doubt know all too well, we live in a chronically stressed culture. Most of us exist in a state of near-constant overwork and overwhelm.
And all this stress is taking a serious toll. An estimated 90% of all visits to primary care doctors are for stress-related complaints.
Some stress can help you, by driving you to heightened alertness or intensity of focus. But too much stress can cause serious damage to your health — from contributing to weight gain to damaging your heart and making you look older. Stress can also affect how you feel physically and mentally.
Plus, chronic, or lasting, stress is linked to every chronic disease because it lays the foundation for inflammation and other health ailments.
You can’t avoid all the stress in your life. So, what’s the solution? How can you cope and not let all the little things, or the big ones, get you down?
You have more power over your stress than you may realize. Life isn’t only about what happens to you — it’s also about how you respond. The right herbs can be a potent tool to help you calm the stresses and enjoy more resiliency.
Why Herbs Can Be An Easy and Effective Solution to Fight Stress
An herb is a plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers that people use for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume. In the modern world, people use the word “herb” to refer to a plant that’s used for healing or medicinal purposes.
For centuries, people in many cultures around the world have used a variety of herbs to fight stress. And, as you’ll see below, science is beginning to prove the remarkable powers of some of these plants.
How Adaptogens Can Give You Calm and Clarity
Adaptogens promote balance in many systems of your body. Remarkably, they can calm you down and boost your energy at the same time, without over-stimulating you.
While some adaptogens work quickly, most work over time and have cumulative benefits. Some people take them daily for months before getting the full effects.
Ashwagandha — An Adaptogenic Herb Proven to Ease Stress and Energize Your Body
Used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 2,500 years, ashwagandha is also known as winter cherry and Indian ginseng.
People often use this herb to help balance fatigue, exhaustion, stress, depression, and nervous tension.
In addition, it has the power to lower inflammation and fight infection.
What Science Says About Ashwagandha
Research is now proving the abilities of ashwagandha to ease anxiety and reduce feelings of stress.
In a 2012 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, patients were given 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice a day for 60 days. What happened? The participant’s scores of perceived stress dropped by 44% and their levels of the stress hormone cortisol (which goes up when stress levels are high) decreased by almost 28%.
Then, in 2014, a systematic review of five controlled studies involving humans found that this herb significantly improved anxiety and stress levels.
How to Use Ashwagandha in Your Life
If you’re feeling fatigued or burned out or like you need to relax and get some sleep, ashwagandha may be able to help.
Finding products made with ashwagandha root is typically best.
Some ways to use this herb:
- Made into tea
- As a capsule or tablet
- In a liquid extract or tincture
- As a powder, which you can add to foods and beverages
People have used ashwagandha traditionally in India in a powder mixed with warm milk, taken about an hour before bed. Ashwagandha is also often added to golden milk recipes made with turmeric. You can make plant-based versions of golden milk with unsweetened non-dairy milk and ashwagandha powder.
While taking ashwagandha is considered safe for most people, some health professionals advise against taking it if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Tulsi, or Holy Basil — An Adaptogen Herb You Can Take Daily to Help Your Body Respond to Stress
Tulsi, also known as holy basil or “the queen of herbs,” is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, and is a member of the mint family.
This plant is a powerful antioxidant. While people have used it for a variety of treatments, it’s most significant potential might be for stress-relief and relaxation.
People who take it often report that it gives them a calming energy and a general sense of well-being.
Tulsi has also been found to help regulate your blood sugar and support heart health.
In traditional healing systems, people have often taken this herb over a lifetime to increase vibrant health and longevity.
What Science Says About Tulsi
In a 2012 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the international, peer-reviewed journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 158 highly stressed individuals received either a placebo or holy basil.
After six weeks, the holy basil group reported improved symptoms of general stress 39% more than the placebo group.
Symptoms, such as frequent feelings of exhaustion, forgetfulness, and sleep problems decreased significantly. And participants reported no adverse effects.
Another 2008 study published in the Nepal Medical College Journal involved patients with generalized anxiety disorder. Researchers found that 500 mg of holy basil twice daily significantly reduced anxiety and associated stress, depression, and inattention in participants.
Further evidence is mounting that tulsi can address physical, chemical, metabolic, and psychological stress. It has been found to protect organs and tissues against chemical stress from industrial pollutants and heavy metals and against physical stress from prolonged physical exertion and exposure to cold and excessive noise.
The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends tulsi for people who have post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Getting specific, the Center recommends 400 milligrams of tulsi daily to help fight stress and to support adrenal health.
How to Use Tulsi in Your Life
Use tulsi regularly to help balance your body and support its response to everyday stressors.
Some ways to use this herb:
- As a tea (I particularly love Organic India tulsi products)
- In cooking
- As a capsule or tablet
- In a powder form
According to herbalist Rosalee De La Foret, tulsi may have an antifertility effect. Therefore, pregnant women or couples who want to conceive shouldn’t take this herb.
How Nervine Herbs Support Your Nervous System
Most nervine herbs are gentle and support relaxation. (By contrast, a few nervine herbs, such as coffee and peppermint, have stimulating qualities.)
Relaxing nervine herbs support the nervous system and reduce overactive stress responses by returning the body to a resting phase.
These herbs may be helpful for a variety of problems, such as relieving normal muscle tension, wakeful nights, and occasional worries.
Lemon Balm — A Nervine Herb with Powerful Relaxing and Mood-Boosting Benefits
A member of the mint family, lemon balm has been studied for its anti-anxiety effects. For thousands of years, people have used it medicinally. And today, it’s often combined with other calming herbs, such as chamomile, valerian, and lavender.
With its citrusy notes, the scent and the delightful taste make it an enjoyable way to soothe and boost your mood.
What Science Says About Lemon Balm
Randomized, double-blind research published in 2004 in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine gave participants a single dose of lemon balm (300 mg or 600 mg) or a placebo. After an hour, those taking the higher dose reported reduced stress and improved calmness and alertness.
In another 2011 study, 20 adults with moderate anxiety and insomnia were given 300 mg of lemon balm twice per day for 15 days. Researchers found the lemon balm reduced anxiety and related symptoms by as much as 18% and decreased insomnia by 42%. And they observed no adverse effects.
Lemon balm is also able to effectively increase GABA activity in the brain. Your brain uses the neurotransmitter GABA to prevent over-excitement and achieve balance. It helps keeps our stress levels low and plays a role in sleep.
How to Use Lemon Balm in Your Life
For most people, lemon balm is considered safe to take daily. Some health practitioners even recommend using it to soothe teething children. Many people use it to improve their mood and stress levels, as well as for anxiety or seasonal affective disorder.
Some ways to use this herb:
- As a tea
- In tinctures or syrups
- In cooking and baking
- Lemon-balm infused water
If you have leaves from this plant, you can simply rub a leaf between your fingers to absorb some of its essential oils aromatically. Fresh lemon balm has its own special benefits, and it’s easy to grow in containers.
Curcumin — An Herb Component That Can Boost Your Mood and Help Offset the Impact Stress Has on Your Body
Curcumin is the most active compound in the turmeric root. You’ve probably heard about the vast range of health benefits curcumin and turmeric can provide. In fact, here are 600 reasons turmeric may be the world’s most important herb.
But you may not be aware that this magical herb can help relieve stress and anxiety.
What Science Says About Curcumin
Amazingly, curcumin has been found to reverse harmful brain changes induced by chronic stress.
Human studies are also showing its potential to fight stress. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology showed that taking 500 mg of curcumin twice daily, with fenugreek, considerably reduced stress, anxiety, and fatigue while significantly increasing the quality of life in people suffering from extreme occupational stress.
In another 2015 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, 400 mg of curcumin was given to healthy adults aged 60 to 85. Only one hour after a single dose, participants scored better on tasks requiring sustained attention and working memory. Continuous use for weeks improved scores on working memory and mood, including general fatigue, calmness, and contentedness.
And it can even help with PMS. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in 2016 in Neuropeptides, Curcumin was found to reduce anxiety experienced by women with PMS and to significantly reduce PMS-related emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms.
How to Use Curcumin in Your Life
Curcumin is generally considered safe to take indefinitely. But unfortunately, the body isn’t able to absorb it and make use of its benefits very efficiently.
Some people eat turmeric with black pepper and a fat source, such as ghee or coconut oil, as has been done traditionally in India for many centuries to boost bioavailability. But many people find it easiest to achieve optimal levels with curcumin supplementation.
At FRN, we recommend making use of a micelle liposomal delivery mechanism because it’s been found to increase bioavailability by up to 185 times.
Purality Health offers a premium organic liposomal curcumin, combined with a number of other potent anti-inflammatories to create a product they call Curcumin Gold. (If you get it from this link, they’ll contribute a portion of the proceeds to our work and our mission: healthy, ethical, sustainable food for all.)
Important Note About Lead in Turmeric:
Investigators believe that in some countries, turmeric may be intentionally contaminated with lead to enhance its weight, color, or both. Lead-contaminated turmeric has repeatedly been found in India and Bangladesh, and it may be a concern in the United States, as well.
The FDA has not set maximum permissible levels of lead in spices. As a result, the agency does not regulate lead levels in turmeric. If you want to protect yourself and your family from possible lead contamination, the best option is to buy fresh turmeric root or to buy organic turmeric and curcumin products. You can also contact manufacturers to ask if they test for lead and other metals.
We asked Purality Health about their products and lead, and they told us they run ICPMS (the highest standard for heavy metal testing) on every batch of Curcumin Gold. They test internally and also hire a third party for independent verification. The test results show there is no lead in their products. They report that they are also fully compliant with California’s Prop 65. See more about Curcumin Gold here.
Important Considerations About Herbs
Herbs can be surprisingly useful in helping you to reduce your stress at home and at work. But you can’t use herbs to singlehandedly make up for a lack of sleep, poor diet, lack of exercise, or being stuck in toxic relationships.
So, if you’re experiencing negative effects of stress, it’s important to consider not only how to recover but also what you can do to best minimize the factors that are causing you stress.
In herbal medicine, herbalists often use multiple herbs in combination with each other to achieve greater effects. You can find tea blends to reduce your stress, or you can make your own.
And keep in mind that sometimes, herbs can occasionally trigger side effects and interactions with prescription drugs. This online database can help you to find interactions between drugs and natural medicines.
A Final Word About Using Herbs to Reduce Stress
Take time to find natural stress remedies that work for you and that are backed by science. You’ll be taking action to help your body, mind, and spirit feel calmer and better able to respond to the inevitable challenges life brings.
Knowing how to use the right herbs can make a very real difference in your quality, and even quantity, of life.