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Helping women reconnect with their body and achieve well-being

Herbs that reduce stress

July 2024


Stress

  • Increasing The Body’s Resilience To Stress
  • Herbs For Reducing Stress – Herbal Nervine Relaxant
  • Adaptogen Herbs For Stress Management
  • Food For Though – Nutrition For The Nervous System.

Rather watch and listen?

Herbs For Reducing Stress – Herbal Nervine Relaxant

If you ask your family members, neighbors, or friends if they feel stressed, they will most likely say yes. A Gallup poll found that about 55% of Americans feel stress, women more than men.

What is stress?

The stress response developed in the human body as an adaptive response to acute threats to its safety. The goal of the response is to increase the body’s level of alertness to detect the source of the threat faster and provide the resources the body will need to handle the danger.

When your body predicts a threat to its safety, it will release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. 


herbs for stress reduction - lemon balm

These hormones will increase your alertness by:

  • Dilating the pupils to allow better vision and awareness of your surroundings. 
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure allow the body to send resources, oxygen and glucose to all parts of the body so you have the energy needed to fight or escape the danger. 
  • The muscles contract, getting ready for action. 
  • The muscles and the liver release glucose into the bloodstream to fuel the fight-or-flight response.
  • Blood carrying glucose and white blood cells (just in case of an injury) is shuttled to the brain and limbs, prioritizing the body parts necessary for fighting or escaping.

 

Two important things to know about the stress response:

To a certain degree, the stress response is normal. Cortisol, the hormone that initiates the stress response is also the hormone that wakes you up in the morning and keeps you awake all day. Without a certain level of alertness, you would not be curious and motivated to grow and learn.

There is only one stress response. Your mind doesn’t know how to discriminate between a physical threat to your body, such as being chased by the sabertooth lion, to emotional stress, such as fighting with your boss, or a reaction to watching the news or a Hitchcock movie on the TV. The brain will react similarly by releasing the same stress hormones, leading to the physiological changes I listed above. 

 

Acute vs chronic

The stress response was essential to the survival of our ancestors. For them, it functioned as an acute reaction to immediate stress, such as a predator targeting them. But as soon as the threat was neutralized, the body returned to its more relaxed mode. 

Although we are out of the woods regarding predators, at least animal-type modern life is stressful. The problem is that “modern stress” is not acute and short-lived but rather becomes a chronic state that compromises the well-being of the body.

 

Why is chronic stress not good for you?

The same physiological changes that occur in the body in response to stress and can be life-saving in acute stress can compromise one’s well-being when they are chronic.

High levels of alertness will help you be more aware of your surroundings when you might be in danger, but if they keep you up at night, they can lead to brainflammation and immune and endocrine dysregulations. 

Increased heart rate and blood pressure might be beneficial when facing an attack, but when chronic, they can lead to heart disease and anxiety.

While increased blood sugar might be essential for fueling the body if it needs to fight or escape,  if you live a sedentary lifestyle with high-stress levels but no fight or flight on the horizon, then your chronic high glucose levels put you at risk for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

When you prioritize blood flow to the brain and limbs, anticipating a fight or flight, you reduce blood flow to the digestive system. Chronic stress means fewer resources for digestion, less digestive enzymes, and less absorption. Overall, stress can lead to nutrient deficiencies. For your body, it might look like a famine, which will further increase stress levels, creating a vicious cycle.

Reducing stress is essential for supporting the body’s need to rest, replenish, grow, and heal.

 

Herbal nervines – relaxant/ sedative

Herbal nervine relaxants/sedatives are herbs that have an affinity for and provide calming and relaxing support to the nervous system.

In small doses, herbal relaxants reduce stress and help you chill. In larger doses, these same herbs are sedatives and pain relievers. Some nervine relaxants are antispasmodic. When nerves are overstimulated, the muscles around them tend to contract. When the muscles relax, they allow the nerves to relax too. Some examples of herbal relaxant sedatives are lemon balm, motherwort, and valerian.

 

Lemon balm

Lemon balm, also called Melissa is a mild nervine relaxant that can be used during the day without having a sedating effect. 

Melissa  affects organs directly innervated by nerves. Because the nervous system is spread all over the body, lemon balm will affect many parts of the body, such as the mind, heart, and digestive tract.

Indicated for conditions where the stress response is upregulated, lemon balm is a mild but potent relaxant. Stress manifests in different ways for different people. Some experience stress as a racing, scattered mind; for others, stress shows up as heart palpitation; and for others, stress manifests as digestive pain.

Lemon balm is unique because it addresses all these manifestations of stress.

In the mind, lemon balm enhances cognitive function. It helps improve mental clarity and focus for people whose minds are scattered. 

In the heart, lemon balm will reduce heart palpitation and anxiety and alleviate the clouds of depression. 

In the digestive tract, lemon balm relaxes the nerves and muscles, allowing better blood flow to the digestive tract and reducing cramping and upset stomach. 

While some level of alertness keeps you alive and engaged, too much stress increases the wear and tear on your body, increasing your risks of chronic diseases and early aging.

 

Hacks for relaxing your nervous system

  • A nutrient-dense diet and adequate fluid intake are essential for keeping your body relaxed; the body doesn’t know the difference between famine, drought, and a junk food diet.
  • Movement helps release e-motions that might be stuck in your tissue. A sedentary lifestyle is stressful for the body. You want to find the silver lining, not too much, not too little, that is appropriate for your body. 
  • Ceremonies can break the routine of the year, week, and day and remind you to take a breath.
  • An attitude of gratitude. It is not your life conditions that determine your stress levels but rather the stories you tell yourself about your life conditions. If you count your blessings, you might find that you have more to be grateful than you thought. 
  • Add a cup of herbal relaxant tea blend to your ceremony to help you relax. 

If stress is a challenge, I invite you to join the Stress Gut & The Immune System program.
If you are curious to learn more or need help designing a lifestyle that will optimize your well-being, book a 20-minute free consultation with me. 

 

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Disclaimer: This document is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. I am not providing medical, psychological, or nutrition therapy advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your own medical practitioner. Always seek the advice of your own medical practitioner and/or mental health provider about your specific health situation. You can view my full disclaimer here.
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