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Combat Stress, Anxiety and Depression With Natural Supplements

Combat Stress, Anxiety and Depression With Natural Supplements

STRESS is a challenging six-letter word. No matter how easygoing a person is, stress finds its way into his/her life, thanks to the rigours of an over-competitive world! It leads to a chain of complications like depression, chronic gastritis, high blood pressure, insomnia, heart diseases, and so on. 

It has been observed that stressed people tend to first lookout for various OTC drugs from pharmaceuticals that help to tone down the anxiety and stress levels. However, these medicines could have adverse side-effects. Furthermore, they do not address the cause of underlying stress but rather work to suppress it temporarily. 

The truth of the matter is that there is no cure for stress. Thankfully, natural remedies and herbal supplements can have a powerful impact on our hormones and help our body shield itself from the harmful effects of stress.

The human body has the incredible capacity to heal itself when provided with the right gears. One such aid that enables the body to combat stress by healing itself is an 'Adaptogen’, the latest trend in the natural health and wellness space. Various companies are investigating into these chic herbs for combating stress as well as other chronic conditions.

What Are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that have been used for healing for centuries, in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines. They were first developed during World War II to increase the efficiency of pilots to fly better and faster for more extended periods. 

Adaptogens, as the term indicates, help the body adapt to stress and function in the usual fashion. They are essentially herbal pharmaceuticals that work by counteracting the physical and mental pressures of the body. 

Stress causes various physical changes in the body, damaging the endocrine, neurological, and immune systems. The stimulant properties in adaptogens help to counteract these harmful effects of stress.

How Do Adaptogens Work?

Adaptogens work by fine-tuning the hormones at the molecular level and by creating a balance in the various hypothalamic, adrenal and pituitary glands. These glands are a part of our body’s stress response system. [1]

A study has found out that adaptogens help in promoting health and wellbeing and thereby combat stress when used as a supplement with other traditional medicines. [2]

The Link Between Adaptogens, Adrenal Dysfunction, and Stress [3]

Adrenal Dysfunction or adrenal fatigue arises from many factors like stress, insomnia, imbalances in the blood sugar, and so on, with the primary factor being stress. Adrenal fatigue occurs due to  HPA Axis fatigue. (HPA Axis regulates stress hormones).

During periods of high stress (say rescuing a person from a fall), the body responds to unexpected challenges through the ‘fight or flight’ response by producing enough cortisol to combat stress. The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) prepares the body to be armed for combating stress by mobilizing additional energy. 

This is done by rapid heart rate and respiration to enable more blood to be rushed to the limbs (or any other stressed part) from the remaining parts of the body. Hence, the other parts of the body get just a minimal supply of blood for basic functioning. 

Once the body combats stress, the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), prepares to relax the body and eventually recover. During stress, the functioning of the other systems like the digestive and immune systems are compromised to supply enough blood to the part where it is required. 

While this may be an efficient system by the body to tackle itself against occasional stress, the fact is that the stress we face today may not be short-term. Instead, we all live in an age of constant chronic stress.

During such constantly stressful periods, large amounts of cortisol are released into the body, and the adrenals find it difficult to keep pace with the demand for substantial stress hormones. Their ability to produce normal hormones for maintaining the body's health gets reduced, leading to adrenal fatigue, which in turn leads to a host of other medical conditions. Continually being in the fight or flight mode creates abnormal blood circulation to various organs and weakens them.

Adaptogens come to the rescue, enabling the body to face the challenges of chronic stress by helping the adrenals to be better prepared to combat stress.

Here are some popular adaptogenic natural remedies and supplements that help to combat stress. Each herb or mushroom detailed below helps the body to fight various stress levels ranging from mild, moderate, acute to chronic.

Adaptogens Herb Supplements for Combating Stress: [4] 

  1. Holy Basil – (Ocimum sanctum, O. gratissimum)

Plant Family: Lamiaceae 

Portion used: Leaves and Flowers

Holy Basil has been in use in India since ages and forms an essential component in Ayurvedic medicine. It helps to reduce anxiety and balance the cortisol hormones. It is also neuroprotective and enhances cerebral circulation.

  1. Ashwagandha -  (Withania somnifera)

Plant family: Solanaceae

Portion used: Root

This is an adaptogenic herb that is commonly used in Ayurveda and helps to improve focus and reduce irritability and enhance overall vitality. The term Ashwagandha is said to be derived from the Hindi term 'Asgahdh" meaning the smell of a horse. True to this, the herb gives the strength of a stallion.

Ashwagandha is known for its energizing effects on the body. Many animal-based studies have proven the efficacy of Ashwagandha for its adaptogenic benefits. 

Further specific research suggests that Ashwagandha may be as effective as popular medicines used in reducing anxiety levels. [5], [6] 

  1. Reishi Mushroom -  (Ganoderma lucidum )

Mushroom family: Ganodermataceae

Portion used: The fruiting body, mycelium, and in some cases, the spores.

Certain mushrooms like Reishi are quite popular in combating stress as they help to alter moods and improve the immune system. Reishi mushrooms are popularly found in Asia, and this fungus has been an integral part of Eastern medicine for many years. [7]

Several molecules in this mushroom, like polysaccharides, triterpenoids, and peptidoglycans, provide numerous health benefits, including reduction of hypertension that is responsible for stress. [8]

Reishi mushroom also helps to combat fatigue and depression. A study on 132 patients with neurasthenia (condition with headaches, pain, irritability, etc.) showed reduced fatigue and irritability post eight weeks of consumption of reishi supplements. [9]

Check out the best Reishi Mushroom supplement here… 

  1. Lemon Balm -  (Melissa officinalis)

Plant Family: Lamiaceae

Portion used: Leaves

Lemon balm belongs to the mint family and is said to have sedative properties. [10]. Various studies have shown its efficacy against anxiety. [11]

Lemon balm also tags well with Valerian root (another herb for treating anxiety and sleep disorders). [12]

  1. L- tryptophan 

L- tryptophan is an amino acid, and it plays a vital role in the well being of a person. Factors like stress and unhealthy diet negatively impact L-tryptophan and thereby lead to irritable mood. L-tryptophan is responsible for the secretion of the happiness hormone "serotonin" and hence is a perfect mood enhancer. [13]

Check out the serotonin enhancer adaptogen here… 

Further, L- tryptophan also helps against insomnia and stress. Hence, the lesser the availability of this amino acid, the lower the happiness quotient and wellbeing.

L-tryptophan is considered to be an essential amino acid as the body does not produce it. It must be acquired through food sources. L-tryptophan is found in abundance in plant and animal proteins.

Once the body absorbs L-tryptophan, it gets converted primarily into 5-HTP and then into serotonin (mood enhancer), melatonin (vital for sleep) and nicotinamide (B6 Vitamin required for energy). 

Some of the food sources with high tryptophan content include:

  1. Dairy products
  2. Bananas
  3. Fish
  4. Eggs
  5. Walnuts
  6. Tomatoes
  1. Rhodiola Rosea - (lignum rhodium) 

Plant Family: Crassulaceae

Portion used: Root. Leaves and shoots are also used in a few cases and consumed raw.

Also known as golden root, this herb is commonly found in the wild Arctic regions and parts of Asia and North America as well. This herb is used in traditional medical practice for treating symptoms of anxiety and depression.[14] 

Russians and Scandinavians have used Rhodiola to treat various conditions of depression and anxiety for many centuries. This herb helps in the treatment of mild depressive symptoms [14] and also boosts mental performance. [15]

One study has found out that Rhodiola extract of 400 mg per day when given to 101 participants suffering from work-related stress led to a significant improvement in stress symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, just three days. [16]

Furthermore, Rhodiola also helps to alleviate the symptoms of burnout that occurs with chronic stress. A study on 118 individuals with stress-related exhaustion showed that this herb helped to improve may symptoms related to depression and stress. [17]

So if you are suffering from chronic or work-related stress and lifestyle changes and relaxation techniques do not seem to suffice, then do try going in for authentic adaptogenic supplements.

Authentic adaptogenic supplements take into account the synergy between various herbs in tackling multiple body issues. Hence, one can have a combination of various adaptogens, replacing each with the other at regular intervals so that one does not become resistant to a particular adaptogen. 

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