Published March 30, 2017 — Share
Nearly 7 million Canadians report experiencing high daily levels of stress. This constant onslaught of stress can lead to a number of serious health concerns, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and a depressed immune system, not to mention making poor dietary choices.
Statistics Canada also reports that women have higher perceived levels of stress in their lives when compared to men. Stress can be caused by any number of factors: workplace woes, personal problems or social struggles.
A hormone that is released in droves in response to stressors is cortisol. There are a number of effective ways to deal with stress, including practising mindfulness, getting enough sleep and finding enjoyable ways to exercise. A trendy approach that is rooted in thousands of years of history in Ayurvedic medicine is the use of “adaptogens.”
Adaptogens are a group of herbal products that can help your body adapt to or manage the effects of stress and help you through those tough times. Adaptogenic herbs include (but are not limited to) Holy Basil, Ashwagandha and Rhodiola rosea, which have been traditionally used to help the body prevent the negative effects of stress.
Also known as Tulsi or Tulasi, the use of Holy Basil dates back thousands of years for a wide variety of ailments. In Ayurveda, Holy Basil has been used as an herbal tea, dried powder or even consumed fresh to balance stressors and help the body adapt to stressful situations.
You can also find Holy Basil as a supplement at your local CHFA Member health food store. Some preliminary research has confirmed the stress-balancing effects of this herb, finding that compounds in Holy Basil can actually inhibit the release of cortisol into the blood stream, thereby helping balance the body’s response to stress.
Ashwagandha is an herb native to India that is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine. The fresh root gets its name from the recognizable earthy or “horsey” smell; “ashwagandha” means “smell of horse.”
When taken as a supplement, ashwagandha has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and may even benefit sufferers of insomnia. Research has shown that supplementing with this herb can actively reduce cortisol levels in the blood by 14 to 28 per cent.
Rhodiola rosea is a plant that grows in cold regions of the world. It has been extensively studied in Russia and Scandinavian countries for over 35 years, and is categorized as an adaptogen because of its ability to increase resistance to chemical, biological and physical stressors. Rhodiola has been found to inhibit stress-induced depletion of important brain neurotransmitters.
If you’re prone to stress, whether facing a busy day of work or having to get food on the table between soccer practice and gymnastics, adding an adaptogenic herb to your regimen could help with your stress resilience. Speak to your health care practitioner to determine which herbs are right for you.