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Reducing Stress

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Reducing Stress

Know your enemy,

 In this episode we will talk about stress and ways to combat it through herbal nutrition. We discuss the physical effects of stress as well as the warning signs. We will talk about different ways to regulate the nervous system and recommend some powerful adaptogens and extracts to combat fatigue.  

Adrenal Formulas and Tea



Holy Basil

Holy Basil




In this episode we'll talk about Stress and ways to combat it through herbal nutrition. We discuss the physical effects of stress as well as the warning signs. We will discuss different ways to regulate the nervous system and recommend some powerful herbs and extracts to combat fatigue. In this episode we will be taking calls from John in New York, who has a high stress job and can't seem to turnoff the mental chatter after work hours. We'll also hear from Sharon in Washington DC, who also has a very demanding job and is looking for a natural way to combat stress. Last we will hear from Lucy in Portland who lost her job, has two kids and is looking for something to help with focus as well as combat stress. 


Podcast 2: Stress:

3 types of stress responses:

  1. Social Engagement

  2. Mobilization

  3. Immobilization


1. Social engagement¬†-¬†our most evolved strategy for keeping ourselves feeling calm and safe.¬†Since the vagus nerve connects the brain to sensory receptors in the ear, eye, face and heart, socially interacting with another person¬†can calm you down and¬†deescalate¬†a¬†‚Äúfight-or-flight‚ÄĚ type response. When using¬†social engagement you can¬†think clearly, and¬†body functions such as digestion, the immune system,¬†blood pressure, and¬†heartbeat¬†continue to work¬†normally.


2. Mobilization -commonly referred to as "fight-or-flight" response. When social engagement is no longer an appropriate response and we need to either defend ourselves or run away from danger, the body prepares for mobilization. It releases hormones and neurotransmitters to provide the energy you need to protect yourself. When this happens, body functions such as digestive function and immune function, stop working. Under normal conditions, when the danger has passed your nervous system calms the body, the heart rate and blood pressure normalize, and the body goes back into balance.


3. Immobilization - the least evolved response to stress and used by the body only when social engagement and mobilization have failed. You may find yourself traumatized or frozen in an angry, panic-stricken or otherwise dysfunctional state. In extreme, life-threatening situations, you may even lose consciousness or find yourself enabled to survive high levels of physical pain. However, until you’re able to deescalate to a mobilization response, your nervous system may be unable to return to its pre-stress state of balance.


Inappropriate Stress Response!!
While it’s not always possible to respond to stress using social engagement, many of us have become conditioned to responding to every minor stressor by immediately resorting to fight or flight.

Since this response interrupts other body functions and clouds judgment and feeling, over time it can cause stress overload and have a detrimental effect on both your physical and mental health.

Effects of stress overload

The body’s autonomic nervous system often does a poor job of distinguishing between daily stressors and life-threatening events. For example: you have a mild, low level stress situation in life and have a stress response like you’re facing a life-or-death situation. When you repeatedly experience the fight or flight stress response in your daily life, it can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, speed up the aging process and leave you vulnerable to a host of mental and emotional problems.


Health problems which are caused or exacerbated by stress include:

Pain of any kind
Heart disease
Digestive problems
Sleep problems
Weight problems
Auto immune diseases
Skin conditions, such as eczema


Common warning signs of chronic stress:

Memory Problems

Inability to concentrate

Poor judgements


Sense of loneliness and isolation

Depression or general unhappiness

Aches and pains

Digestive problems


Chest pain or rapid heartbeat

Loss of libido

Weakened immune function

Eating more or less

Sleeping problems

Substance abuse


Power Plants that promote a healthy stress response:


Energizing herbs for stress management

1. Ashwagandha - The flagship herb of Ayurveda supports healthy adrenal function, energy, and mental focus. Ashwagandha (KSM-66) has been clinically researched and is backed by several randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled human clinical trials to support a multitude of body function. Ashwagandha is one of the most versatile plants in existence and is a key herbal component in countless herbal stress formulas.


2. Rhodiola Rosea -A favorite among athletes and herbal practitioners, Rhodiola has a reputation as one of the world’s greatest mood and energy tonics.  It's unique array of phytochemicals have been researched for their ability to regulate critical neurotransmitters like serotonin.  Rhodiola Rosea may help you manage stress, but it won't be sedating.


3. Ginseng¬†(Chinese, Korean, and American)¬†- There are 3 popular types of Ginseng used around the world;¬†Chinese, Korean, and American. ¬†Chinese Ginseng (Ren Shen) is considered the "king of herbs" in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is celebrated as¬†its' premier tonic herb. ¬†It's active compounds,¬†referred to as ginsenosides, are known to restore qi (pronounced "chi") or energy levels and to support a calm, alert mind. Korean Ginseng has similar properties.¬†American Ginseng, known as the ‚ÄėYin Ginseng‚Äô, has¬†similar ginsenosides to its Chinese counterpart, although is traditionally viewed as a gentler tonic better suited to people with excess metabolic heat.¬† It can also help promote a relaxed, calm attitude among those prone to stress and overwork.


4. Holy Basil - one of the most celebrated plants in India, Holy Basil has been valued for centuries for benefiting the mind, body, and spirit.  This great tasting Ayurvedic has been researched for it's potential in the areas of stress relief and relaxation in recent times.  It's the perfect herb to help stay calm and cool in the fast-paced, modern era.


5. Eleuthero - Once thought to be a member of the Ginseng family and referred to as Siberian Ginseng, Eleuthero, is well known as one of the best adaptogenic agents ever used by man.  The epitome of an adaptogen, it supports decreased stress and fatigue while boosting energy and endurance.  Eleuthero is also used in formulas to support memory and concentration.


6. St. John's Wort- revered in Europe for it's ability to help cope with stress and support a positive outlook.  St. Johs's Wort is believed to promote serotonin, a key neurotransmitter thought to play a major role in the central nervous system and in maintaining mood balance. 


7. Damiana - traditionally used as an aphrodisiac in Mexico, Damiana also has a reputation for relieving stress and anxiety. Damiana is relatively easy to find, makes a great herbal infusion, and blends well with other herbs. 


Calming herbs for stress management


1. Lemon Balm - a member of the mint family, this calming herb has been used in Europe, the Mediterranean, Northern Africa, and India for thousands of years because of it's myriad benefits.  The rosemarinic acids present in Lemon Balm are believed to boost levels of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter, in the brain. Elevated GABA levels are thought to reduce the level of anxiety.


2. Lavender -one of the most common herbs or oils used for stress relief, Lavender has been used for centries for restlessness, sleep problems, nervousness, and mood balancing.  It has a fabulous aroma, tastes great, and blends well with other herbs like Lemon Balm and Chamomile.


3. Wild Milky Oats -rich in B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium Wild Milky Oats are thought to be soothing to the brain and nervous system, while at the same time being restorative to the adrenal glands and nerves.  It's the perfect herb to use to relax and calm the nerves and to tonify the endocrine system.


4. Skullcap Herb - an herb found in countless sleep and stress formulas, Skullcap Herb is believed to help combat mental chatter and relax the mind  and calm the nerves to provide a calm focus.  Some people use it before bedtime to mitigate feelings of agitation and nervous tension.


5. Chamomile - documentation of the herb for its therapeutic benefits goes back over 5000 years, and today it is still one of the most commonly consumed herbs on the planet. Chamomile tea and extracts of Chamomile are frequently used as a mild sedative to calm nerves and reduce anxiety, to help with nightmares and other sleep problems. 


6. Peppermint - A common herb that you may even have in your garden, Peppermint has been steeped for hundreds of years to cool the body, calm the nerves, and help the body relax. Peppermint is the perfect herb to relax with during those hot summer evenings.


7. Magnolia -used in Chinese medicine for hundreds of years, Magnolia is believed to help manage stress by keeping the stress hormone, cortisol, in check.  It has also been shown to increase levels of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter, in mice.  It is commonly found in herbal sleep an stress formulas. 


8. Passion Flower - Native to southeastern parts of the Americas, Passionflower is now grown throughout Europe and in the United States.  It has been used historically as a calming herb for anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and hysteria and is still used today to alleviate anxiety and insomnia. Scientists believe Passionflower works by increasing levels of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter, in the brain.  Although it can be used as a stand alone herb, it commonly found in herbal infusions with other herbs such as Valerian, Lemon Balm, and Chamomile to promote sleep or relaxation.


9. L - Theanine - not an herb per se, L - Theanine is an amino acid found in green and black teas. It's famous for it's ability to promote alphawave activity in the brain resulting in a feeling of relaxation and mental clarity.  L-Theanin is an excellent choice for stress support, focus, or calming down before bedtime.


10. Kava Kava -  a plant native to the western Pacific islands, Kava was consumed in ceremonies to promote relaxations.  Today, it is still commonly used to help calm anxiety, stress, and restlessness, and to treat sleeping problems. It is important to research Kava before using it, especially if you have a history of liver problems, because it has been associated with liver problems in the past.   


Key Word Definitions: 

Adaptogen - a nontoxic substance and usually a plant extract that is used to increase the body's ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore homeostasis.


Tonic -  A remedy believed to restore exhausted function and promote vigor and a sense of well being. Tonics are categorized according to the organ or system on which they are presumed to act, as cardiac, kidney, adrenal, vascular etc.


Neurotransmitter - a substance  that transmits nerve impulses across a synapse.  Some neurotransmitters are inhibitory (calming) such as GABA and some are exitotory (stimulating) like dopamine.


Serotonin -  An important neurotransmitter that has many functions including the regulation of mood, appetite, and sleep. Serotonin also plays a role in cognitive functions, including memory and learning. The modulation of serotonin at synapses is believed to be a major factor in several classes of pharmacological antidepressants.


GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) - the main inhibitory or calming neurotransmitter in the brain, GABA influences our mood by reducing high levels of the hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin and dopamine. It also affects the neurotransmitter serotonin. Having sufficient GABA in our brain is linked to being relaxed and happy, while having too little GABA is associated with sleep problems, and feeling anxious, stressed, and depressed.


Tryptophan - as a precursor to many neurotransmitters and neurochemicals, including serotonin and melatonin, L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid that helps improve sleep and reduce stress. Melatonin is known to help improve sleep, and serotonin is needed to improve mood and mental health.


Cortisol - Cortisol is a steroid-based hormone and is synthesized from cholesterol and belongs to a group of hormones called glucocorticoids. Cortisol is made in the adrenal cortex of the adrenal gland, which is near the kidney. It is the primary stress hormone.  It's functions are to increase sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhance your brain's use of glucose and to increases the availability of substances for tissue repair.  Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. It alerts regions in your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.


Stimulant - a substance that temporarily increases the physiologic activity of an organ, a system of organs, or that increases nervous excitability and alertness.

Adrenal Gland - One of two small endocrine glands, located above each kidney. The outer part, or adrenal cortex, secretes steroid hormones (corticosteroids). The inner part, or adrenal medulla, secretes epinephrine and norepinephrine.


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) - The current name for an ancient system of health care from China. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is based on a concept of balanced qi (pronounced "chi"), or vital energy, that is believed to flow throughout the body. Qi is proposed to regulate a person's spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance and to be influenced by the opposing forces of yin (negative energy) and yang (positive energy). Disease is proposed to result from the flow of qi being disrupted and yin and yang becoming imbalanced. Among the components of TCM are herbal and nutritional therapy, restorative physical exercises, meditation, acupuncture, and remedial massage.


Ayurveda¬†-¬†The traditional Hindu¬†system¬†of health and medicine, based on maintaining balance among the five elements earth, air, fire, water, and ¬†ether. ¬†The word Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words ‚Äúayur,‚ÄĚ meaning life, and "veda,‚ÄĚ meaning knowledge.


Homeostasis - The tendency of biological systems to maintain relatively constant conditions in the internal environment while continuously interacting with and adjusting to changes originating within or outside the system.


Function Nutrition:


B- vitamins (Folate, B-12, etc.) - a group of water-soluble vitamins that have varied metabolic functions and include coenzymes and growth factors. These essential nutrients allow us to convert our food into fuel, keeping us energized throughout the day. Vitamin B5 is very important for the adrenals and therefore helps with modulating stress. Folate and vitamin B12 are important for mood balance, and given the links between anxiety and depression, they may also be helpful for anxiety.


B-6 - an important co-factor nutrient that may boost the production of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter.  GABA is  a key factor supporting the production of other neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) such as serotonin. When supplementing with B-6, the conenzyme or active form (pyridoxal 5'-phosphate) is superior to the isolated form (Pyridoxine), because some people can't activate pyridoxine.


Folate - Folate has literally hundreds of function in the human body. It helps the body use Iron, Amino Acids, and Vitamin B-12, thus impacting energy on many levels.  It facilitates the synthesis of key neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, that are involved in mood regulation and other important functions.


Magnesium - Magnesium is needed for the production of ATP, which is the main energy-producing molecule in the body. When magnesium is deficient our cells produce less energy resulting in fatigue. Magnesium is also the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body, a necessary co-factor for hundreds of enzymes, and the most critical mineral of all for coping with stress.


Lithium - Lithium is a mineral that is associated with brain function, mood, focus, and the neurotransmitters dopamine.  It has a wide range of other health benefits including immune health, bone health, and antioxidant support.


Zinc - Supports the regulation of key energizing neurotransmitter, dopamine, that supports cognitive function and gives you your drive. It is also key in the metabolization of melatonin, which impacts our quality of sleep.  It's also essential for male and female reproductive health and fertility.  It also impacts strength and athletic performance by regulating the flow testosterone and inulin-like growth growth factor-1 (IGF-1). It's noteworthy that the highest concentrations of zinc found in the body is in our brain! It is a principal factor in modulating the brain and body’s response to stress and key to regulating mood. 


Selenium - Support thyroid health and supports hormonal balance impacting energy on many levels.


Omega 3's (Fish Oils and Algae) - Essential fatty acids that support a healthy inflammation response, combat depression and promote healthy mood and cognitive function.  Omega 3's also support adrenal function and provide hormone support.  Maintaining healthy a adrenal function is imperative for proper stress management.

Lifestyle: Sleep, Diet, Personal Relationships, and Exercise all impact how we feel, how we cope with stress, and how much energy we have.  It's important to not overlook the obvious. 

Sleep hygiene -  simple habits that promote quality sleep.

  1. Prioritize sleep.  Get what ever it is your body requires (7-9 hrs generally).

  2. Try to go to sleep around 10pm, when cortisol levels are at their lowest and melatonin levels are at their highest.

  3. Stop eating 2 hours before bedtime, and stop hydrating at least an hour before bedtime. 

  4. Create at dark environment to sleep in.  Avoid light before bedtime, including T.V., computers, and smart devices that emit light.  You can even dim the lights ahead of time when you're ready to unwind.

  5. Try not to hit that snooze button in the morning.  We don't want to interrupt our hormone and neurotransmitter cycles.

  6. Avoid the use stimulants, especially in the afternoon and evening. 

Diet - No matter what herbs and supplements you take, you still have to support your body with healthy eating habits. Poor eating habits stress our bodies out and may even affect our mood. Eat lots of fresh fruits and especially vegetables.  Try to get the full color spectrum when selecting fruits and vegetables.  Complete nutrition is essential for stress, mood, and energy support.  We've already mentioned key vitamins, minerals, Omega 3's, etc.  Try to find foods rich in these valuable nutrients that support healthy energy levels and promote a healthy stress response.  You can reference the functional nutrition list above to narrow down your search.

Exercise - Try and get a moderate amount of fresh air, sunlight, and exercise.  Don't over exercise! The goal is to promote health, and over training can deplete the adrenal and negatively impact your stress and energy levels negatively.  Do it, but don't over do it!

Toxic Relationships - Social engagement is the most evolved way to cope with stress. That's why it is so important to surround yourself with people who do not normally add to your stress load.  If simply being around a particular person provokes a fight or flight response, chances are that's a Toxic Relationship!  Always look to build a strong supporting cast of good people to de-stress with.

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