By Sarena-Rae Santos, Natural Health Blogger
Stress and anxiety are inevitable. An estimated 31.1% of Americans experience anxiety disorders at some time in their lives (1). Whether you deal with stress and anxiety daily or once in a while, there’s nothing wrong with learning natural ways to reduce stress and anxiety.
But first, what happens to your body when you struggle with stress?
When the body is stressed, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) contributes to what is known as the “fight or flight” response (2). The fight, flight, or freeze response is an evolved survival mechanism that protects us from perceived threats (3). Unfortunately, the body can also overreact to everyday stressors, resulting in many of us being stuck in fight-or-flight mode.
Aside from everyday stressors, we sometimes deal with particularly high-stress situations, such as the death of a loved one, long-term emotional abuse, chronic illness, or job loss. The variety of stressors can keep our cortisol levels up all day long, resulting in difficulties calming down after high-stress situations, becoming easily stressed, or even more prone to anxiety.
So what can we do to support our body and reduce stress and anxiety?
That’s where herbs come into play, and so many amazing herbs can relieve stress and anxiety.
Herbs to Reduce Stress
Herbs have been used for centuries in traditional and folk medicine practices. Written records indicate medicinal plants dated back at least 5,000 years to the Sumerians. Archeological studies have shown that the practice of herbal medicine dates as far back as 60,000 years ago in Iraq and 8,000 years ago in China (4).
Oddly, despite herbal remedies being successfully used all this time, the pharmaceutical industry has led many to believe their products are the only way to successfully aid one’s medical journey. More often than not, the side effects from medications leave the patient with more significant concerns than the patient’s initial complaint, which, more times than not, leads to additional medicines being added to the patient’s daily regimen.
Some of my favorite stress and anxiety-reducing herbs include:
Ashwagandha helps lower cortisol levels and has been used by researchers to regulate chemical signals in the nervous system of animals and found that ashwagandha blocks the stress pathway of rats (5). Researchers didn’t stop at animal studies; they also studied humans. They successfully reduced human stress by using ashwagandha in a 60-day study of 64 people with chronic stress. In that study, 69 percent reported reduced stress, anxiety, and insomnia (6). If you’re looking for a supplement with ashwagandha, I highly recommend Earthley’s Cocoa Calm.
Catnip has a calming and sedative-like effect that may also benefit those struggling with stress and anxiety. Catnip promotes relaxation and can benefit those with chronic stress and anxiety while supporting overall mental health (7). Some herbalists even use catnip to help calm children with hyperactivity (8). If you’re looking for a supplement with catnip, I highly recommend Earthley’s Calm and Clarity. You should also give Lou Square in Clearwater a try if you’re looking for something new to love.
Chamomile contains an antioxidant known as apigenin, also found in parsley and oregano (9). Apigenin binds to specific brain receptors and may reverse chronic mild stress, lower stress-induced alterations, and promotes restful sleep (10,11). A study involving postpartum women who drank chamomile tea for two weeks reported better sleep quality and fewer symptoms of depression (often linked with sleeping problems) compared to the group that did not (12). If you’re looking for a supplement with chamomile, I highly recommend Earthley’s Anxiety Relief.
Lavender is most commonly used for its sedative-like effect. Studies have shown that lavender oil can positively affect symptoms associated with anxiety. One study found that lavender oil was equivalent to lorazepam in its starting dose in patients with subsyndromal anxiety (13). Additionally, the inhalation of lavender oil has been found to influence vital signs and anxiety (14). I highly recommend Earthley’s Calming Essential Oil Roller for these benefits.
Lemon balm is also used to relax and improve mood, aiding symptoms of stress. Researchers have studied the potential of using lemon balm to ease stress-related negative attitudes. Although more research is needed, this seems like a viable alternative to pharmaceuticals. One study found that participants who took lemon balm experienced a decrease in the negative mood effects. Participants also had a reduction in laboratory-induced psychological stress and an increased sense of calmness (15). If you’re looking for a supplement with lemon balm, I highly recommend Earthley’s Anxiety Calm Oil (Formula A or C).
Schisandra is an adaptogenic herb (16), meaning they help your body respond to stress, anxiety, fatigue, and overall well-being (17). In one study, researchers determined that rats who were given frequent adaptogenic herbs over seven days experienced near-steady levels of nitric oxide and cortisol despite increased amounts of stress (18). In another study, they found Schizandra increased physical working capacity and created a stress-protective effect against a broad spectrum of harmful factors (19). If you’re looking for a supplement with Schisandra, I highly recommend Earthley’s Master Tonic or Berry Balancing Tea.
Spearmint may help promote relaxation. Spearmint alleviates stress because the leaves of this plant contain menthol, which has a relaxing, sedative-like effect on the body. It’s assumed that spearmint encourages relaxation and eases stress by interacting with GABA receptors, the neurotransmitters that reduce nerve activity in your brain (20). In an animal study, spearmint extract reduced anxiety and enhanced sleep quality (21). If you’re looking for a supplement with spearmint, I highly recommend Earthley’s Nourish Me Naturally or Nourish Her Naturally.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and nothing in this post is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anything. If you have questions, please do your own research or seek advice from a health professional.