Anxiety – our warning signal, has become hijacked by modern day life. It can interfere with us in different ways; someone is up at night worrying about work the next day. Maybe someone is uncomfortable in social situations and is unable to connect properly. Someone is tense about finding their next clients to satisfy the next pay check. Someone is so caught up in the future of what ifs, they have lost touch with the present. Presence is a gift. A gift which everyday fills us with a sense of joy and fulfilment.
I think by now, we all know that silver bullets are mostly a myth. These herbs are no exception. But they do act as an effective bandaid whilst you search for the underlying cause of your anxiety. A good coping strategy helps you to deal with the worry at the roots. In fact, some of these herbs help to provide a space for introspection. This allows exploration to get to the bottom of your personal worry.
Without further ado, please welcome some of natures best anti – anxiety allies.
An Adaptogenic herb from the far reaches of India. It is commonly known as Indian Ginseng and used routinely in Ayurvedic Medicine.
What is an Adaptogen you may ask? Adaptogens provide strength and resilience against stress, be it emotional, physical or mental. This happens through the regulation of stress hormones from the adrenal glands.
Stress hormones Cortisol and Adrenalin are more harmoniously regulated with Ashwagandha. This helps decrease blood pressure, balance blood sugar and adrenal function. These are all thrown off when we feel stressed.
With greater resilience to stress comes and ability to focus and recall memories under pressure. Ashwagandha can enhance cognition through antioxidant activity and increase memory through acetylcholine activity. Acetylcholine is our brainy, memory neurotransmitter.
Find this ally in the form of a root, powder or extract. A smoothie is a great way of consuming it in powder form. Find the recipe HERE.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many cannabinoids that derives from the herb Cannabis Sativa. Although cannabis is illegal, still; CBD gets extracted and isolated from the mother plant. Due to its inert psychoactive status, the isolated cannabinoid is completely legal.
This single cannabinoid has especially fascinating applications for stress and anxiety. It combats oxidative stress through its antioxidant ability and reduces inflammation. This is good as CBD reduces high levels of oxidative stress in anxiety.
CBD activates receptors which play a role in anxiety. Through binding to the TPRV – 1 receptor, it mediates inflammation. It also binds to the 5-HT1A receptor, our Serotonin receptor. It affects Serotonin neurotransmission which influences our feelings of stress, safety and happiness.
CBD’s anti-anxiety affects can also be attributed to its affect on the Adenosine receptor which has broad anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body. Adenosine receptors are important because they affect the release of the neurotransmitter, Dopamine. Feeling good, rewarded and satisfied? Thats Dopamine.
CBD also acts on GABA neurotransmission, our calm and relaxed chemical messenger. Phytol, a compound in extracts effectively inhibits an enzyme which breaks GABA down, leaving more to keep us calm and relaxed.
Cannabidiol truly is the spoon which stirs the pot of neurotransmitters which go on to make us feel, happy relaxed and fulfilled.
A common herb which is consumed in the form of a tea, Chamomile exerts its calming effects in a couple of ways. It is a nervine relaxant, acting to calm and soothe the activity of the nervous system which is overactive in time of stress and anxiety.
Accompanying anxiety in the mind is nervous tension in the body. Chamomile is an antispasmodic, which means it relaxes any tension that is being held within the muscles. It is especially effective at reducing tension of the digestive system. This helps facilitate digestion and alleviates discomfort.
The gut and the brain connect on an axis, and easing digestive tension can calm our mental state. Chamomile also exerts anti-inflammatory effects, particularity in the digestive tract.
Chamomiles dual action makes it a quick and accessible option for stress management. Enjoy this in the form of a tea with a little honey or as an extract.
Kava is ritualistically consumed within the Polynesian cultures. It is traditionally consumed as a beverage in ceremonies for its relaxing and mildly intoxicating effects. Kava is typically made from the powdered roots of the plant.
Kava gets its fame for its relaxing effects, so much so that it compares to the effectiveness of benzodiazapines. Unlike the pharmaceutical alternatives, Kava is not sedating. In fact, kava actually increases mental alertness and reaction time.
Kava works its magic via the limbic system in the brain (emotional processing centre) and the musculature of the body. This produces a physical and mental state of relaxation. The receptivity of GABA receptors are thought to be at play here, increasing our sensitivity to a state of calm and relaxation.
Kava also helps to get a good nights sleep, a premium anti – anxiety factor. Whilst using Kava you can experience a clear mind and an easing in social interactions. Its uses even tie back to the coming together of tribes in Polynesia, a breaking of bread if you will.
An aromatic flower, Lavender and its strong, relaxing scent brings peace and calm when smelled or eaten. Like Chamomile, lavender has effects as a nervine relaxant and an antispasmodic. These reduce stress and tension mentally and physically.
Lavender relieves stress related headaches and promotes a natural, deep and restorative sleep. It can help take the edge off in the evenings and provides temporary relief whilst you work on your respective cause of anxiety.
Use Lavender in the form of an essential oil on your pillow at bedtime or you can drink it in the form of a tea. You may want to use a little honey to sweeten the deal.
Dubbed as the ‘Mushroom of Immortality’, the Reishi mushroom is another adaptogen. Reishi enhances the bodies resistance to internal and external stressors.
Reishi, used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, promotes health and longevity. It is also identified as a tonic as it exerts non – specific restorative and invigorating actions throughout the body.
Like the action of Ashwagandgha, Reishi gives us protection against the stress response and its baggage. These include high blood pressure and fluctuations in blood sugar.
In addition to its role as an Adaptogen, it also acts as an immunomodulator. It regulates the responsiveness of the immune system. In some of us the immune system can become overactive due to exposure to antigens from our diet, environment and stress. Reishi also exerts anti – inflammatory effects which provides a protective environment against anxiety.
Amongst a calm mind, Reishi can also provide sharper thinking as well as energy in times of mental and physical fatigue.
This ‘Magic’ Mushroom takes the form of a dried powder or worked into supplements of various kinds.
Lets welcome another Adaptogen to the stage. Introducing Siberian Ginseng. SG is an effective defender against various types of stress. It also acts to restore, tone and invigorate systems in the body to promote general health and well-being.
As an Adaptogen, SG is effective at protecting us against periods of ongoing and prolonged stress. When exhaustion starts to become apparent, Siberian ginseng can help keep you alert and energised in the face of perceived adversity. SG achieves this wonder by increasing the oxygenation of cells, enhancing cognitive performance and sustained mental activity.
SG also combats neuroses when in the heat of the stress response. When stressed, it also normalises blood pressure and blood sugar balance, both of which shift out of balance in times of stress.
SG demonstrates use in the short or long term to increase mental stamina and performance. This is especially important as these start to fade when faced with anxiety. This could be an especially useful tool whilst studying for an exam, project at work or giving a presentation.
Widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Skullcap is often referred to as the golden root. It shows effects as a neuroprotective with cognitive enhancing benefits.
Skullcap is particularly useful for those with restlessness and nervous excitability. We know these as anxiety. The ‘Golden root’ renews the central nervous system by acting as a nervine tonic, soothing nervous tension.
Skullcap was seen as an effective anxiolytic, that which breaks down anxiety. It also exerts this effect through acting upon our GABA receptors, helping us to stay chill.
This one you may like. Valerian is also known as natures Valium. The effects it exerts are similar to the relaxing feelings of floating with valium.
In terms of herbal medicine, Valerian is a nervine relaxant, an antispasmodic and a hypnotic. These 3 actions compliment one another, providing psychological and physical relief across the body and the mind.
It is an especially useful herb for deep restorative sleep and does not interfere with the REM stages of sleep. REM is an important factor in the restoration we experience during sleep.
Most noteworthy is its use for nervousness, restlessness, insomnia and a nervous stomach. Like Valium, Valerian acts on our GABA receptors producing a tranquillising sensation. The good news is there are no side effects that come with its use that there are with valium.