Herbs for Stress and the Nervous System

Stress is a part of life. As humans, we are equipped to deal with it on a daily basis, and in short durations that body recovers quickly. But at times of prolonged and heightened stress, it can negatively affect the body and a person’s health. It goes without saying that life is pretty stressful at the moment, so it’s important to take care of ourselves to prevent long term health decline. Supporting your nervous system and your body’s stress response goes a long way to maintaining health. Two simple yet powerful tools to help the body cope and recover are herbal adaptogens and nervines.

When the body is stressed, a physiological response occurs. The adrenal glands secrete the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which cause increased alertness, and a rise in heart rate and blood pressure. These hormones work in tandem to prepare the body for an urgent response, to a fleeting or temporary stressful situation. However, when the body is continuously under stress, the sustained release of these hormones can weaken the immune system and impair the body’s systems from functioning properly.

Adaptogenic herbs are a group of herbs that help manage stress [1] and support normal immune system functioning [2]. Incredibly, they facilitate a wide range of actions within the body, rather than one specific response and in doing so restore the proper function and overall balance of the body. Nervines on the other hand are herbs that specifically support and nourish the nervous system by promoting healthy nerve function. They have mild calming as well as strong relaxing qualities and are wonderful for reducing muscle tension and quieting a racing mind. Chances are you have either heard of, or tried at least one of these herbs.

Common Adaptogens include:

American Ginseng– (Panax quinquefolius) which supports mental alertness and memory, and promotes physical strength and stamina.

Eleuthero root- (Eleutherococcus senticosus) helps the body handle and adapt to stress, while improving mental clarity and supporting the immune system.

Schisandra Berry– (Schisandra chinensis) supports normal central nervous system function, while also promoting concentration and endurance.

Common Nervines include:

Valerian- (Valeriana officinalis) help support relaxation and can assist in quieting a busy mind.

Chamomile- (Matricaria chamomilla) helps relieve mild daily stress and promotes relaxing sleep,

Lavender- (Lavandula angustifolia) is a calming herb used to promote sleep and to uplift the spirit.

Hops- (Humulus lupulus)- supports relaxation and assists with restlessness and anxiety.

Remember, when introducing any new herb, try it first in small doses to ensure you understand how it affects your body and mind- you are unique and so might be your response to a new substance.

Resources: 

1- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19500070/

2- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3991026/

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0300060514558324

https://thenaturopathicherbalist.com/

https://mountainroseherbs.com/

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