Stressed? Anxiety? What herbs can do for you.
Fast, Easy and Effective Ways to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Before I go into detail about the herbs that can help you to manage your stress and anxiety, I do want to point out that diet and lifestyle still need to be addressed.
For years I suffered from anxiety. (Back then it was just called “being very shy”). Thankfully back then doctors weren’t as quick to diagnose and medicate every mental health issue.
But what helped me, (and may help you) is balancing my blood sugar. Back then in my elementary school years, before school, I ate 2 chocolate pop tarts, only a few bites of my lunch usually and then a pretty healthy dinner. By the time I got to high school and college I stopped eating the pop tarts but can’t say my diet was much better.
It wasn’t until I started to eat balanced meals, whole foods and reduce the processed junk that my anxiety diminished. I can’t say I don’t have some situational anxiety from time to time but nothing like what I grew up with!
Use the herbs but while they are helping start making small changes to your diet too!
Lifestyle Tips for Reducing Stress and Anxiety
• Keep blood sugar balanced
• Start the day with a meal high in fat, with moderate protein and low amounts of whole food carbs. (i.e.: eggs, bacon, avocado, with sauté kale or spinach, or a green protein smoothie)
• Minimize or eliminate caffeine (try Teccino or dandy brand tea-taste just like coffee!)
• Add in a B complex supplement. (stress depletes us of our B vitamins) Add in an extra B12 if you do not eat red meat
• Add in a vitamin C with bioflavonoids, 1,000 mg. per day as stress will also deplete your vitamin C
• Add in magnesium. I like magnesium l-threonate (crossed blood brain barrier), ReMag by Carolyn Dean, or Natural Calm magnesium powder to drink before bed time.
• Stress slows down your digestion making you absorb less nutrients so when stressed be sure to slow down, take 3 deep breaths before your meal and chew each bite of food 15-20 times.
• When stressed we tend to eat and work at the same time. Studies have shown that this actually reduces work performance. Take a brain break and eat away from your desk, get some fresh air and talk with a co- worker about something other than work. This will greatly reduce your stress load!
Herbs for Quick Stress relief
With herbs everyone reacts differently so some may love one herb for stress and another person may not get the same effect. It will be a try and see approach. Purchase herbs for stress in tincture form (unless noted otherwise) and only get from reputable source such as Herb Pharm, Gaia Herbs or Rose Mountain Herbs.
Try only one herb at a time so you know what is or isn’t working. Make sure the herbs you are using are certified organic.
Herbs in tincture form are more potent if made with alcohol. But if you have issues with alcohol it is still best to opt for the non-alcoholic tinctures. One dropper full of tincture has the alcohol amount that is equal to the amount of alcohol in one banana.
Always talk to your doctor before adding in any herbs as this is for educational purposes only since I am not aware of your medications, heath issues and more.
Gingko Biloba: Choose in extract/tincture form or gingkolide tablets. With tablets, take 160-180 mg. one time daily. It has been shown to be significantly more effective than a placebo for anxiety.
It may reverse depression especially in older people on blood pressure medication. Do not use this herb if you have a racing mind at bed time. Also, avoid this herb if you are prone to migraines. I prefer this herb in tincture form. It is known as the herb for memory and concentration.
Kava: This is good to use if you have anxiety. Take 60-120 mg. daily and do not exceed 120 mg. daily. Do not use this herb for children. This herb is known to ground and center you, keeping you relaxed and alert. You can take this herb during the day as it will not make you drowsy.
Kava is known to increase the dream state. It is a mood elevator. You can take 2 droppers full at bedtime or a heaping teaspoon in one cup water 2 times per day as a tea. You can mix your Kava with Valerian together at bedtime for improved sleep.
Eleuthero: This is an adaptogenic herb which has been shown to enhance mental performance, concentration and alertness. This is not an actual ginseng but is often called a ginseng because it works in a similar way. It is used for nervous breakdowns and depression. It is used to strengthen the entire system.
Adaptogenic herbs help to build resilience to stress. Take any adaptogenic herb for 12 weeks only, then take a week or 2 off and then go back on or switch at that point to a different adaptogenic herb such as Rhodiola. Ashwagandha is also an adaptogenic herb and this one is better taken in the evening. Take only 1/8 of a teaspoon of eleuthero tincture.
Lemon Balm: This plant has anti-depressant effects along with calming, anti-anxiety effects as well. Use it to calm the nerves and to boost mood. Those with ADHD can also benefit from using this herb. Drink lemon balm tea one to three times daily. Use lemon balm tincture, 10-20 drops in water 3-5 times per day for depression, anxiety and tension headaches. Some people add fresh lemon balm leaves to their drinking water. Do not use if you have a hypothyroid condition.
Skullcap: This is good for nervousness, anxiety and stress. It is also useful for those of you with insomnia, especially if it is due to an overactive mind at bedtime. Take one half of a dropper full of tincture before bedtime.
Nettle leaves: This is one of my favorites for body restoration. Nettles are a source of nutrients for all individuals. It is one of the most nourishing plants growing on the land. The leaves offer a wide variety of nutrients. Take a dropper full of tincture 3 times per day.
Motherwort: Do not take this herb if you have heavy menses. Otherwise, this is another good herb to use for anxiety. It is not a sedative so can be used during the day. A dose of 10-20 drops can safely be taken as often as every 10 minutes if needed to calm you down, say during a panic attack.
Fresh tincture is best and best option as opposed to tea and capsules. Do not use this herb long term if you also have depression. It can relax you to the point of making you feel more depressed and unmotivated. Use it instead for episodic anxiety.
Valerian: This has a different feel to it, a different calming effect as oppose to Kava. It is helpful for anxiety and tension. This herb should be taken only at bedtime or when you know you are not going anywhere! Do not operate any heavy machinery or drive while taking valerian. For some it can give the opposite effect-instead of calming you down, it may increase your anxiety. For that reason, dose low.
The same rule that applies to Motherwort applies to Valerian. Use on occasion to aid with sleep but don’t use it all the time during your depressive state. Most people do best using the tincture form instead of capsules. Take 400-900 mg per day of whole valerian or root extract.
Tulsi Tea: This is also called Holy Basil. Choose an organic brand and drink 1 to 3 times per day during times of stress. I like the brand Organic India.
Balch, P. (2012)Prescription for Herbal Healing. 2nd Edition. NY: Avery Publishing
Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2013) Therapeutic Nutrition. CA: Bauman College.
Hoffman, D. (2003) Medical Herbalism. The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. VT: Healing Arts Press
Mars, B. (2007) The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine. CA: Basic Health Publications
Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services LLC believes in supporting the body with food, herbs and supplements to get you feeling your best. For more information visit her site at www.trufoodsnutrition.com She is the author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition, Supplement and Herb Guide