Stress without a doubt is the modern day plague.

Ernesta Stripeikaite
Nutritionist and Wellbeing expert

While our ancestors used to experience acute bouts of stress when running from a wild animal or chasing after their dinner, now we are fuelled with stress hormones from dawn to dusk.Emotional stressors such as arguments, deadlines, financial issues, relationships, and physical stressors like lack of/poor quality sleep, blood sugar imbalances, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, too much caffeine/alcohol/nicotine, and bad posture soon add up and you can find yourself feeling below par most of the time.To really get the balance back, it is important to address the root causes of your stressors. But thankfully there are some wonderful herbs that can help along the way.

Energising Supporters

 This herb is great at both relaxing and energizing as it prolongs the effects of cortisol by preventing its breakdown. Cortisol is often referred to as a ‘bad guy’ but really it is the hormone that helps us handle stress. When we are in a constant ‘fight or flight’ mode, cortisol over-production can be harmful. By prolonging cortisol’s life and keeping it in the bloodstream for longer, we give our adrenal glands (tiny endocrine glands that sit on top of kidneys and produce cortisol in times of stress) a rest and can handle stress better.

 Ginseng can help energize the body and increase the resilience to daily stressors. It does not necessarily have relaxing properties, but it helps to increase the body’s resistance to damaging effects of stress. If you feel worn out – Siberian Ginseng can be great at gently boosting your energy levels.   Also known as Indian Ginseng, is a very popular adaptogenic herb, which means that it helps the body to cope with stress. It can have a dual relaxing and energizing effect, but the best results are achieved with long term use for chronic stress.Rhodiola This is a great partner for Ashwagandha, a combination of these two herbs tends to be very effective. Rhodiola is also an adaptogenic herb and helps the adrenal glands to handle the daily stressors. It has an energising, anti-fatigue effect and can help increase stamina. Like Ashwagandha, it is suggested to take Rhodiola for a few months for best results.

Instant Relaxers
Might be one of the oldest relaxing herbs, used since the Hippocratic times. It is one of the nature’s gentlest, non-addictive tranquilizers. Valerian is one of the most popular herbs for sleeping issues and insomnia, but can also be used for anxiety during the day. However this herb can be sedating and it is suggested to be careful and not drive or use any technical equipment when taking Valerian. It might be best to keep it by your bedside for those times when your internal chatter does not switch off.

Is another wonderful calming herb, especially great for anxiety, when you need something instantly. Its calming properties are stronger than those of Lemon Balm or Chamomile, but it does not seem to be as sedating as Valerian. Instead it has a rather strong, but soothing anti-anxiety affect and can be taken as and when needed.

Mild Soothers
Tulsi (Holy Basil) – another cherished Ayurvedic herb traditionally used for general wellbeing, now it is commonly known for its adaptogenic effects and seems to be helpful for general anxiety. A very mild soothing herb that helps to relax and reduces nervous tension without sedative effects. Chamomile is especially beneficial when nervousness upsets the digestive system, as it both calms the nerves and soothes the digestive tract.
Lemon Balm –also known as Melissa, a very gentle soothing herb, great at calming the mind when thoughts seem to be flying at 100 mph. It is a mildly sedating herb and can be used before bed to help calm the mind, but most people also find it helpful during the day. Additionally, Lemon Balm is known for its memory and concentration boosting properties, so it can be a perfect companion for those suffering with exam anxiety.

Agentle ‘feel good’ herb used for mild nervousness. It has a gentle balancing effect and is great for type A personalities that push themselves too hard and find it hard to relax.

Just like smelling a rose can have an immediate sense of calm, taking English Rose tincture internally is also gently soothing, calming and uplifting.Oat Seed has long been known as a nerve restorative and a brain tonic herb. It helps to build and rebalance the nervous system, aids recovery after exhaustion or illness, and can be supportive in times of anxiety. It can also be useful for people experiencing tension and irritability due to overwhelming schedules and busy lifestyles. Passion Flower is a relaxing herb used for insomnia, anxiety and nervousness. It can help soothe nervous excitability and over-active brain. It is a sedative and anti-spasmodic, thus Passion Flower is useful for gastrointestinal complaints which may have a nervous origin such as IBS. Scientists believe Passion Flower works by increasing levels of a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA lowers the activity of some brain cells, making you feel more relaxed.

Special Uplifting
This herb needs a category of its own due to its unique anti-depressant properties. The active ingredients hypericin and hyperforin are thought to contribute to the effects of the herb on the nervous system. It is suggested that St. John’s Wort works similar to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac, by making the mood-uplifting neurotransmitters more bioavailable. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin carry messages from one nerve ending to the next. Once the message is delivered, the neurotransmitters are reabsorbed and inactivated. St. John’s Wort can help and prolong the effectiveness of the feel-good neurotransmitters, uplifting the mood and wellbeing.

Herbs can be an amazing helping hand when the going gets tough, but it is also very important to identify what is disrupting peace in your life and address those factors. Additionally, a healthy balanced diet, relaxation techniques (mindfulness meditation, deep breathing) and gentle exercise like yoga are essential for reducing the stress load.