That wonderful Holiday season is upon us. We’ve run out of time to delay and deny and procrastinate. The in-laws are coming, or we’re going there or we’re going to spend it quietly at home. The gifts need to be purchased, made, wrapped and mailed. Office Holiday Parties can be fun, or not… And then there’s all that food!! Cookies, cakes, pies, chips, dips, and lavish meals! Here’s a little article that may help you relax and enjoy this wonderful winter Celebration!
Regardless of careful planning and vivid imagination, the unexpected will cause stress; It’s also safe to expect that stress at this time of year is inevitable. Fortunately, stress is a positive motivator with a built-in reward system. Stress provides the opportunity to renew the imagination, to stretch our brains. This stretching leads to growth – spiritual, physical and mental.
Exercising our stress response may be as important as exercising our cardiovascular system or immune system. We need stress, up to a point. Stress is not a disorder. It is our physical, emotional and biochemical response to stressors, which may bring us out of balance and into illness, disease or grumpiness.
Several glandular systems are directly affected by stress and the adrenal glands are first in line. Hormones secreted by the adrenals include DHEA, a variety of corticosteroids and of course, adrenalin. Initially, stress responses may increase physical strength and mental acuity but unrelenting chronic stress response may seriously compromise important physical and mental functions. An individual with overactive or exhausted adrenals may have elevated blood sugar, cholesterol and/or blood pressure and suffer from anxiety, depression, insomnia or chronic fatigue.
There are many approaches to reducing the toll that stress takes on the mind and body. We each need to discover our own, most effective stress management methods, such as regular physical, mental and spiritual practice and attention to diet and sleep. The holiday season tests our ability to use these tools, yet this is a time when their value can easily be seen. A run around the block, a half hour of crossword puzzle, a quiet time of contemplation, meditation or prayer, accompanied by a cup of chamomile tea or even a tall drink of cool water can do wonders! Combine these simple things with some healthy herbs and we’re well on our way to a great attitude!
Nutritional stress management usually calls for B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and/or calcium. Certain amino acids have been used with different stressrelated symptoms. Homeopathic remedies are also very effective for many people, especially children. The most common herbal solutions have been safely used for centuries and are usually based on sedative/ nervine herbs such as valerian root, passion flower or kava root.
There is another group of herbs, called adaptogens, which may help counteract stress. Using adaptogens proactively will, for most people, reduce or eliminate the need for sedative/nervine herbs during times of anxiety. They may also reduce the need for energizing herbs when fatigue strikes.
Adaptogens enhance the ability to deal with physical, emotional and biochemical stress by modifying the effects of our stress responses without side effects. They will not cause over-stimulation or sedation, are nontoxic and do not cause dependency. Adaptogens are nonspecific in their results and have no pharmacological effects. They are not usually regarded as curative, but rather as tonifying or supportive of normalizing a wide variety of physical and mental functions.
After several weeks of daily adaptogen use, stress responses are often improved. So, start now, while the holiday stress is still merely a low rumble in the distance. Energy levels, immune response, mental function and endurance are also likely to be positively affected for months after discontinuing use of an adaptogenic tonic.
Tonification should not be attempted during an active phase of illness or disease since it may worsen some aggravated symptoms such as fever or inflammation. Adaptogenic tonics may not cure illness but taken properly, they may prevent illness by reducing the ravages of stress on our all mind/body systems.
Ginseng is the most familiar adaptogen in the U.S. and is a principal strengthening tonic in traditional Chinese medicine. The best adaptogenic tonic herbs, though, may be the “pseudo-ginsengs” Eleutherococcus (Siberian Ginseng) and Ashwaganda (Indian Ginseng) which rarely cause overstimulation even after extended use. Astragalus root and Schizandra berries, Roxanne’s personal favorite, are two other tonic herbs in Chinese medicine that are adaptogens.
Siberian Ginseng is certainly the best known and studied adaptogen and Michael’s personal favorite. There have been thousands of studies done with this root and the published results are compelling: it increases physical endurance and normalizes the endocrine functions and neurotransmitter metabolism in subjects under stress; it improves hearing and visual acuity; it has antioxidant activity and protects against radiation. Because Siberian Ginseng is capable of normalizing so many physiologic functions, it has been used in treatment plans for a wide variety of conditions including hypertension, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, surgical recovery and depression.
Astragalus has traditionally been used in China to strengthen the immune and digestive systems and to treat fatigue, diarrhea, night sweats and edema. Schizandra is an especially good tonic for the kidneys, lungs and liver; it has been used in a variety of stress-related conditions, especially fatigue. Like Siberian Ginseng, Astragalus and Schizandra have been used in chemotherapy support protocols.
Ashwaganda has been used in traditional ayurvedic (Indian) medicine for thousands of years as a rejuvenating tonic. Numerous clinical studies in India have found this root to improve mental function in depressed patients and to speed recovery and lower mortality from disease.
All but one of these four herbs has no significant side effects when used appropriately. Ashwaganda should not be consumed during pregnancy. All but one (Astragalus) have reputations as reproductive system tonics – for both females and males.
Because adaptogens work by nourishing and supporting normal physiologic functions and neither stimulate nor suppress, they help normalize stress responses and speed recovery times. The fact that the holidays can be a stressful time is not a surprise to most of us. The surprise may be that adaptogenic herbs can help so effectively. LifeSource has many varieties, from single bulk herbs to encapsulated complexes. Any of our trained and friendly staff will be happy to talk with you to help discover which one may work best for you.
We wish you all a happy, relaxing, joyous, low-stress and blessedly wonder full winter holiday!