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Tips for Responding Better to Stress – Part Three

by Heather Kiser
This is Part Three of a three post series on stress. Read Part One and Part Two.

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In part one we discussed stress and how to identify it and in part two we discussed lifestyle changes and ten habits to help deal with stress. For this final part, we will take a look at herbs, oils, and supplements that may help to reduce stress naturally.   

**The following statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, these herbs are not regulated by the FDA and there is no medical evidence to prove they work. Please check with your doctor before taking ANY herbs or supplements and use extreme caution. I am not a doctor nor can I offer any medical advice. These are historically reported uses for these herbs. I make no claims expressed or implied. Any actions taken as a result of the information presented in this article are done at the reader’s own risk. **

Herbs

Chamomile: Generally a very safe herb and used across cultures for generations as a calming sedative. Chamomile can also aid digestion and healthy digestion = more absorption of vitamins and minerals. Most commonly consumed as a tea.

Catnip: Sedative type calming effect that can relax and soothe. Mixed with chamomile, it can be a mild but relaxing bedtime tea resulting in quality sleep and reduced stress hormones. This would be for those less stressful days.  

Hops Flowers: Hops are believed to be one of the top sedative and hypnotic herbs. Hops are generally not used in tea blends because of their bitter taste, however they are great tinctured or made as a strong decoction. Dried hops flowers can also be stuffed into a pillow or sachet and placed under your head at night for a little extra relaxing boost.

Lavender: Probably one of the most known and most used. Lavender flowers added to tea have a mild sedative effect. They are also great added to a sachet or pillow to relieve the mind’s stress. 

Lemon Balm: Used historically for the relief of “nervousness” is now being studied as an alternative treatment for anxiety. Lemon balm can freshen up a tea or add flavor and aroma to any sleep tincture.

Passion Flower: Recently studied and touted in short term studies to be stronger than many current anxiety medications. This mild herb is also good added to teas and tinctures.

Slippery Elm Bark: Usually in powdered form, it has a sweet favor and is well tolerated even by children. It has historically been used to soothe the digestive tract and help relieve stress related tummy symptoms. Mixed with foods like yogurt or applesauce it is said to be a great addition for improving digestive health. The powder will thicken liquids, so be aware when adding this to your teas.

St. John’s Wort: Recognized as far back as ancient Greece for its mood lifting and antidepressant properties, St. John’s wort is one of the more studied herbs for stress and anxiety. For high stress days, a tincture made with St. John’s wort, hops, and Valerian Root could be extremely beneficial. Taking a break from St. John’s wort for a few weeks at a time will help reinstate the effectiveness.

Tea: Green and even fresh black tea contain high levels of L-Theanine, which has been shown to reduce the brain’s negative stress responses. Using green or black teas as the base and then adding the other mild herbs would be delicious.

Valerian Root: Non-narcotic but very powerful relaxant. It is reported to relax muscles and even quiet heart palpitations. Valerian has an extremely high calcium content and a pretty high magnesium content and magnesium plays a very important role in the body’s stress response. Like St. John’s Wort, it is best as a tincture due to the strong, pungent flavor and odor. A tincture made of hops, St. John’s wort and valerian root, would be a great bedtime relaxant.

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Oils

I love essential oils, however great caution should be exercised with their use. Oils are very potent, they are herbs in a highly concentrated form. I do NOT support the ingesting of any oils and suggest that anyone using oils find information from a certified aromatherapist before using.  

The International Federation of Aromatherapists does not recommend that Essential Oils be taken internally unless under the supervision of a Medical Doctor who is also qualified in clinical Aromatherapy. ”

The following oils, when diffused, applied to a cotton ball and inhaled, or blended with a carrier oil and applied topically are GREAT for relaxing and resting.  

  • Cedarwood: Natural, masculine, woodsy scent that promotes relaxation.
  • Frankincense: Prized as a meditative oil that helps ease stress and tension, allowing focus.
  • Lavender: Mild, calming scent, known to promote tranquility and relieve tension.
  • Patchouli: Very soothing warm scent that helps you relax and just breathe.
  • Sweet Orange: Uplifting and calming scent that helps promote happiness.
  • Valerian Root: Pungent scent, but a very powerful relaxant and sleep inducer.
  • Ylang Ylang: Flowery scent, uplifting worry reducer.  

A favorite, relaxing, night-time blend in my diffuser is cedarwood, lavender, patchouli and frankincense. The scent is very masculine, yet earthy and relaxing. During the day, when focus is much needed, ylang ylang, cedarwood, and sweet orange are in order.

Supplements

It is starting to come to light that there are quite a few vitamins and minerals missing from the lives of Americans. Many of those missing vitamins and minerals could greatly affect mood and the body’s stress response. Poor diet and the body’s response to stress also lead the malabsorption of what vitamins we do intake, creating an even greater deficiency. Vitamins should always be added through diet first, then supplemented.

B-vitamins: These water soluble vitamins are extremely important in cell metabolism. B-vitamins are found mainly in whole, unprocessed foods. Being water soluble, any excess is readily excreted from the system, so supplementation is typically fairly safe. (Please check with your doctor.) Deficiency in B vitamins can lead to many ill health effects, including nervous disorders, and feelings of stress and anxiety. Continued deficiency can even lead to dementia. Adding a B50 or B100 supplement can greatly increase energy, elevate mood, and regulate the body’s nervous stress responses. B vitamins are best taken in the morning or early afternoon, since they do give such a great energy boost.

Vitamin D:  The “sunshine” vitamin, vitamin D, is the reason we feel great and rest well after a day at the beach or park. D is produced when uncovered, un-sunscreened skin is exposed to sunlight. However, as we age we produce less and less naturally. Using sunscreen and working indoors also reduces our vitamin D stores. It is estimated that over 50% of Americans are D deficient. D is needed for proper immune function, bone formation, healthy skin, and mood stability. Lack of vitamin D can lead to brittle bones, weakness, fatigue, irritability, and anxiety. Also best taken earlier in the day, it does not give the energy boost that B complex vitamins give, but for some sensitive people it can keep them awake at night.

Magnesium:  Like vitamin D, it is estimated that over 50% of our population lacks in this important mineral. From a University of Maryland study: “Symptoms of magnesium deficiency may include agitation and anxiety, restless leg syndrome (RLS), sleep disorders, irritability, nausea and vomiting, abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure, confusion, muscle spasm and weakness, hyperventilation, insomnia, poor nail growth, and even seizures.” Magnesium seems to be best taken in through the skin, therefore, the best way to get your magnesium is by applying a quality magnesium oil or taking epsom salt bath regularly. Taking an oral supplement can be beneficial, but it can also cause stomach upset. Having sufficient magnesium stores can keep you more even keeled and stress free. Magnesium is best used or taken at night as it relaxes and soothes the body.  

5StepStressIf you are living under a load of stress, do some research, then please check with your doctor and start yourself on a good vitamin and supplement regimen. Add in some herbal teas, and diffuse some relaxing oils. Start with the basics, then move forward.

Remember your best approach to stress is:

  1. Identify stressors
  2. Eliminate stressors that aren’t necessary
  3. Eat healthy REAL foods
  4. Get moving, exercise
  5. Use herbs and oils for temporary high stress situations

I can’t stress enough the importance of the stress reducing processes we discussed in part one and part two, but after all of those, when you are still needing a little more, give some of these herbs, oils and supplements a try.  

I’ve learned much as we walked the path of de-stressing together and have implemented many new strategies. I hope the same applies to you. If you would like to continue hiking with me, please visit me on “The Crunchy Trail” to learn more about eating real foods, preparing herbal remedies and living a naturally healthy life.

 

prettymeAbout the author:
I’m Heather. A conservative, Christian, hippie, stay at home, homeschool mom, and elderly caregiver. My husband and I are high school sweethearts and we have 6 children ages 18, 15, 13, 9, 18 months and 3 months. We are also caregivers for his parents. We have a small hobby farm in the mountains of East Tennessee where we raise hogs, ducks, rabbits, chickens, and goats. I spent almost 22 years working in Emergency Medicine and 17 of those last 20 I have also spent learning about and using alternative medicine and natural cures. I’m a self taught herbalist and life long lover of all things science. I treat almost all of our ailments at home with herbs and food. I am on a constant mission for more information about cleaning up our home, our world, our diet, and our health. I blog about healthy living, clean eating, natural remedies, and herbs. My blog can be found at Kiser Ridge Farm : The Crunchy Trail and will someday hopefully include a full herb shop containing my herbal blends.

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