Herbs and Natural Medicine for Stress on a Table

Herbal Programs for Stress

Stress seems to be an unavoidable part of life. Some people handle it well and others are more negatively influenced by it. Many react to stress in their lives with a myriad of nervous system complaints: insomnia, restlessness, nervousness, and a general state of agitation in their day to day lives. Others find that their immune system becomes compromised, setting up a pattern of acute cold and flu infections and, in many cases, chronic viral syndromes.

Whether it is the nervous system or the immune system that becomes compromised, natural medicine has a number of effective remedies to support those under stress. And the first place to start is with the “nervines”. This category of botanicals includes Valerian, Passion Flower, Oatstraw, and Chamomile.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is perhaps the most popular and certainly the most clinically effective of all the nervines. It has been widely used for centuries in North America and Europe for its calmative and sedative properties. Recent research has shown Valerian root to relieve insomnia and actually improve sleep quality. In addition, it has spasmolytic properties, and is useful in relieving cramps in the intestines as well as in the uterus. It is also effective for muscle spasms. The active components of Valerian include valerenic acid and its valepotriates.

Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata), Oatstraw (Avena sativa), and Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) are also effective, especially when combined with Valerian. What makes these nervines beneficial is that they are strong relaxants and calmatives but do not cause the “hang-over” side-effects. They also have nervous system “toning” properties that are, in effect, “restorative”.

The adaptogenic herbs Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) are also useful. This category of herbs assists the body in adapting to stress, whether the stress is metabolic, physical, or psychological. In addition, both of these herbs also have immune-enhancing properties and support adrenal function. In my experience, the adaptogens should be used by all persons under stress to support energy as well as protect against further weakening of body metabolism.

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) is closely related to the adaptogens, but should technically be in a category of its own. This noted herb from China is a strong tonic for energy and the immune system. In Oriental medicine, it is used to support resistance and protect the body from disease and sickness. In one recent study, Astragalus extract was found to be effective in preventing metabolic dysfunction in animals who had been subjected to severe noise stress. Like the adaptogens, Astragalus (most effectively used in a combination) should always be considered as an herbal supplement for those under stress.

The following is an Herbal Program that may be a useful tool in managing stress syndromes:

Take as needed, daily if necessary:

Valerian or Valerian combined with Passion Flower and other nervines
For its relaxant and nervine properties
Dosage: one dose, three times daily, as needed

Week 1

Siberian Ginseng or Siberian Ginseng combined with American Ginseng
For its adaptogenic properties and to support energy
Dosage: 1 dose, 3 times daily

B Complex
Supports metabolism during times of stress
Dosage: 1 dose (up to 50 mg of B1,B3,B6), 3 times daily

Week 2

Astragalus or Astragalus combination
For its deep toning support
Dosage: 1 dose, 3 times daily

Further restores and relaxes the nervous system
Dosage: 1 dose (up to 250 mg of Calcium), 3 times daily

Week 3

Siberian Ginseng or Siberian Ginseng combined with American Ginseng
For its adaptogenic properties and to support energy
Dosage: 1 dose, 3 times daily

B Complex
Supports metabolism during times of stress
Dosage: 1 dose (up to 50 mg B1,B3,B6), 3 times daily

Week 4

Allow the body time to integrate the previous weeks supplements

Botanical medicines and other nutritional supplements are only a part of an anti-stress program. You may consider many other helpful tools on your road to relaxation: yoga, meditation, exercise, biofeedback, acupuncture, acupressure, and massage. And of course, a balanced diet will always be of benefit. Experimenting with these modalities as well as using the above Herbal Program will help lead you to a more relaxed, healthier life!

Janet Zand, OMD, L.Ac.. is a respected naturopathic physician who lives and practices in the Los Angeles area. She has developed a unique and effective method of combining herbal medicine with nutrition, homeopathy and acupuncture. Her credentials include a Doctor of Naturopathy, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, and Certified Acupuncturist. Dr. Zand has over fifteen years of clinical experience treating with natural medicine, as well as having formulated her own line of herbal supplements.

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Written by Janet Zand LAc OMD

Explore Wellness in 2021