Stress Management: Tool #2 – Herbal Aids
Before delving into the discussion and research concerning herbal aids for stress management, it is necessary to issue a word of caution: It is very important for you to check with your doctor and/or pharmacist to ensure there are no interactions between any herbs you are considering taking and any medical conditions you have and/or medications you take. THIS BLOG POST IS INTENDED TO RELAY RESEARCH RESULTS AND IS NOT AN ATTEMPT TO GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE.
Research has found that herbal aids, when used responsibly, often help people manage stress and the symptoms of stress. Recently, a study conducted in Europe using self-reported ratings on the PSS-10 scale (Perceived Stress Scale-10) concluded that “the short-term use of herbal remedies seems … effective in reducing perceived stress” (Gasparini, et al., 2016, p. 465). The study revealed approximately a 50% decrease in perceived stress after consuming certain herbal aids, including hops, valerian and melissa.
Depression. Studies show a correlation between stress and depression (Clinton and Langberg 2011); therefore, considering herbal aids used to relieve depression may serve to aid in stress reduction. Depression is often a response to, or effect of, both acute and prolonged stress. A 2008 Harvard study reported that persons suffering with mild depression found the use of various herbal supplements to be beneficial in helping to relieve their depression (Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression, 2008). The findings of the study include benefit from folic acid, which helps the brain to produce serotonin, which can improve mood, and in many patients, stimulated their response to their prescribed antidepressant medication. The study reported that similar benefits were produced through supplementation with SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine). As with folic acid, SAMe is reported to help the brain produce neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, and can bring the brain’s levels of these neurotransmitters to a normal level in patients with a deficiency thereof (Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression, 2008). This report stated that “eight studies compared SAMe to a tricyclic antidepressant; six concluded that SAMe was equivalent to the drug (p. 4).” Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression (2008) reported that St. John’s Wort and Omega-3 fatty acids also have been found beneficial in helping to minimize depression in patients.
Anxiety. Similarly, Lakhan and Vieria (2010) state that in other research passionflower, kava, St. John’s wort, lysine and magnesium have been effective in the treatment of anxiety. Clinton, et al. (2005) add that melatonin may be useful in aiding sleep, which may help break the cycle of sleeplessness leading to stress, and stress leading to sleeplessness.
Clearly, many studies have shown that, when used responsibly, herbal aids can often help diminish and control the perception and effects of stress.
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Clinton, T., Hart, A. and Ohlschlager, G. (2005). Caring for people God’s way: Personal and emotional issues, addictions, grief and trauma. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Clinton, T., & Langberg, D. (2011). The quick-reference guide to counseling women: 40 topics, spiritual insights and easy-to-use action steps. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Gasparini, M., Aurilia, C., Lubian, D., & Testa, M. (2016). Herbal remedies and the self-treatment of stress: An Italian survey. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 8(4), 465-470.
Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression. (2008). Harvard Mental Health Letter, 25(4), 4-5.
Lakhan, S. E., & Vieira, K. F. (2010). Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review. Nutrition Journal, 942-55. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-42McNealus, K. (2018, February). Let’s talk about stress. Exceptional Parent Magazine, 16-19. Retrieved from https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A530360703/HWRC?u=vic_liberty&sid=HWRC&xid=a6bef996