Friday, January 08, 2010

Got Stress?

It seems odd to think that the time just following the holidays can be difficult, but there's that let-down, along with the fact that it's a long way off until the next time people get some time off work. We won't even talk about how long we in the North East have to wait to plant our gardens!
There are many herbs that can help ease and calm a stormy day, or even a long period of difficulty. In fact, in thinking about writing about these herbs, I looked back over an article that I wrote for a small publication over 10 years ago. In addition to the herbs that were at that time cutting-edge, there are several more that hadn't come to the forefront yet. Just the other day, Dr. Oz talked about Passionflower, and how it can be helpful - particularly for women who are constantly going from one task to the next, never finishing, and then having trouble shutting down for a restful night - know anyone like that?
 We will start with mild and go from there, listing a few herbs that can help right now. One would additionally be sure to get lots of rest, see that their vitamin and mineral requirements were met, and look into some deeply nourishing herbs for the nervous system, as well. Many of these are said to take days or weeks to make a difference, but I can always feel a shift right away.

My first line of defense is always Chamomile.

I like to drink a cup of tea and that will usually help. It immediately helps me to drop the shoulders and let out a long breath. Another possibility is 20 or 25 drops of tincture, because often if you had time to sit and drink a cup of tea, you wouldn't be stressed, right? If at all possible, a nice warm bath with a few drops (no more than 10) of Lavender essential oil OR a spray of essential oil mist on the pillow case before bed will help to put a bad day behind and let a new day get a decent start.

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) tincture is a favorite for one of my friends.

She uses it when her kids "get on her last nerve", and suspects that's how the herb got it's name. This herb is well known for her helpfulness in menopause, but part of that is the way it helps with anxiety and ... stress!

Next in line is a St. John's Wort.
It is made it into a tincture here each year and taken only as needed. Some people take it daily, although it should not be taken in conjunction with any prescribed MAOI inhibitors.
We also keep Eleuthero (aka Siberian Ginseng) on hand.
Eleuthero was tested in large block factories in Siberia. The workers in one building took the herb daily, while the next building did not. The workers using the herb were found to do better in every measurable way - absenteeism, quality of work, cheerfulness, etc. Scientists are unsure exactly how it works, but it is stimulates cells of the immune system and protects the nervous system. Some people feel that the two (SJW and Eleuthero) work very well together.

Of late, these remedies weren't cutting the mustard for me. Coincidentally, a few years ago I was looking for something for a friend who is a tax preparer. Four months out of the year the workload increases by (seriously) 1000% and the stress takes a visible toll. A couple new herbs became part of my daily routine. 
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) - also known as Tulsi - came up in my research with some prodding by Sandi Wakefield at Black Kat Herbs.
That year it so happened that I had purchased a Tulsi plant at an herb festival, and she was large and busy, perfect for a quart or so of tincture. He and I shared it, and it was the first time in many years that I heard him laugh in March. Seriously. We sometimes use it in tea form, too. Besides helping with stress, Holy Basil is considered a tonic to the nerves, increases memory, is anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-oxidant, immune stimulating, and acids contained in the herb change the way our bodies release cortisol and the way we react physically to stress. In India, Holy Basil is used for nearly all ills. I have an entire flat on order for this spring!

In addition, we use Mimosa (Albizzia julibrissin), also sometimes known as "the happiness herb."

It is also sometimes called "herbal Prozac", which I don't like at all, but it seems to get the point across, and some herbalists include it in formulas for grief. Sometimes when we are stressed it is because we are grieving the loss of something. If you've ever seen Mimosa flowers, they are happy little flowers, pink puffs that sit on top of the leaves in bunches.
Oddly, every time I gather Mimosa flowers, I smell cotton candy. Most people say it smells like peach, but I think I'm combining a bunch of senses to come up with the cotton candy :-) There is only a faint scent to Mimosa, so it may be something about the color that clicks something in my brain...
Mimosa helps to reduce anxiety and stress. The flowers are thought to increase happiness while the bark is more grounding. We use a combination here at home. I use it daily, and when my 18 year old starts getting weepy or angry during certain parts of her cycle, I will offer her a bit of the blend.

Those are the things we use here at The Essential Herbal. Almost all of them are available on our website if you don't have them growing at your house!

1 comment:

Ann said...

My favorite stress reliever is Lavender. When I bathe with a lavender soap or use a bath salt containing lavender essence oil, I can feel the stress leave my body.


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