10 Natural Home Remedies for Stress
Stress

10 Natural Home Remedies for Stress

Posted

31 May 2015

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For people who wear their work as a badge of honour, stress is not something that is a stranger to their daily lives. These people appear to thrive on the roller-coaster ride that stress brings about and some even seem to thrive when stressed. But stress, being such a sneaky little bugger, affects most of us at some point and not just the high-flyers. Stress can creep in when you’re not paying attention and wreak havoc on your system.

It is well documented that stress contributes to hormonal imbalances, indigestions, high blood pressure, insomnia, obesity, difficulty in losing weight, cravings, low immunity and much more. So yes, not to stress you out about stress, but it’s not something to be taken lightly.

You may not think you suffer from stress but if you suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned above, then yes, you could very well be. Here are some simple, natural home remedies you can do to relieve your stress.

Cold-pressed, high magnesium, calming green juice

Organic, cold-pressed juices are a growing trend in Kuala Lumpur, and certain foods are stress-reducing, so get yourself a calming juice using these proven ingredients.

The Science:

Mood fluctuations and anxiety are often linked to low minerals such as magnesium and an overproduction of stress hormones. Celery and leafy greens such as spinach are two great sources of magnesium. Celery is high in minerals such as magnesium and potassium which are important for hydration and known to calm the mood and curb anxiety. [1] And green leafed vegetables are also high in calming B vitamins, which help you power through low-energy, low-mood days.

Other foods that are high in magnesium are [2] :

Kelp, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, buckwheat, brazil nuts, millet, pecans, walnuts, rye, tofu, soy beans, brown rice, figs, dates, collard greens, avocado, parsley, beans, barley, dandelion greens, and garlic - Just don’t have them all together! ;)

Look for Adaptogen herbs as additional support

Stress can clearly wreak havoc on your immune system. Are you someone who is always catching a cold? That could be stress related. A way to combat this is to strengthen your body’s ability to handle stress by taking a type of herb called Adaptogens or more commonly known as Siberian Ginseng. Dubbed ‘King Adaptogen’, this herb has been shown [3] to give you energy support, normalise blood pressure and blood-sugar levels, and stop stress from draining your adrenal gland's supply of vitamin C.

Other herbs: Licorice, Rehmannia, American ginseng, rhodiola, ashwagandha, and schizandra also act as key adaptogens that help to restore and support your adrenal function. However, it is important that you avoid self-medication with these herbs; have them only under the prescription or guidance of a health professional.

Nervine at night to nourish your nervous system and sleep soundly.

While adaptogens are important for your energy levels during the day, natural nervines are important at night to calm our bodies and to have a good night’s sleep as most people under stress do not sleep well. Often people feel tired and yet can’t mentally shut down. So, consider taking nervine as a short-term solution. It can improve your mood, induce a feeling of calmness and most importantly, help you sleep better. Some proven and safe nervines are:

  • Lemon balm appears to be both safe and reasonably effective at reducing stress in the short term. It helps induce feelings of calmness while improving the mood. A study found that 1,600 milligrams of dried lemon balm was associated with an increase in calmness for up to six hours, and they are safe without any side effects. [4]
  • Valerian root: This herb has been used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. One study found that the combination of valerian root with St. John's wort was more effective than the medication Diazepam at reducing anxiety in patients who were treated for two weeks. However, only low doses of this herb is considered safe when taken for less than one month, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. [5]
  • Passionflower: Studies of a randomised, placebo-controlled study was done in 2001 in patients with general anxiety disorder, and found that 45 drops of liquid passion flower daily was as effective in treating the disorder as the drug Oxazepam. [6]

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Go for chamomile tea, avoid caffeine

Chamomile is popular for its easy availability and wide range of healing properties. It is often used to relieve stress-induced symptoms such as insomnia and gastrointestinal disorders. Chamomile contains two chemicals that promote relaxation - apigenin and luteolin. A study by the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center found that patients with generalised anxiety disorder who took chamomile supplements for eight weeks had a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms compared to patients who were given a placebo. [7]

I suggest buying loose chamomile and making your own infusion. This basically entails putting two tablespoons of dried, loose chamomile flowers into a teapot (or French press), fill with boiling water, steep for 5 minutes, then strain and drink. You might also add some honey.

Chamomile is a super safe and versatile herb – it has been used for centuries for reducing stress, relaxation and soothing upset tummies. If you know you’re going to have a stressful day – drink chamomile tea early and often.

Snack on dark chocolate - an amazing comfort food

Dark chocolate not only satisfies your taste buds, but it can also help relieve stress at the molecular level. Additionally, cocoa can also improve cognitive functions and mood. A clinical trial published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Proteome Research [8] indicates that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate daily can greatly reduce the level of stress hormones in the body. Dark chocolate contains magnesium, which is a mineral that helps fight stress, fatigue, depression and irritability.

The best part about dark chocolate is that most people like it. Whenever you feel stressed, savour some dark chocolate and it will soon boost your mood and reduce your stress level. If you like, you can also try a warm glass of chocolate milk or any kind of dessert that has dark chocolate in it.

Start your day with an overnight Oatmeal

If you think you won’t have much time to prepare something healthy to eat, then the easiest and most practical food to make is overnight oats. Oat itself is a traditional food that helps to restore and nourish the nervous system. It helps to reduce levels of stress hormones and also results in a boost of serotonin, which stimulates a feeling of calmness.

So, make yourself overnight oats everyday. You can use a variety of nutritious ingredients such as nuts and seeds, chia, almond milk, cocoa powder, and also lots of fruits that are full of enzymes that can aid in digestion.

Essential oil to the rescue!

One of the major uses of essential oil is for stress management as essential oils are very effective and natural to use. Lavender essential oil is a classic stress-reducer [9]; it is very calming and you can get instant relief just by smelling it. Another oil that is also very effective is clary sage which works well for relaxing and de-stressing. It is also ‘warming’ and has an uplifting effect that can raise your mood to beat the stress.

You can use the essential oil in 3 ways:

  • Burner or diffuser. If you’re at home, put a few drops of one or both of the oils in an oil burner or diffuser.
  • DIY spray mist for the day! If you’re on the move, grab a small spray bottle, combine some rosewater (or distilled water) with a few drops of the lavender and clary sage essential oils. Shake well. Mist your face or your general environment as needed, and enjoy the relaxing aroma.
  • Take an aromatherapy bath. Baths are relaxing enough, but for some extra stress-relief, add a handful of epsom salts (The magnesium sulfate in the salts has been shown to calm anxiety and lower blood pressure) and 10 drops of essential oil into the bath. You can use the lavender/clary sage mix as above, soak for 20 minutes, then prepare to be awashed in calmness for the rest of the night.

Get outside in natural sunlight for 15 minutes a day

This is the best way to naturally increase your vitamin-D levels, which can decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. A short 15-minute break will not only take your mind off stress, but also let you reap the benefits of outdoor activity. And the greener the better. One Japanese study found that people who walked through a forest for 20 minutes had lower stress hormone levels after their walk than those who took a comparable walk in an urban area. If you're stuck in an urban area, look for parks or quiet tree-lined streets to take a stroll. [10]

21 minutes of exercise to reduce symptoms of anxiety

Exercise will not only make you feel better about yourself, but will flood your body with feel-good endorphins. Some researchers even believe that 21 minutes of exercise is enough to calm you down, and increasing your body heat - a natural result of exercise - may alter neural circuits controlling cognitive function and mood, including those that affect the neurotransmitter serotonin. Researchers believe this response can boost your mood, increase relaxation, and alleviate anxiety. [11]

Take time out to meditate

There have been numerous studies that show meditation is an effective tool to reduce stress. Find 10 minutes to sit quietly and practice mindful meditation by focusing on your breathing. As little as 8 weeks of daily meditation has been shown to decrease brain cell volume in the amygdala - the area responsible for fear, anxiety and stress.

These are 10 home fixes for stress, but ultimately we need to deal with the underlying causes. I also truly believe that some mindfulness activities such as meditation, yoga, Qi Gong really help reduce stress levels and put things in perspective.

Reference:

  1. University of Maryland Medical Center, Celery seed, 7 May 2013 , http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/celery-seed
  2. The World’s healthiest food, 2001-2005, http://www.whfoods.com/
  3. University of Maryland Medical Center , Siberian ginseng, 17 March 2013, http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/siberian-ginseng
  4. United States Department of Agriculture, "PLANTS Profile for Melissa officinalis,"http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=MEOF2. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  5. Bent S, Padula A, Moore D, Patterson M, Mehling W. Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2006 Dec;119(12):1005-12. Review.
  6. Kamaldeep Dhawan, Suresh Kumar, Anupam Sharma (2001). "Anti-anxiety studies on extracts of Passiflora incarnata Linneaus [sic]". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 78 (2–3): 165–170. doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(01)00339-7PMID 11694362
  7. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) may provide antidepressant activity in anxious, depressed humans: an exploratory study. Amsterdam JD, Shults J, Soeller I, Mao JJ, Rockwell K, Newberg AB. Altern Ther Health Med. 2012 Sep-Oct;18(5):44-9. PMID: 22894890
  8. Martin et al. Metabolic Effects of Dark Chocolate Consumption on Energy, Gut Microbiota, and Stress-Related Metabolism in Free-Living Subjects. Journal of Proteome Research, 2009; 091007113151065 DOI: 10.1021/pr900607v
  9. Basch E, Foppa I, Liebowitz R, et al. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Miller). J Herb Pharmacother. 2004;4(2):63-78.
  10. Lee, J., Park, B.-J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Ohra, T., Kagawa, T., Miyazaki, Y. (2011). Effect of forest bathing on physiological and psychological responses in young Japanese male subjects. Public Health. 125(2): 93-100.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0033350610003203.
  11. Paddock, Catharine (6 March 2012). "How To Get Fit With 3 Minutes Of Exercise A Week: BBC Doc Tries "HIT"". Medical News Today.


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