Adaptogens for stress and sleep
One of the most common complaints Evergreen staff members hear from customers is of stress, and particularly insomnia due to stress. Luckily for customers who suffer from these issues, the two conditions are often intertwined and there are a host of substances which offer relief from both. We will explore some of the lesser-known herbs and supplements which fit into both of these categories.
Adaptogens: What Are They?
The term adaptogen was coined to describe a substance (plant) which helps the body resist stressors. These can include physical, emotional and environmental sources. Ancient healing traditions such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine have featured these botanical compounds for millenia, where they have been revered cornerstones of the pharmacopeia. Modern science has shown that the mechanism by which most of these plants work is by normalizing or lowering levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol. The adrenal glands secrete this hormone in response to stress, and high levels of this cortisol, particularly at night, will prevent restful sleep. Chronic and even occasional stress will throw off the normal balance of this adrenal hormone and create a cascade of issues including insomnia. This is where our adaptogen friends can help.
This Ayurvedic herb has been known in India for thousands of years. Ashwagandha provides gentle, effective strength and support to a multitude of bodily systems. A true "tonic" herb, meaning it may be taken daily to nourish and support, it is anti-inflammatory, immune modulating, energizing, libido boosting, calming and more. Yes, that's right! Energizing and calming. It accomplishes this by its extraordinary support of the adrenal glands. If a person is worn out and tired it will give a non-stimulating energy to gently boost the body and, conversely, if one is "stressed-out" and agitated, or over-caffeinated, it will provide a soothing, calming effect and allow one to sleep. It is a superb herb for insomnia, whether it is taken earlier in the day or before bed. (See previous article on ashwagandha.)
The hands-down favorite ashwagandha product we carry is from Himalaya, a 90-year old company based in India. Their product is organic and a blend of several types of extracts with raw herb powder. No excipients are used to form the tablet; just the herb powder itself. In our experience this is one of the most effective ashwagandha products available, and the one tablet serving size will accomplish what other multi-pill products will not. In addition to the Himalaya product, Evergreen carries many other single ashwagandha products as well as formulas featuring the herb. Adrenal Health from Gaia Herbs and Stress Decompress from Host Defense are two wonderful stress-busting formulas which may also enhance sleep. The latter formula features ashwagandha along with our next adaptogen friend.
This medicinal mushroom, in our country known mainly for its immune-boosting properties, is famous in Asia as a "shen" tonic. Shen tonics "calm the spirit." Chinese herbal medicine places high regard on reishi for helping to relieve stress and insomnia both. It has been described as having the ability to "ease feelings of constriction/tightness in the chest." Reishi has been clinically shown to promote sleep and calm the nervous system. It is being studied also for decreasing anxiety and depression. Two of its nicknames, "Supreme Protector" and "Happy Mushroom" allude to the power of this beautiful varnished conk. Because reishi can improve blood sugar levels and lower high blood pressure there are possible drug interactions with diabetic and/or antihypertensive medications. Evergreen carries this mushroom in liquid extract and capsule forms. It is featured in many formulas as well.
This Chinese herb is little-known here, but deserves wider appreciation. Of particular use where sleep is disturbed by stress or an over-active mind, jujube date, also known as ziziphus, is generally used in tandem with other herbs, to great effectiveness. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, formulas featuring this herb specifically for sleep date back to 220 A.D. Sedaplex from Integrative Therapeutics combines this herb with other classic sedatives such as valerian and hops to help promote restful sleep. Gaia Herbs offers their SleepThru product with jujube alongside organic ashwagandha and also magnolia (shown to lower cortisol).
Rhodiola & Holy Basil
These two classic adaptogens go hand in hand. They normalize cortisol levels, promote resistance to stress and impart calm when needed. One difference may be that rhodiola can be stimulating to some people, so taking it late in the day is not advised. However, when taken earlier on, it can help one to obtain a better night's sleep. Holy basil is good at "turning off" excess mental chatter impeding a good sleep. Tony, a 26-year-veteran of Evergreen, says holy basil is his favorite product for occasional insomnia. Both herbs are anti-inflammatory and immune system supportive, and rhodiola in particular is beneficial for endurance and cardiovascular support. Both herbs come singly or in adrenal formulas. Stress Manager from Herb Pharm is an inspired blend of these two herbs alongside our friend reishi. Anxiety Soother from the same company features different herbs such as kava and albizzia, but both blends are highly effective stress-relievers and also may be used at night for improved, uninterrupted sleep.
There is help from the plant kingdom (and Evergreen Nutrition) for today's stressful lifestyle.
- Folate Forms & Functions
- Mushrooms Help Give Bees a Chance
- Adaptogens for stress and sleep
- How to Get a Good Night's Sleep
- Psychobiotics for Mood & Stress Support
- Hippies & Heros in Portland
- Introducing Annemarie Borlind Skincare
- Major Minerals: Seven Things You Canít Live Without
- How Can Flower Essences Help Me?
- Supplements for Quitting Smoking
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