Stress awareness week

Stress Awareness week runs from 7th to 11th November and we are working with NIMH (National Institute of Medical Herbalists) to promote natural methods of support for managing stress. Below is further information from our in-house herbalist Yeli Williams. Her website is:

Yeli Williams, Medical Herbalist, BSc Hons, MSc, MNIMH

How can herbal medicine help with Stress?

Most of us will experience stress at some point in our lives. Some stress can be beneficial, for example deadlines can motivate and mobilise us into action, help us to make changes to achieve and move forward in life, but when stress becomes chronic it can start to exert a detrimental effect on our body, mind and general wellbeing.

So, what effect does stress have in the body?

The central nervous system coordinates the fight or flight response to stress. When we are exposed to a threat or stress the brain instructs the adrenal glands produce hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones cause the heart and breathing rates to rise which increases blood flow to the heart, muscles and essential organs so that the body has the resources to respond to and deal with the threat.

Once that threat has passed the brain instructs the adrenals to step down the production of stress hormones restoring equilibrium to the body. Sometimes however this doesn’t happen or the stresses are sustained and this results in chronic production of stress hormones which can have longer term negative consequences on the body and mind.

So, what are the longer-term consequences of stress? Stress hormones can affect multiple systems in the body leading to digestive issues, low immunity, headaches, muscle tension, low mood, high blood pressure, anxiety and poor sleep.

How can we manage stress? There are many approaches to managing stress, including self-care strategies, acupuncture, counselling, yoga, meditation and of course herbs.

What can I do to help myself manage stress? Self-care centres around finding time to eat well, to exercise and to make space for relaxing activities that you enjoy, which could be anything from joining a choir, reading a book, practicing yoga or meditation, meeting up with a friend, having a bath or simply curling up with a relaxing cup of herbal tea.

How can herbs help to manage stress?

At Hamby’s we have a wide range of over-the-counter products and teas available to help manage stress, these products are particularly helpful where stress is short term.

If you are managing chronic stress then you mayfind that consulting a herbalist beneficial. During a consultation a herbalist will identify where stress is manifesting in your body and create a bespoke blend of herbs (usually as easy to take liquid tincture) specifically for you.  

Herbal support for stress generally centres around supporting the adrenal glands which often become depleted under chronic stress as well as tailoring herbs for relief of specific symptoms associated with stress.

There are a variety of adaptogenic herbs that herbalists use to provide adrenal support; depending on how stress manifests in your body, you may prefer the soporific qualities of ashwagandha (ref 1, 2), the energising benefits of siberian ginseng (ref 3), the mood enhancing action of rhodiola (ref 4), the cognition boosting effects of holy basil (ref 5) or the immune supporting properties of astragalus (ref 6).

These adaptogenic herbs need to be taken on a regular basis at an effective dosage for at least 4 weeks to achieve the full effects, therefore a herbalist will usually combine these with fast acting herbs to provide symptomatic relief in the short term whilst these herbs start to take effect.

For example, valerian or passionflower may be included to help sleep or anxiety (ref 7), chamomile or lemon balm may be added for stress related digestive issues (ref 8), cramp bark or corydalis may be included for headaches (ref 9) or echinacea or reishi for immune support (ref 10). Other herbs which may take longer to take effect include St john’s wort which is often added into mixes to support mood and anxiety (ref 11).

Specific mixes are tailored to individuals and dispensed alongside any relevant lifestyle recommendations. Some herbs commonly used for managing stress may be contraindicated with some prescribed or over the counter medicines or with some common health conditions so by consulting a qualified herbalist you can ensure both safe and effective support.

Yeli practices Western herbal medicine and combines traditional herbal knowledge with a modern scientific approach to diagnosis and treatment. She is a full member of the National institute of medical herbalists (NIMH) with many years of experience in supporting and empowering people towards good health.

You can find Yeli at Hamby’s Monday to Wednesday where she is available to offer over the counter advice as well as more in-depth consultations. She is also offering a limited number of free 15-minute consultations at Hamby’s throughout November in support of stress awareness week. Please call 01892 783027 for more information and to book.

Ref 1) J Ethnopharmacol. 2021 Jan 10;264:113276.doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.113276. Epub 2020 Aug 17. Clinical evaluation of the pharmacological impact of ashwagandha root extract on sleep in healthy volunteers and insomnia patients: A double-blind, randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled study. Deepak Langade 1Vaishali Thakare 2Subodh Kanchi 3Sunil Kelgane 4 PMID: 32818573 DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.113276

Ref 2) Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2021 Nov 30;2021:8254344. doi: 10.1155/2021/8254344. eCollection 2021.Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract on Cognitive Functions in Healthy, Stressed Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Kumarpillai Gopukumar 1Shefali Thanawala 2Venkateswarlu Somepalli3T S Sathyanaryana Rao 4Vijaya Bhaskar Thamatam 5Sanjaya Chauhan 5

Ref 3) J Ethnopharmacol. 2021 Oct 5;278:114274. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2021.114274. Epub 2021 Jun 2. Findings of Russian literature on the clinical application of Eleutherococcus senticosus (Rupr. & Maxim.): A narrative review. Sophia Gerontakos 1Amy Taylor 2Alena Yu Avdeeva 3Veronika A Shikova 4Olga N Pozharitskaya 5David Casteleijn 6Jon Wardle 7Alexander N Shikov 3.

Ref 4) J Affect Disord. 2020 Mar 15;265:99-103. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.01.065. Epub 2020 Jan 15. Antidepressants effects of Rhodiola capsule combined with sertraline for major depressive disorder: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Lili Gao 1Chenghan Wu2Yuansheng Liao2Jinmin Wang 2

Ref 5) Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2015 Jan-Mar;59(1):69-77. Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum Linn.) leaf extract enhances specific cognitive parameters in healthy adult volunteers: A placebo controlled study. Suneetha SampathS C MahapatraM M PadhiRatna SharmaAnjana Talwar.

Ref 6) J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2021 Jul 16;18(1):57. doi: 10.1186/s12970-021-00425-5. Standardized astragalus extract for attenuation of the immunosuppression induced by strenuous physical exercise: randomized controlled trial. Ewa Latour 1Jaroslaw Arlet2Emilia E Latour 2Artur Juszkiewicz 2Karolina Łuczkowska 3Anita Marcinkiewicz 2Piotr Basta 2Jerzy Trzeciak 2Bogusław Machaliński3Anna Skarpańska-Stejnborn 2

Ref 7) Phytother Res. 2018 Jan;32(1):3-18. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5940. Epub 2017 Nov 23. GABA-modulating phytomedicines for anxiety: A systematic review of preclinical and clinical evidence. Karen Savage 1 2Joseph Firth 3 4Con Stough 2Jerome Sarris 1 4

Ref 8) Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2021 Nov 11;2021:4889719.  doi: 10.1155/2021/4889719. eCollection 2021.Antispasmodic Potential of Medicinal Plants: A Comprehensive Review. Abdur Rauf 1Muhammad Akram 2Prabhakar Semwal 3 4Adil A H Mujawah 5Naveed Muhammad 6Zerfishan Riaz2Naveed Munir 7Dmitry Piotrovsky 8Irina Vdovina 8Abdelhakim Bouyahya9Charles Oluwaseun Adetunji 10Mohammad Ali Shariati 8Zainab M Almarhoon 11Yahia N Mabkhot 12Haroon Khan 6

Ref 9) Molecules. 2021 Dec 10;26(24):7498. doi: 10.3390/molecules26247498. The Analgesic Properties of Corydalis yanhusuo. Lamees Alhassen 1Travis Dabbous 1Allyssa Ha 1Leon Hoang Lam Dang 1Olivier Civelli 1 2

Ref 10) Int J Biol Macromol. 2021 Sep 30;187:769-779. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2021.06.122. Epub 2021 Jun 29. Ganoderma lucidum: A potential source to surmount viral infections through β-glucans immunomodulatory and triterpenoids antiviral properties. Md Faruque Ahmad 1Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad 2Mohammed Idreesh Khan 3Abdulrahman A Alsayegh 4Shadma Wahab5M Intakhab Alam 6Faiyaz Ahmed3

Ref 11) Complement Ther Med. 2019 Aug;45:109-113. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.05.028. Epub 2019 May 31. The effect of Hypericum perforatum on postmenopausal symptoms and depression: A randomized controlled trial.Alieh Eatemadnia 1Somayeh Ansari 2Parvin Abedi 3Shahnaz Najar 1