Calm Yourself: Herbs For Relaxation
by Emma Bamford
June 30, 2014
Stress and anxiety are things that most people experience at different periods throughout their lives. It's part of the human condition to feel stressed and anxious in response to things like personal and professional problems, but most of the time, these feelings are manageable. Sometimes, however, mild stress and anxiety can become much worse, and without treatment they can become serious problems, leading to further issues like high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, fatigue, and insomnia. Taking regular time out for- relaxation and self-care- is important, and in times of high stress, it can be highly beneficial to practice self-case by using herbal remedies that help calm the mind and relax the body.
People are increasingly turning to natural remedies like aromatherapy, naturopathy, and herbal medicine to help support their health, and provide relief from a wide range of symptoms and medical problems. There are many reasons why people turn to herbs and herbal extracts for the relief of stress and anxiety, and associated problems like poor digestion and insomnia. Prescription medications for anxiety and stress can have some serious side effects, especially when dependence becomes an issue, and the habit-forming nature of many prescription drugs is a big part of the reason why many people turn to herbal remedies for a solution to their health problem. Another is simply that some people prefer to use natural plant-based remedies rather than synthetic drugs and chemicals that can have harsh side effects which, in some cases, are even worse than the problem they're intended to solve. Herbal remedies tend to be mild in nature, providing support and relief rather than a "cure", which, in traditional medicine sometimes involves suppressing symptoms rather than curing their cause.
There are many different herbs that can help soothe stress and anxiety; a small number have even been shown in clinical studies to have beneficial effects comparable to those of prescription medications.
Lavender - is used as a calming agent to help treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and research has shown that its scent does promote relaxation. Lavender is particularly popular not only because it's effective, but also because it's easy to find a wide range of products with its scent.
Passionflower - is another herb that's particularly effective as an all-round remedy for stress, anxiety, and insomnia. One study even found that it's on a par with certain antidepressants in terms of its beneficial effects.
Peppermint - is a common remedy for stress reduction, and it can also help soothe gastrointestinal problems-€”especially effective since digestive complaints are a common consequence of chronic stress. Some people, however, may experience heartburn after taking peppermint, and it's generally not recommended for people who are prone to acid reflux or who have a hernia.
Skullcap and valerian root - can help treat insomnia and anxiety, but there are questions over whether these herbs are safe for long term use. It's recommended that supplements or remedies containing valerian are used for no more than six weeks at a time.
St. John's wort - has been used as a treatment for nervous disorders and other medical complaints for thousands of years, but it wasn't until relatively recently that clinical trials proved its effectiveness for mild depression and certain other mood disorders. While it's not known to be an effective remedy for stress and anxiety, there are indications it may help relieve irritability and other symptoms of PMS.
Remember that if you're taking prescription or over-the-counter medications of any kind it's important to check with a doctor or pharmacist before using herbal remedies. Herbs are natural, but that doesn't mean they're completely harmless; herbs can have unintended and sometimes harmful side effects if used incorrectly or in combination with prescription medications. For example, many herbs, including chamomile and St. John'swort, interact with the prescription drug warfarin, a blood-thinning medication used to treat blood clots.
One aspect of the use of herbal remedies that has undoubtedly helped to increase their popularity is the fact that using them feels much more like a self-care ritual than does the use of prescription medications. There's something luxurious about hot herbal tea made with special accessories, and aromatherapy oils and infusers, which makes lighting an infuser candle, or preparing and sipping tea, calming acts in themselves.
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