Adaptogenic herbs: The Natural Solution for Stress
Would it surprise you to learn that stress is good, even necessary? It may seem counter-intuitive, but we need stress in our lives. The stress response could arguably be considered to be an essential part of being alive; to use an example from our ancient history, without stress the early humans would have simply laid down and allow themselves to be eaten by Sabre Toothed Tigers. You’re probably familiar with the so-called ‘flight or flight’ response, the innate mechanism within us all that kicks in in times of peril. This is a stress response, and is a perfectly normal occurrence.
The problem we face today is that while our civilisation has evolved, for better or worse, our biology is much the same as that of our caveman ancestors. We have discovered many new and interesting ways to keep ourselves running at high stress levels, but haven’t provided a balance to these new stresses. A nine to five work week, living in cities, project deadlines, factory quotas, and professional cooking are all pursuits that millions of humans perform every day- and a multibillion dollar market in recreation, alcohol, other legal and illegal drugs, and psychotherapy has formed to capitalise on our stress!
From a naturopathic perspective, we understand that both no-stress and full-stress are undesirable and impossible to maintain for long. With a no-stress lifestyle, we might avoid the negative effects of stress, but at the same time we would find it hard to actually get anything done. With too much stress, well, I’m sure you’ve felt the effects of that yourself.
So what can we do to manage stress?
We have actually had the answer for several centuries. Adaptogen herbs have been used by humans to manage stress, and although our ancestors couldn’t have known it, they were in fact regulating their hormonal levels with herbs. If we think of adaptogens as a kind of natural version of a pressure valve, letting off a little steam in a controlled fashion when necessary. By maintaining the correct balance of hormones in our bodies, we can deal with stressful situations more readily when they inevitably occur.
Herbal supplements like Ashwagandha and Milk Thistle are great for use all the time, not just at times of stress, for this exact purpose. For example, Rhodiola Rosea is used on a daily basis by Himalayan sherpas for its value in regulating energy levels and combatting altitude sickness. It’s the right herb for their kind of stress. As the effects and causes of stress are almost as numerous as there are people, we are fortunate to have evolved to benefit from the benefits of these amazing herbs. Whatever form your stress takes, there is certainly an adaptogen herb that will suit your circumstances.