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Monday, November 3, 2008

Healthy Tips : Stress and Herbs; the alternative treatment

Today with the unstable economy and super high levels of debt, stress is increasing at an alarming rate. For the purpose of this article I will be concentrating on negative stress. Meaning: When a person finds oneself in a stress situation, the body reacts with a "fight-or-flight" response, releasing adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol. This results is a fast reaction in an emergency (positive reaction), but if this condition persists for too long, these chemicals become harmful to the system and wreak physical havoc to the health (negative reaction) - everything from a compromised immune system, to heart problems, depression, concentration problems to insomnia could result.

Causes of stress

The causes of stress are highly individual. Your personality, ability to solve and defuse problems, support systems etc. will determine the stressfulness of a situation.

Debt is one of today’s most prevalent causes for stress, also factors like: death, major health problems, divorce, loss of job etc. contribute to chronic stress.

Effects of Stress

When stress is persistent, the body experiences stress plus the toxic effect of continued high stress hormones. Some irreversible brain and organ damage could be caused by these substances. Symptoms of chronic stress are:

• Chronic head ache (migraines, lower back pain, stiffness)

• Mood swings (depression, short temper, irritability, impatience, overreacting to problems)

• Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

• Anxiety (negative attitude, anxious or racing thoughts, fearfulness)

• Substance abuse (alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs, overdoing activities e.g. exercising, shopping)

• Memory disturbances (inability to concentrate, indecisiveness, poor judgement, difficulty studying)

• Depression (general unhappiness, feeling overwhelmed, sense of loneliness, procrastination)

• Agitation (restlessness, feeling tense, edgy)

• Behavioural problems (isolating oneself from others)

• Increased blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol

• Weight loss (or gain, Thymus gland malfunctioning, blood sugar fluctuations)

• Allergies (e.g. asthma)

• Digestive tract problems (diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, irritable bowl)

• Decreased sexual drive (decreased levels of testosterone)

• Sleeping disorders (sleeping too much or too little, teeth grinding, jaw clenching)

• Skin breakouts (hives, eczema)

• Frequent colds

If you’re experiencing any of these warning symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor for a full evaluation. Once your doctor has determined whether or not your symptoms are stress-related, consider Herbs and Vitamin B as an alternative aid to stress relief.

Herbal stress treatment:

Herbs are used in stress management therapy with little or no side effects.

Please note: In the case of pregnancy always consult your doctor before using any medication, even herbs.

Herbs can be taken in the following ways. Prepared in tablet or liquid form, commercial herbal teas from health shops and Supermarkets or freshly made into an infusion (tea).

I must add here that it is important to take Vitamin B complex as part of stress treatment, as it combines with Herbs (folic acid) to reduce stress. The following different herbs have medicinal values in the treatment of stress.

Kava Kava

Kava gives a sense of well being as the herb contains lactones what help in relaxation. Kava has the unique feature that it does not affect memory and mental alertness. Kava relieves stress, relaxes muscles and induces peaceful sleep.


Valerian offers a non-addictive alternative to the synthetic tranquilizing drug 'Diazepam' which is used to calm down patients. Valerian relaxes the nervous system, tense muscles, relieves spasms and migraine and induces deep sleep.

Passion Flower

It reduces anxiety and stress and induces a deep sleep


Blue Skullcap (S lateriflora) and Common Skullcap (S. galericulata) are powerful medicinal herbs, they are used as alternative medicine to antispasmodics, often in combination with other herbs, as a mood stabilizer during a period of high stress. Scientific studies are proving this to be a versatile plant in many areas for mental disorders. It is used in the treatment of epilepsy, insomnia, hysteria, anxiety, delirium, withdrawal from barbiturates and tranquilisers. Skullcap is currently being used as an alternative medicine to treat ADD, without any unpleasant symptoms following.


Hops is a tranquilizer, it pacifies a stressed mind, reduces sleeplessness and irritability.


Catnip acts on both the nervous system as well as the digestive system. It calms down an anxious person and is effective in relieving the symptoms of peptic ulcer and irritable bowel syndrome which are associated with stress.


It boosts the immunity which is negatively affected during stress and thus prevents infection. Taken internally, the infusion's benefit includes: calming of the digestive tract, easing of spasms of irritable bowel syndrome and night cramps. It's a relaxant and sedative, often taken against insomnia or anxiety.


Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) is commonly used as anti-stress and anti-fatigue, for stimulating the nervous system, especially for men experiencing stress, tension, exhaustion, fatigue.

Ginseng could be combined with other herbs with adrenal enhancing activity in the treatment of adrenal atrophy (exhaustion).

Lemon balm

Lemon balm is often combined with other calming, soothing herbs, such as valerian and chamomile, to enhance the overall relaxing effect. Lemon Balm contains eugenol. It is used as an herbal tea, for its mild sedative or calming effect.


Vervain is known to have an effect on the nervous system. It enhances the digestive process, treats insomnia, nervousness, anxiety. The infusion is useful to enhance the liver function and also treat poor appetite and sluggish digestive performance.

For this article and a stress measuring test, or to contact me please visit my blog called “How to make herbs part of your daily life”

Please feel free to use this article – provided it is published in its entirety, with my resource box and a “live” linkable link to


Bachman, Dian Dincin. Herbal Medicine. 1983

Garland, Sarah. The Herb and Spice Book. 1979

Harrop, Renny. Encyclopedia of Herbs. 1979

Palmer Eve. Kruie vir Huis en Tuin, 1985

Boxer Arabella, Back Philippa. The Herb Book, 1980

Roberts, Margaret. A-Z of Herbs, 1993

Bremness, Lesley. The Complete Book of Herbs, 1988

Van Jaarsveld, Ernst, Van Wyk, Ben-Erik, Smith, Gideon. Succulents of South Africa. 2000.

Jeppe, Barbara. Suid-Afrikaanse Aalwyne. 1974.

Readers Digest. Natural Medicine 1992

Readers Digest, Your Medical Questions Answered. 1994

Holmes Thomas and Rahe Richard. Homes-Rahe Social Readjustment rating scale, Journal of Psychosomatic Research Vol. 11, 1967

South African Anxiety and Depression Group


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