by Dr. Bill Rawls
What are the best natural remedies for stress? Dr. Bill Rawls explains the impact of modern-day stress on our fight-or-flight response, and shares herbs that can help us manage it all. Read all about Dr. Rawls’ natural approach to beating stress here.
Question: What are the Best Natural Remedies for Stress?
Hello everyone. This is Dr. Bill Rawls here with some ideas for the best natural remedies for stress.
We all have it. Stress has become a really pervasive part of the modern world. When you look at solutions to stress, I think you have to ask the question: Well, what is stress?
Stress is an over-activation of our sympathetic nervous system — that fight-or-flight response. If you look back at human history, we needed that fight-or-flight response when we had a threat, like a tiger chasing us or some other kind of emergency; you need to have that in place.
What that response is doing is it’s preparing your body for conflict or dealing with a threat: It elevates your pulse. It quickens your reflexes. It gets your mind clicking, so everything in your body can deal with whatever stress is at hand. The hormone that fuels that is adrenaline. That’s your fight-or-flight response hormone.
What’s happening in the modern world, though, is we’re getting hit from all angles. We always have this perception of threat with deadlines and all the things that come at us in a day.
And then when something isn’t coming at us, we go after it because we like that feeling of being stimulated. We watch stimulating movies. We’re constantly activating our fight or flight response.
It can get to the point where it’s just overactive. Just at the drop of a pin, you’ve activated your fight-or-flight response, and your body stays keyed up. How do we get rid of that?
Well, one of the first things that I always put out there as far as natural relief for stress is following through with what you would do with a fight-or-flight response. You move. Like if a tiger was chasing you, you’d be running.
Turns out that just getting out and walking is one of the best ways to diffuse stress. Any kind of movement is really good for that. Whenever you start feeling tense — you know that feeling of energy piling up in the upper part of your body. You tense your muscles up. You tense your neck up. You start tightening up. You breathe faster. And now it’s that fight-or-flight response coming on. That’s your adrenaline levels coming up. Just getting out and walking is a nice way to diffuse that.
But, of course, it’s not always practical to have to get out and walk, because you’re sitting at work and you’ve got responsibilities and things to do. There are some natural herbal therapies that you can use that are really nice. There are many different herbs that have calming or sedative properties.
One that I use is an adaptogen called ashwagandha, which has the effect of balancing our stress hormones. It’s actually just very mildly stimulating, so you can couple that with some calming herbs.
I typically use it with a magnolia and philodendron species, and a substance called l-theanine. L-theanine is an amino acid, which you find in green tea. And what it does is it competes in your brain with glutamate, one of your exciting neurotransmitters, so it has this nice calming effect.
That’s a nice combination that is calming without being sedative. In other words, it won’t make you sleepy. It won’t make you feel tired or drugged. It just makes you feel more stress-resistant, which is a really nice way to feel when you’ve got that busy day ongoing all the time.
Now when you need something a little bit stronger, there are things out there, the step-up above herbs, for getting a more sedative level. I use a combination of bacopa, passionflower, and motherwort.
Now, I like these herbs because they don’t have drug-like effects. It’s not taking a drug where you go, “Oh, yeah. I can feel that immediately.” It’s more calming and just kind of makes you feel normal again. No habituation. Low risk of tolerance. These really don’t have any potential for side effects, or their potential is very low.
Then, the step-up from there is an acute situation: My boss got angry at me, and I’m really stressed out, and I know I’m not going to sleep tonight. That’s when you start thinking about some of the more potent herbs like kava, valerian, and there’s a whole list of others that have more potent calming properties.
And you would only want to use those just occasionally or intermittently. Not something that you want to use every day. The more potent you get, the more chance there is of habituation and tolerance if you use this thing continually.
At the baseline level, that ashwagandha combination is really nice. Next level, bacopa and those kinds of herbs. Bacopa is really well-known for helping your brain work better, as is ashwagandha. And then, for that occasion where you just need something to really knock it out, that’s when you look at kava and some of those kinds of combinations of herbs.
That’s some short tips for managing daily stress. Thank you very much. Take care.