Anxiety is a modern epidemic. Millions of Canadians identify as suffering from mood disorders – and stress and anxiety are at the top of the list. If you feel anxious often and wonder why your body seems to be on stress auto-pilot, it can be helpful to know that you're far from alone. In fact, you're probably not even to blame for how stressed you feel: rather, your autonomic nervous system is. What? Yes, your nervous system reads input and information coming from your surroundings and sends signals to the body on how to react.
Most of our lifestyle habits today (think: long commutes, mindless scrolling, and work deadlines) stoke the sympathetic nervous system fire, keeping us alert and ready for action – to the detriment of chill, peaceful parasympathetic nervous system vibes that encourage rest and relaxation. While modern life is partly to blame for widespread anxiety and stress, there is good news: adaptogens can help. In fact, they could change your stress response, and your life. Here's what you need to know.
Your nervous system on modern life
If your nervous system is stuck on “fight-or-flight” mode, you'll find yourself jumping every time your cellphone rings, and wondering what you did wrong whenever someone so much as calls your name. In other words, you're prepared for the worst – all the time. While this protective mechanism might prove useful when you're being chased by a lion, increasing your heart rate and sending blood to your muscles so you can run for your life, the whole chain of reaction might hurt you in this day and age, and your automatic stress response could hurt your relationships, your work, and your health.
How anxiety and stress affect your health
Anxiety and stress are associated with numerous health concerns and poor lifestyle habits, such as:
- Muscle tension or pain, sometimes chronic
- Fatigue and/or restlessness
- Lower sex drive and libido
- Sleep disturbances and insomnia
- Difficulty concentrating, lack of focus
- Irritability and anger
- Sadness and depression
Adaptogens: An ancient remedy for modern woes
You can't stop the world from turning, or stresses from coming your way from time to time. But there are things you can do to lessen your stress response and remind your body what it feels like to be relaxed and grounded. Adaptogen herbs can help – they've been used for centuries in herbal medicine, and recent clinical studies confirm their stress-busting abilities. The stress-protective activity of adaptogen herbs is associated with homeostasis regulation through many mechanisms of action, such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the balancing of key stress response mediators.
Adaptogens act as a metabolic regulators, helping the body cope with the many stresses encountered in day-to-day living. These stresses encompass the mental, emotional, physical, and environmental factors we're exposed to daily. At St. Francis Herb Farm, we've been promoting the use of adaptogens for decades, and our team of herbal experts created the bestselling adaptogenic blend Strest® for a trusted combo that's easy to use and offers quick (and long-lasting) relief from stress and anxiety. Strest is an adrenal tonic, available as a tincture and in a convenient capsule form.
We take stress management seriously, and we're committed to offering you the best herbal medicine has to offer. Combining six of the top herbal adaptogens in the world, here's what goes into our Strest herbal blend (and why it works so well!):
- Holy basil, the lead ingredient in this formula, reduces anxiety and improves mental focus.
- Rhodiola boosts brain function and memory, balances mood and has significant anti-fatigue effects.
- Ashwagandha is a tonic herb, improving overall health and mental function.
- Eleuthero improves mental and physical performance under stressful conditions.
- Oats have always been used to treat general prostration from overwork, anxiety and worry.
- Schisandra is a premier adaptogen in Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been shown to exert benefits over the central nervous, sympathetic, endocrine, and immune system.
Beyond adaptogens: A life in balance
Making adaptogenic herbs a part of your healthy lifestyle is a great step forward, but don't stop there. Stress management is multifaceted and can be greatly enhanced with self-care practices like mindfulness, gentle exercise, and cultivating meaningful relationships.
- Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity; Alexander Panossian and Georg Wikman; Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010 Jan; 3(1): 188–224. Published online 2010 Jan 19.
For more information on herbs for stress and anxiety check out our holiday stress blog.
Have questions? Just visit our Great Questions Answered page to learn more or to submit a question.
A plant that is native to the dry areas of India, the Middle East, and northern Africa, ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshade family.
Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng)
Eleuthero root has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. A woody shrub that hails from the forests of northeastern Asia, eleuthero is an adaptogen used to increase stamina, as a tonic, and to boost overall health.
The bright red berries of this woody climbing vine that grows in the forested regions of northeastern China, as well as Russia. Schisandra berries have a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Use it as an adaptogen and tonic to promote endurance, lower stress, and boost your immune system.