During a time that advertises joy and cheer, stress often takes front seat as the leading character running the show during the holiday season.
The holidays can be particularly demanding and a cause of stress on many levels due to factors such as increased engagements, gift shopping, financial worries, travel, family gatherings, poor dietary choices, and lack of sleep.
When we can't eliminate or reduce the stress in our lives we can add on extra support in order for our bodies to better cope with the temporary stressor. Our dietary and lifestyle choices should always come first however supplementation can provide a much needed ally to your toolkit.
Today we are sharing 4 of our favourite herbs that will help you to cope better with the inevitable stressors of the holidays and give you a little more chill.
4 herbal anti-stress remedies
A traditional Ayurvedic herb and adaptogen that is now widely used for its anti-stress effects, ashwagandha is becoming quite a popular remedy in the West.
Ashwagandha has been shown to be effective at reducing anxiety, at even comparable levels to the modern anxiety reducing medication, lorazepam (3).
But it's not just anxiety that ashwagandha can support, it can also specifically help agoraphobia, anxiety that is related to crowded spaces or unfamiliar environments, which seem to be a theme during the holidays.
Ashwagandha hasn't only been found to reduce stress, but it can also improve sleep, yet another benefit we could all use during the busy season (4).
Though this medicinal and adaptogenic mushroom provides a wide range of health benefits, it's particularly referred to for its ability to lower stress and provide a calming effect on the mind and body.
When your mind is overactive and just can't seem to turn off at the precise moment that you are trying to fall asleep, reishi may help. Reishi doesn't act like many other sedating sleep aids as it doesn't make you drowsy. Instead it promotes feelings of calmness and wellbeing not only at night but also during the day, helping to combat the effects of stress.
A well known herb for its floral aroma, lavender isn't only used for its lovely scent, it also provides therapeutic effects for health.
Lavender has a calming effect on the nervous system, increasing parasympathetic activity but without producing sedation. It has been shown to be effective at reducing not just anxiety, but also tension, sleep troubles, and depressive symptoms (7)(8).
Research has found that lavender supplementation can significantly decrease anxiety but may also be an effective and well-tolerated alternative to drugs like benzodiazepines for the improvement of generalized anxiety (9)(10).
If you are in need of a mood shift, add a few drops of lavender essential oil to your diffuser to promote calm during your day or onto your pillowcase to breathe in some relaxation as you fall asleep at night. Lavender is also available as a supplement.
Also known as tulsi, holy basil is an important herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of health conditions as well as counteract the effects of stress.
Increasing evidence indicates that holy basil can address a variety of different stressors including physical, chemical, emotional, metabolic, and psychological (11).
A study found that those who took 500mg of holy basil extract on a daily basis felt less anxiety, stress, and depressive symptoms while feeling more social (12).
It's like it was made to help you get through the holidays!
Holy basil has even been shown to possess antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties similar to antidepressant drugs (12).
Recent studies suggest that holy basil is effective at treating various stress related conditions, however as an adaptogenic herb it is recommended to consume as more of a preventative support. This can help to enhance the body's ability to adapt to stress that occurs over time, because let's be honest it's rarely a one time occurrence, and prevent the development of health conditions related to stress.