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Natural stress relievers: the most effective ones

Natural stress relievers: the most effective ones

Some natural extracts can fight stress and promote mental wellbeing

Stress can be considered a "major medical problem of the century" and is undoubtedly a side effect of modern living. In fact, as we shall see later, stress is not necessarily a bad thing: it can sometimes be positive and help us live life to the fullest. The problem arises when stress is too much and lasts too long.

Herbal medicine can also help us in this situation: there are different plants that can be used as real natural stress relievers.

Before going through the herbs most commonly used in supplements for this purpose, let's shed some light on the key concepts of "stress" and "relaxation".

Stress and relaxation: complementary and equally useful

Stress is the body's response to a change and is a useful factor because it promotes the adaptation of the person to sudden events, positive or negative; it can therefore be considered an "adaptation reaction".

The term "relaxation", instead, refers to a natural body function that is opposed to the concept of "stress": being relaxed basically means having a state of minimum muscle tension; it follows that, if muscles are relaxed, so are nerves.

Is stress always negative?

More and more people in these "modern times" see their expenditure of nervous energy grow: stress has therefore become a synonym for irritability, fatigue, tension and so on.

However, stress does not necessarily play a negative role, on the contrary its presence, to the right extent, is important because it promotes body adaptation to everyday tasks and builds resilience to cope with life challenges, causing us to resort to unexpected resources!

See, for example, the mental and physical reaction of our body in front of a positive but challenging event like as a sudden job promotion! In this case, the body uses new energies and resources, sometimes unexpected, to face this new challenge. In this case, stress is beneficial and is therefore called eustress.

The problem arises when stress is too much and lasts too long. Indeed, our body cannot cope with stress, reactivity and tension for too long. When this happens, stress makes us "misfire" and becomes negative; in such a case, one speaks of distress.

Distress can lead to a range of physical and psychological disorders: for example, it can also affect our mental health, or that state in which (according to a definition provided by the WHO, World Health Organization) we can make the most of all our cognitive and emotional abilities.

Work organization and stress

Other possible consequences of excessive stress are sleep disorders, decreased libido, impaired mental performance, hypertension, gastric and intestinal disorders etc.

Relaxing activities against stress

It is therefore important to curb excess stress through relaxation, a natural mechanism to rebalance the body. There are many methods and tools available to us to relax, just think of the variety of meditative disciplines of oriental origin now very spread to the West (yoga, tai chi and so on).

In addition to meditation, in our spare time we can do activities that contribute to our physical and mental relaxation. The choice of a relaxing activity is very personal and may consist, for example, in listening to music, reading, going for a walk in the open air, sleeping, playing sports, play or interact with an animal, engaging in a hobby and even watching television.

The six most commonly used plants as natural stress relievers

While aware that, in our modern life, more and more factors can cause a measurable increase in stress, it is important to remember that with a few tips and tricks we can still relax. This will depend, of course, on the individual willing to "switch off" at the right time; however, to keep as much as possible a balance between stress and relaxation, you can also make use of a concrete help from Nature: there are different plants that can be used as a natural stress reliever and as a support to maintain our mental well-being.

The most effective and widely used plants in herbal medicine are:

1) Griffonia

Griffonia is a plant widely used in supplements for its capacity to promote relaxation and mental well-being; its seeds, in fact, «contain 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP), a precursor of serotonin, the ''hormone of happiness", which in the body is involved in various physiological functions, including mood, sleep and appetite regulation" (C. Valnet, L’erborista – Erbe e piante medicinali, Edizioni R.E.I., 2016).

Natural sleep remedies

Sleep well - tablets

2) Passionflower

Passiflora, also known as passionflower, is a climbing plant native to the areas of Central and South America.

Passionflower whole extract

Passionflower was introduced to Europe at the beginning of the seventeenth century as an ornamental plant, because of its showy flower, and is now used in herbal medicine as a natural anti-stress remedy. Indeed, "passionflower leaves" are a common ingredient of many calming herbal teas. It has shown to have a relaxing activity on the nervous system [...] Together with other herbal medicines, it is very useful in case of anxiety and insomnia in children".  (F. Perugini Billi, Manuale di fitoterapia, Azzano San Paolo, 2004).

3) Oats

Oats is an herbaceous plant widely cultivated to obtain the famous cereal used for food purposes.

Oats - titrated extract 

Natural remedies to improve your state of mind

Among cereals, oats is the richest in nutrients (particularly protein and essential fatty acids). In the past, a decoction made from oatmeal was given as a tonic.

Like other grains, oats also supplies a good amount of tryptophan. Its extract can support mental well-being and, above all, aid relaxation in case of stress; not surprisingly, «oats is considered an excellent "tonic" for the nervous system» (F. Perugini Billi, Ibidem).

4) Lavender

In the past, lavender salts were used as stimulants in case of fainting; today, instead, lavender is widely used both in herbal medicine and in aromatherapy as a "relaxing" remedy, also useful in promoting sleep and a healthy state of mind.

Lavender is one of the most used natural anti-stress remedies: it is included as ingredient in the formulation of specific supplements in synergy with other plants that promote relaxation to enhance its effects and effectiveness.


Mental fatigue: how to fight it naturally

5) Rhodiola

Rhodiola is a perennial herbaceous plant also known as "golden root" for the richness of its properties. The extract of its roots in fact boast an adaptogen effect very similar to that of ginseng, which can help our body to adapt to external changes and resist fatigue and stress.

Rhodiola - whole extract   

Mental fatigue: how to fight it naturally

In addition, some clinical studies « have shown that Rhodiola reduces mental fatigue» (F. Capasso, R. de Pasquale, G. Grandolin, Farmacognosia: Botanica, chimica e farmacologia delle piante medicinali, Springer, Milano 2014).

 6) Valerian

Valerian may perhaps be considered the "queen" of the natural anti-stress remedies: not by chance its name derives from the Latin verb valere, which literally means "feel good". Thanks to these virtues, valerian is today used in several specific supplements, alone or in synergy with other plants and nutrients. As a matter of fact, «modern herbal medicine reccomends it for hyper-excitability, irritability, work related stress, tension headache and insomnia» (B. Brigo, Salute e benessere con le piante nelle 7 età dell’uomo, Milano 2009).

Valerian - whole extract

A special feature of oats ...

Oats is a plant belonging to the genus of Graminacee, which can reach one meter height; its leaves are thin and elongated, while the flowers are gathered in groups of two or three bunches, in small ears which constitute a thin and high cob.

The most striking aspect of oats is that it is "an anemophilous plant, literally wind-loving, meaning the act of the wind pollinating flowering plants and gymnosperms" (F. Alaimo, Erboristeria planetaria. Proprietà curative e simbologia delle piante, Roma 2007).

Stress: your friend, not your enemy

In summary, we can therefore say that too much stress can be harmful to our health and encourage the development of different types of disorders, including those relating to sleep.

In these situations, however, we can help our body, making small changes to our lifestyle (when possible) and resorting to specific natural aids, such as some plant extracts. These natural stress relievers definitely do not remove the stressors but will help us to deal with them better.

Tryptophan, food and mental well-being

The body synthesises neurotransmitters (the most famous of which is serotonin) needed to control excessive stress; one of the fundamental elements to produce these neurotransmitters is tryptophan, an essential amino acid that the human body is unable to synthesise, and that therefore must necessarily be introduced with food.

It is therefore evident that the higher the level of tryptophan, the greater will be the production of serotonin in the brain, which in turn may make up for an excess or prolonged stress condition. Therefore, it is good to have a diet rich in elements that contain tryptophan, such as soy, whole grains, legumes, milk, nuts and seeds, avocados...



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