8 Adaptogens That Can Help With Managing Stress

Stress is a common and often chronic condition many people are facing these days. If you or someone you know is likely to experience stress on a regular basis- you may want to consider the use of adaptogenic herbs to help treat it. The use of adaptogenic herbs in the natural health world is booming right now though it is important to note that the bulk of evidence you will find on its effectiveness is by word of mouth as opposed to scientific fact. However, more research is being done and there are many healthcare practitioners backing the benefits of their use. If you are interested in giving them a try, here is a list of adaptogenic herbs that could potentially help you with managing stress.

1. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is also known as “Indian ginseng”. It is known for helping with a variety of issues from sleep disorders to anxiety, to backaches.

2. Holy Basil

Holy Basil is also used to treat a variety of discomforts. Such discomforts include the common cold, headaches, and migraines. It is also used to treat malaria and even heart disease.

3. Asian Ginseng

This herb improves memory, concentration, and depression. There are many types of ginseng- most of which are touted as natural energy boosters.

4. Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea is known for treating depression and contribute to more mental clarity. It is a root, known also as the “golden root”, and is said to help improve concentration and ease stress.

5. Licorice Root

Licorice Root can help with all sorts of digestive issues such as ulcers, heartburn, and inflammation. It is also used to treat bodily infections and regulate hormone levels.

6. Siberian Ginseng

Some people use Siberian ginseng to improve athletic performance. It provides a boost to the immune system and combats flu symptoms.

7. Astragalus

This herb is often used in combination with other herbs such as ginseng and licorice to increase its effectiveness. It’s good for strengthening the immune system, easing the symptoms of allergies, and managing diabetes.

8. Schisandra

Schisandra is said to protect against disease, stress, strengthens the immune system and provides one with more energy.

If you are considering the use of adaptogenic herbs to help reduce stress and improve your health, consult your healthcare provider first.

Why Everyone is Talking about EFT aka “Tapping”

Too often, people find themselves caught in a cyclone of negative thinking. When left untreated, mental illness and associated physical conditions tend to rob life of its enjoyment. But treatment isn’t necessarily effective. It can involve a strict regimen of chemicals, each with a hefty price tag, not to mention a plethora of serious side effects–which then require treatment of their own. In this way, the cycle of negativity twists and constricts, threatening happiness and siphoning life’s potential.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT Tapping), also known simply as “tapping,” presents a new method for freeing the body and mind from spiraling negativity. No one should be condemned to an endless loop of feeling discontented with treatment followed by treatment to remedy discontent. By dispensing cutting-edge psychiatry through the medium of 5,000 year old Chinese acupressure treatment, tapping aims to offer relief from life’s accumulated baggage. Chronic pain, depression, anxiety, addictions, phobias, post traumatic stress disorder and more: all of these may be relieved via tapping, a remedy that balances the mind, no pill required.

For how effective tapping can be, the technique behind it is remarkably simple. Over millennia, the Chinese have perfected acupuncture to relieve many forms of stress. Acupuncture involves targeting the body’s nearly 400 “meridian points” to promote healing. Tapping invokes a similar technique. Instead of needles, however, tapping requires only its namesake: a series of 5-7 “taps” along the body’s 12 major meridian points. This is done while a patient concentrates on a particular emotion, thought, or other form of distress, framing it within an ideal resolution. Unlike acupuncture, tapping is physically painless, and can be self-applied anywhere.

Traditional doctors and psychologists are understandably skeptical when it comes to tapping. However, a growing body of evidence supports the fact that tapping actually does produce real, beneficial effects. For example, a double-blind study at Harvard Medical School found that stimulating meridian points through pressure–in other words, tapping–reduces the severity of stress and fear responses. Also, in a randomized controlled trial by researcher Dr. Dawson Church, PhD, it was shown that cortisol (stress hormone) levels decreased an average of 24% after an hour-long tapping session. Some of Dawson’s 83 subjects even exhibited reduction rates as significant as 50%. Among the strongest evidence in support of tapping is a 2016 meta-analysis of 14 studies published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, through which researchers were able to verify that EFT facilitated a substantial drop in anxiety scores among adults experiencing emotional distress.

Tapping has undoubtedly changed thousands of lives for the better, however researchers caution that it shouldn’t be taken as a miracle cure-all. The technique works best when combined with traditional cognitive therapy, as well as healthy eating, daily exercise, and other positive lifestyle changes.

An Act of Deception: How Drugs Hijack Your Brain

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How The Brain Works

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The brain is the most complex and intricate organ in the body. It controls everything from breathing, speaking and eating to the most complicated movements humans are capable of performing. Most people don’t have to think about breathing before they actually take a breath, but how exactly does the brain function and carry out the most basic or complex actions?

The brain is broken up into six different regions (cerebrum, cerebellum, frontal lobe, temporal lobes, occipital lobe, parietal lobe, and the limbic system) all of which communicate via chemicals and neurotransmitters.

  • The cerebrum is the largest and hardest working region and is composed of the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
  • The cerebellum controls balance and coordination.
  • The frontal lobe is located at the front of the head and is responsible for personality/behavior, creativity, attention, judgement, smell, physical reactions and coordination.
  • The parietal lobe is located behind the frontal lobe and controls the sensory (touch and pain) and motor (movement) cortexes.
  • Temporal lobes are located near the ears on both sides of the head near the temples. They control language, speech and hearing.
  • The occipital lobe is located at the back of the head and is responsible for vision and facial expressions.
  • The limbic system attaches to the spinal cord and allows the brain to communicate with the rest of the body. It is also in charge of managing basic life support, such as heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. The limbic system also contains the reward system of the brain, which regulates your responses to stimulus such as food, sex, etc. Once stimulated your brain releases dopamine which makes you feel rewarded/happy as a result.

 

How Drugs Trick Your Brain

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Drugs, whether prescribed or illicit, imitate the the naturally occurring chemicals in the brain and trick the body into acting a certain way. Some drugs cause a relief from pain, while other may help with alleviating disruptive symptoms. All drugs work in different ways depending on their intended effects. There are several categories of drugs which affect your brain differently; they are: stimulants, depressants, opioids, cannabinoids, and hallucinogens. All of these have the ability to impair judgement, reasoning and behavior control as well as impairing memory, learning abilities, impulse control, and setting goals just to name a few.

 

  • Depressants induce relaxation and slow down brain activity. Some side effects can include dizziness, confusion, slurred speech, lack of concentration, fever and depression.
  • Stimulants increase dopamine levels in the brain, which produces a euphoric state as well as several side effects including, but not limited to higher heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure decreased appetite, and trouble sleeping.
  • Opioids are mainly used for pain relief and utilize dopamine to control the brain to create a pain-free, euphoric state.
  • Cannabinoids also produce a euphoric feeling and enhance a person’s sensory perception. Some side effects may include: irregular heartbeat, inability of focus on a task, and memory loss, cellular death, shrinking neurons, and DNA fragmentation.
  • Hallucinogens cause the brain to have false sensations or visions. These drugs interfere with how the brain sends messages to the body and therefore cause hallucinations. Other common side effects are an inability to sleep, numbness, tremors, increased heart rate, increased body temperature, high blood pressure and/or paranoia.

 

Once taken, drugs begin to train your brain to want more of what it perceives as a good feeling. It does this by altering your brain chemistry. Each time a person takes a drug and the brain receives positive information from its pleasure center it learns that the drugs are a good thing, regardless of whether or not they actually are. As a result the brain releases more dopamine when it senses drugs in comparison to natural rewards that the body produces on its own.

At this point drugs have successfully hijacked and retrained the brain to continually crave more. The body gradually builds up a tolerance so more drugs are needed to achieve the same level of euphoria and a vicious cycle continues to escalate. After building up a tolerance and dependence on drugs the body is prevented from experiencing any pleasure without the drugs they have been taking due to low dopamine levels being released in comparison to when they are on drugs. A major side effect other than those listed above is a feeling of lifelessness. Many have reported feeling lifeless while experiencing things that used to bring them joy.

 

Multiple Drug Abuse

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Polydrug abuse, or the abuse of more than one substance is extremely dangerous. Using multiple drugs compounds the risks for the user. Instead of experiencing side effects from one drug they can experience side effects from many at once. The rate of addiction increases and the risk of overdose is significantly higher. The risk of death is much higher than if taking one drug.

 

Reversing The Damage

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Taking steps to end drug abuse is challenging both physically and mentally. While drugs hijack the brain and alter brain chemistry there is hope for those struggling with addiction. After the body goes through withdrawals the brain begins to readjust itself and return to pre-drug normalcy for example the brain is capable of regenerating cells over that were destroyed. While some effects the drug cause may be permanent there are many that will disappear with sobriety depending on the intensity of drug abuse and how the body reacts.

In order to reverse the damage inflicted by drugs the body must go through two steps to begin the recovery process.

  1. The changes the drugs made on the brain’s chemistry and structure that compel drug use to continue need to be reversed.
  2. Restore cognitive function that has been lost or damaged.
  • As drugs change the chemistry of the brain they affect the shape of dopamine receptors and make them harder to read. They need to change back to their original shape before drug abuse.

Once the drugs are out of the system the body immediately begins to try to find a new normal and reset itself. While the brain is working to do this there are many ways in which a person can cope mentally. Therapy or a facility specializing in rehabilitation are great resources as well as a medical professional, especially for withdrawal periods. The absolutely most important step to take in a person’s recovery is removing oneself from any and all exposure to the drugs a person was addicted to. Medical support may be necessary as well depending on the severity of the drug abuse.

According to recent studies on drug abuse in 2016 28.6 million people aged 12 and over used illicit drugs in the past month in the United States alone. That is over 10% of the American population. In the 18-25 age group over 25% used illicit drugs in the past month. Of those people only 1.4% received any sort of treatment. Those numbers are staggering and unbelievably concerning. Knowledge can be a powerful motivator to never use drugs or to cease using them altogether. Knowing just how drugs can hijack your brain could be a matter of life and death. There is hope for the almost 30 million people in the USA and more worldwide engaging in illicit drug use. Encourage others to seek medical and/or psychological help in dealing with their addictions to keep as many people healthy as is possible. Check local facilities’ websites for more information and how to receive help.

A Look into Mind-Body Medicine

In most Western medical practices, mental health and physical health are viewed as two separate entities; physical health is handled by a primary care physician and mental health is covered by a psychologist or psychiatrist as needed. However, newer practices are pulling from centuries-old beliefs that the health of the mind and the health of the body are more interconnected than we’ve been practicing.

Mens sana in corpore sano.

In ancient Greek times, there was a firm and widely held belief that the mind and body are connected and influence the health of one another. A well-known Latin phrase was developed from this belief: “mens sana in corpore sano” translates to mean “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” In essence, total, holistic wellness is wellness in both your mental and physical health. This duality between mind and body remained the common belief and practice until the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods when they were separated into two different entities. In the 17th century, Rene Descarte described humans as being comprised of two contrasting substances which could not unify with one another; the mind being sentient and able to reason but without substance, and the body with substance but constricted to the physics of earth whereas the mind is not.

Reconnecting the mind and body.

As medical knowledge progressed and our understanding of health deepened, the importance and influence of the mind began to creep its way back into discussions of physical health in the 20th century. They began to study the power that the mind has over the body in the wake of studies on how placebos can affect the body’s ability to control pain.

Mind-body health today.

Today, an entire sector of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is devoted to researching the connection between mind and body health. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) studies the impact that mental, social, emotional, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect a person’s health.

Some mind-body medicine practices from the NCCIH include mindfulness, meditation, tai chi, yoga, deep breathing, massage, and homeopathy. Mind-body practices also promote the use of natural products like herbs, minerals, probiotics, and vitamins.

The designation that mind-body health practices are “alternative medicine” presents a misinforming picture of the power that incorporating these holistic practices in life can have. “Alternative” gives the impression that all typical Western health practices are abandoned when in reality it just expands the scope through with which we view these practices and understand their impact.