A UK survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation found that 74% of UK adults had felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. And this survey was conducted in 2018, before we had a global pandemic to contend with. More recently, in June this year Pinterest reported the highest searches ever around mental wellness ideas including yoga (+80%), meditation (+56%) and mindfulness (+35%). We are increasingly seeking out ways to reduce our stress levels. Addressing the root causes along with mindfulness practices are an important place to start, but supplements for stress can also help us to reduce the impacts. Here are 10 evidence-based supplements to consider.
Valerian is a herb native to Asia and Europe. Valerian root extract is available as a supplement and noted for its anti-anxiety capabilities and mild sedative effects. The plant extract contains isovaleric acid and valeric acid, two substances that help calm the body and mind. According to a study in The National Institute Of Health, valerian is an effective supplement for helping those with sleep issues and insomnia. In the study, 128 participants took 400mg of valerian for nine nights. The scientists involved claimed that, ‘evaluation of the questionnaires showed a statistically significant improvement in subjectively measured sleep.’ In addition, research by PubMed describes how valerian works by interacting with GABA levels, producing anxiolytic activity in the brain and body. We often recommend A.Vogel’s Dormesan Sleep Valerian-Hops to clients who struggle to get off to sleep.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound extracted from the cannabis plant. CBD has no intoxicating effects; however, has been shown to exert both anti-anxiety and pain relief capabilities. Cannabidiol has been linked to reducing the symptoms of both anxiety and depression, the British Journal of Pharmacology suggests that ‘ the activation of 5-HT1A receptors may mediate the effects of CBD’ adding that ‘ 5-HT1A receptor activation may induce antidepressant-like effects.’ Chronic pain can be a significant cause of stress for many, research demonstrates a link between CBD and arthritis pain. The data shows that ‘topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviors and inflammation without evident side-effects.’ Though the study focused on arthritis, CBD can also be used for neuropathic pain or general pain relief. CBD supplements come in many forms including capsules, sprays, tinctures and even cbd gummies.
ST JOHN’S WORT
St John’s Wort is a herbal supplement that has been demonstrated to help alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms. Science Direct discusses a large scale study whereby ‘27 clinical trials with a total of 3808 patients were reviewed, comparing the use of St John’s wort and SSRI.’ SSRI stands for ‘Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor’; pharmaceutical antidepressants that work to elevate serotonin levels within the brain. The studies showed that ‘for patients with mild-to-moderate depression, St John’s wort has comparable efficacy and safety when compared to SSRIs.’ It’s believed that hyperforin, the active compound, helps to relax the nervous system. We recommend A.Vogel’s Hypericum.
BACOPA MONNIERI (BRAHMI)
Bacopa monnieri is one of the key herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is sometimes referred to as ‘water hyssop’ or ‘brahmi.’ One study in the Natural Library Of Medicine examines the stress reduction capabilities of Bacopa. The study involved feeding Bacopa to rats, before an ‘exposure of stress.’ The scientists concluded that, ‘the standardized extract of B. monniera possesses a potent adaptogenic activity.’ An adaptogen refers to a substance that occurs naturally and can help our bodies adapt to stress. Bacopa has also been linked to improving the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. However, the scientific evidence to support these claims is currently limited and further research is needed to establish how effective Bacopa is in these areas. Try supplementing Cytoplan’s Bacopa Monnieri.
Rhodiola is a yellow flowering plant, sometimes referred to as ‘arctic root’. Also an adaptogen, Rhodiola has long been used in medicine, particularly across Northern Europe and in the Arctic regions. The National Library Of Medicine published a study about the effects of Rhodiola on stress levels. Several tests were undertaken and, ‘invariably, all tests showed clinically relevant improvements about stress symptoms.’ Rhodiola contains both rosavin and salidroside; it’s believed that these substances reduce stress symptoms within the body. We recommend BioMedica’s Rhodiola Complex.
Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. The herb has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol levels. It’s also believed that Ashwagandha can help regulate blood sugar levels and ease inflammation. According to an article on the Medicine journal website, ‘In an 8-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study ashwagandha was associated with greater reductions in anxiety, morning cortisol, and blood pressure in chronically stressed adults.’ Try Pukka’s Wholistic Ashwagandha.
Magnesium is a mineral vital for human health. It is involved in many different reactions in the body; playing a key role in energy production and is required for the healthy function of nerves and muscles. It can be found in foods such as spinach, almonds, dark chocolate, and avocado. Magnesium acts as a smooth muscle relaxant and a popular supplement for stress and sleep. A study in the Journal Of Research in Medical Sciences, showed that ‘supplementation of magnesium appears to improve subjective measures of insomnia such as ISI score, sleep efficiency, sleep time, and sleep onset latency.’ Stress and sleep are strongly linked, so if you know that lack of quality sleep is contributing to your stress, try bathing in magnesium salts before bed. We love BetterYou’s magnesium body butter.
Lemon balm is a herb that comes from the mint family; its botanical name is ‘melissa officinalis.’ The plant is native to West Asia, North Africa and parts of Europe. According to Health Line, a study conducted in 2004 proved that lemon balm effectively reduced stress. The individuals from the study reported, ‘an increased sense of calmness and reduced feelings of alertness.’ Lemon balm may have other health properties, including relieving indigestion and helping to treat cold sores. Viridian’s L-Theanine and Lemon Balm combines two naturally calming agents in one supplement.
B vitamins play a key role in energy production and cognitive function. Studies demonstrated that supplementation with folic acid, B12, and B6 improved cognitive function such as memory and information processing speed. There are a number of different types of B vitamins, including thiamine, biotin, and folate. According to research in the Nutritional Journal, consuming a higher levels of B vitamins has been linked to stress reduction. B vitamins are naturally occurring in many foods, including eggs, meat, whole grains, and nuts. They can also be taken as supplements for stress; try BioMedica’s BioActivated Bs.
Chamomile is a flowering plant commonly consumed in the form of a tea, but you can also take it in supplement form for a more therapeutic dose. A study published in the BMC Complementary Medicine Therapies journal concluded that, ‘Chamomile could provide modest benefits of daytime functioning and mixed benefits on sleep diary measures relative to placebo in adults with chronic primary insomnia.’ It’s also been suggested that chamomile can improve digestive health and improve blood sugar regulation. We like New Nordic’s Melissa Dream which contains chamomile along with other natural calming agents.
Plant-based supplements for stress have many benefits; however, they can cause interactions with some pharmaceutical medications. For this reason, you should first discuss your choices with a medical professional. Always take note of the stated dose, and bear in mind that most supplements are best consumed with food.
All of the supplements for stress mentioned in this article are available through The Natural Dispensary and can purchased at a discount using our code: PEARSON10.