What is stress exactly?
The image above is known as the HPA axis (hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal)
There is a stimulus: (The howling of your insane three year old in Walmart), Hypothalamus is stimulated then sends a signal to the pituitary, hormones are released and then the adrenal glands are activated releasing stress hormones. Fight or Flight has happened (don't fight the 3 year old it wont work, trust me, RUN!!!)
These are the adrenal glands, they are just little pyramids of cells on top of the kidney. They regulate many processes in the body. With a stressor they work really hard. Continual stress causes them to work continually. Causing adrenal exhaustion. Many alternative health practitioners treat this sub-clinical condition with adaptogenic herbs.
Severe adrenal exhaustion is known as Addison’s Disease. Adrenal exhaustion from daily environmental and mental stress is not recognized by modern medicine.
There is no negative feedback mechanism for stress hormones except to stop the stimulus.
What happens when this stress is constant? Going to a job every day that you dread, living with an abusive partner, or even a stressful profession like being a first responder, nurse, doctor, therapist any profession where there is constant stress…have kids?…a spouse…live in this society??? You have and probably still are experiencing stress. Do we just get used to these signals and become in balance over time? Do we just get used to stress so the effects just go away? Nope. No matter how strong, butch, fabulous or omniscient you are...if there is a stress stimulus, there is a stress response.
During prolonged stress cortisol kicks in to modify the amount of adrenaline and noradrenaline in the system. The symptoms of high cortisol are:
High blood glucose levels
Kidneys retaining water and salt
High blood volumes and raises blood pressure
Erectile dysfunction/loss of sexual drive
There is evidence that chronic stress effects dopamine production. Tyrosine>L Dopa>Dopamine>Norepinephrine>Epinephrine
So now that everyone is freaked all the way out…there is hope.
You have the power to stop the cortisol merry go round. How? Self-care. Its kind of a thing these days too...awesome!!!
Herbs can be used in a number of ways for treating stress.
Teas: there are many herbs that support health. There are specifically two classes of herbs called Nervines and Adaptogens.
Hops, Lavender, Passion flower (do not use if you take an opiate or opioid), Lemon Balm, Skullcap. These are all relaxing nervines
Some Adaptogenic herbs: Holy Basil, Panax ginseng, Rhodiola, Wolfberry, Reishi mushroom, Ashwaganda, Eleuthro root, Astragalus. Adaptogenic herbs support and nourish nerves and tissues causing an all round well being.
A Relaxing Tea Recipe:
1 part Lemon Balm
1 part Holy Basil
1/2 part peppermint
1/4 part Lavender flowers
Pour hot water over herbs and steep for 5 minutes or Put herbs in cold water to infuse overnight or in the sun.
Facials: nothing like an herbal facemask to sooth, smooth and relax with, here is a great recipe I have used myself:
Cucumber and Honey Mask (Very cooling, anti inflammatory, moisturizing, antimicrobial and healing)
½ a cucumber, peeled unless organic, reserve 2 slices, put in the bullet or blender
1 tablespoon honey
Put both in blender blend till smooth, apply to face, put reserved cucumber slices over yout eyes and breathe in clear clean air breathe out stress. Rinse after 15-20 minutes. A great pick me up!
Foot baths and Body Baths, nothing like a bath, here is a quick way to relax from the day
1 tablespoon Peppermint leaves
1 tablespoon Lavender Flowers
7 drops of Tea tree in one tablespoon of carrier oil (added to a footbath for foot fungus)
Never use undiluted essential oils in a tub, water and oil does not mix and sensitive mucosal areas can have a serious reaction to undiluted Eos.
Drop into hot water and relax breathe the vapors, take 20 minutes just to unwind after a long day
Nourishment: Nourishing herbs can be very antioxidant and build strong tissues and help to resolve environmental stressors. These herbs are Oatstraw, Nettle, Chickweed, Burdock root, Marshmallow and Slippery Elm. Be sure your diet is as free of processed foods as possible.
Mindfulness: Bring yourself to the present moment and breathe in any situation to interrupt the HPA axis stimulation
Meditation: Take 5 Close your eyes and listen to your breath. Do nothing allow your thoughts to come and go naturally. This has been clinically proven to help with stress symptoms
Energy work: Reiki, Shamanic energy work, massage, anything that helps to balance energy fields. Stress effects our energy, saps it and sends us down the road to cortisol production
Exercise: Be in nature. Exercise and nature have been shown over and over in clinical studies to help relieve stress.
Neurohack! Just naming the emotions that are causing stress and putting them into a more positive spin will help to calm the HPA. Here are some examples:
Fear to Anticipation
Worry to Concern
Flustered to Excited
Frustrated to Desire
Can you see how this can work? The positive emotions can help you to regain control over your body, your heartbeat, your calm and a more positive state.
At that point you have hacked into your physiology. Simple right?
There is a little bit about Stress. We all deal with it every day. Environmental stresses, Emotional Stresses, Nutritional Stresses. While it is everywhere there are many things we can do to give ourselves the empowerment to turn off the stimulus and regain our health.
Mamma Moon (Donna Bass)
I have been studying plants for as long as I can remember after being introduced to the healing arts by my nana when I was just a girl in the wilds of Maine. I started working in the alternative health area in 1992, working with Salandrea Golding and taking classes and working with clients. In 1998 I served a formal apprenticeship with Salandrea in NH. In order to better serve my clients I enrolled in The University of New England in 2005, graduated with a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience. I then went to Sofia University and studied energy and healing at the Masters level until 2013. I then achieved my Master Herbalist degree in March of 2018. I have studied all over the US including a month making essential oils in Hawaii. I consider myself a bridge between the healthcare system and the self care system, using wise woman tradition and modern scientific method.
I take clients and do education all over the United States and am looking to expand to Europe and beyond. I can be reached through facebook messenger.
I teach a 3-4 class in-depth series on Stress and different ways to address stress and overcome the effects of stress. There is one coming up August 30 at Kae Apothecary in Mt. Vernon.
Herbalists Without Borders has a new chapter in Cedar Rapids!!! Talk to Donna FMI
Any books by Susun Weed or Rosemary Gladstar are recommended here are some sample titles:
Childbearing Year, Healing Wise, The Menopausal Year
Healing Herbs, Herbs for Natural Beauty, Herbal Healing for Women
Family Herbal for beginners
Welcome to the Mamma Moon Blog.
We discuss Herbs, the Science of Herbs and Aromatherapy. I also draw a Card of the Day.
Grab a cup of tea or wine and enjoy. Feel free to participate. ~Mamma Moon