Tag Archives: chronic stress

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Yoga for a Quiet Mind

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Fight the effects of stress with Adaptogens

Article reprinted from: Mother Earth Living

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Stress
We all have it, we all complain about it, but we also all downplay the affect it has on our health and well-being. Small amounts of stress are motivating and propel us in a forward motion allowing us to be inspired and passionate. Large amounts of stress, such as family emergencies or financial burdens, are also a part of life and can’t always be avoided. Our body has an incredible ability to change how it functions under stress in order to protect us and then it quickly recovers from the event allowing us to rest and come back to a normal state of functioning. When stress goes on too long, and the body does not have a chance to recover, we begin to feel illness and dis-ease.

Adaptogens are an elite class of herbs that are superstars at helping the body to handle stress, recover from stress, and improve our stamina, focus, and vitality. These herbs are our “stress relief” herbs because of their ability to always bring the body back to a state of balance. If something

in the body is functioning in a hyper or hypo state, adaptogens bring these functions back in alignment.

For an herb to be classified as an adaptogen it needs to meet a few requirements:

  1. The herb must be non-toxic to the recipient.
  2. An adaptogen produces a non-specific response in the body- an increase in the power of resistance against multiple stressors including physical, chemical, or biological agents.
  3. An adaptogen has a normalizing influence on physiology, irrespective of the direction of change from physiological norms caused by the stressor.

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Many herbs meet some of these requirements, and have adaptogenic properties, but only a few are truly considered adaptogenic herbs. Here are a few adaptogens that I regularly use in practice:

  • Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is a mild adaptogen that enhances stamina and speeds recovery; excellent for athletes. It also enhances immune function and rebuilds white blood counts which is helpful for individuals recovering from serious immune depletions. This also a great herb for the “wired and tired” individual normally referred to as Type A personality.
  • Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) is an herb I use with people who suffer depression and depletions of the immune system. Rhodiola supports various endocrine glands and is useful for men and women who experience conditions related to glandular function deficiencies.
  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) has a protective energy that helps prevent illness. This herb is useful for people who get sick often and it also prevents immunosupression caused by chemotherapy. Astragalus enhances the inner strength of individuals receiving cancer therapies allowing them to respond better and to recover more quickly. Astragalus is also very useful for sweating conditions such as night sweats during menopause.
  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is believed to give its users the stamina and strength of a stallion enhancing vigor and sexual prowess. Sign me up! Along with it’s use as an aphrodisiac it has endocrine system benefits specifically with the thyroid and adrenal glands. This herb is also useful for anxiety, fatigue, cloudy thinking and insomnia due to stress.
  • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) this herb is most useful for those with adrenal fatigue and insufficiency. I add this to formulas for people who wake up tired, feel exhausted throughout the day, and have elevated cortisol levels. This herb is also useful for inflammatory bowel conditions and ulcers. It is also a great synergistic herb, which means that it just makes other herbs work better when placed together in a formula. There is some concern about using this herb with those suffering from hypertension because of its ability to raise blood pressure.
  • Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) considers schisandra berries the “five flavors fruit” because each of the flavors are present in the berry (sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty). Because it has all of the flavors it has benefits for the five yin organs: liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and spleen.

There are many more adaptogenic herbs, I have just chosen to highlight the ones I regularly use in practice. Most individuals today are suffering from some type of stress-related condition so it is no surprise that adaptogenic herbs most always make it into one of their recommended herbal formulas. Choosing an adaptogen that is just right for your unique needs is important, although you will experience positive benefits from choosing any one of them.

Please ask if you have questions or want to know is an adaptogen is right for you.

ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: KRIS VAUGHAN

References:
Winston, D., Maimes, S. “Adaptogens:Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief” Healing Arts Press 2007

Hershoff ND, A., Rotelli ND, A. “Herbal Remedies” 2001

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Happy Halloween!

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October in National Spinal Health Month – The basics of Posture

Posture is the way you hold your body while standing, sitting, or performing tasks like lifting, bending, pulling, or reaching. If your posture is good, the bones of the spine — the vertebrae — are correctly aligned.

4 steps toward good posture

You can improve your posture — and head off back pain — by practicing some imagery and a few easy exercises.

  • Imagery. Think of a straight line passing through your body from ceiling to floor (your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should be even and line up vertically). Now imagine that a strong cord attached to your breastbone is pulling your chest and rib cage upward, making you taller. Try to hold your pelvis level — don’t allow the lower back to sway. Think of stretching your head toward the ceiling, increasing the space between your rib cage and pelvis. Picture yourself as a ballerina or ice skater rather than a soldier at attention.
  • Shoulder blade squeeze. Sit up straight in a chair with your hands resting on your thighs. Keep your shoulders down and your chin level. Slowly draw your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of five; relax. Repeat three or four times.
  • Upper-body stretch. Stand facing a corner with your arms raised, hands flat against the walls, elbows at shoulder height. Place one foot ahead of the other. Bending your forward knee, exhale as you lean your body toward the corner. Keep your back straight and your chest and head up. You should feel a nice stretch across your chest. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds. Relax.
  • Arm-across-chest stretch. Raise your right arm to shoulder level in front of you and bend the arm at the elbow, keeping the forearm parallel to the floor. Grasp the right elbow with your left hand and gently pull it across your chest so that you feel a stretch in the upper arm and shoulder on the right side. Hold for 20 seconds; relax both arms. Repeat to the other side. Repeat three times on each side.

Practice these imagery and posture exercises throughout the day. You might try to find a good trigger to help you remember, such as doing one or more of them when you get up from your desk, or right before scheduled breaks and lunch. Soon it will become a habit.

Adapted from Harvard Med School’s newsletter, HealthBeat

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October 16 – World Spine day!

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Taking Care of Your Body

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Taking Sleep Seriously

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