With around 65% of adults reported to experience stress or anxiety, Jane Wolfe seeks out some naturally calming influences
The Health & Safety Executive’s definition of stress is: “The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed on them … the body’s natural response to a demanding situation.” Now, we all need a certain amount of pressure in our lives to make us get out of bed in the morning, but when it begins to take a toll on our physical and mental health, well it’s time to take action. With 10.4 million working days lost to stress, depression and anxiety in 2011-2012 – costing industry £3.7 billion – and an estimated 65% of adults experiencing some form of stress or anxiety, there is a massive market for anti-anxiety remedies. As well as using relaxation techniques such as massage and meditation, and exercis-ing regularly to reduce the effects of stress, many people find help from therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy, visualization and mindfulness techniques. And, of course, stress and anxiety is an area in which the natural products industry comes into its own. Stress can manifest itself in many ways – with physical symptoms including aching muscles, dull skin and hair, insomnia or broken sleep, tiredness and lethargy, and emotional symptoms like depression, mood swings, confusion and frustration – and there are effective, safe natural solutions available for all of these problems.
“I think that it’s far more common now to find people who are stressed in every walk of life,” says June Crisp from Bio-Health. “People take it for granted now; it’s accepted that you should be busy, you should be doing things, you should be chasing around. “Modern life is stressful and there’s very little time to sit and think. I honestly believe one of the best things you can do for stress is to take time out – take half an hour every morning to sit and look out of the window and do nothing. It’s a type of meditation. You have to switch off and stop.” Stress can be caused by a variety of factors including work pressures, illness, poor nutrition and significant life events such as exams, divorce and death. With all these potential stressors in our everyday lives and people’s increasing reluctance to take chemical antidepressants, it’s little wonder more sufferers are turning to alternatives. “Stress and anxiety is always a mainstay, but we’ve definitely seen higher numbers of people admitting to stress when maybe they didn’t in the past; they are slightly more open to dealing with it now because it’s talked about more and is not seen as a weakness but rather a frailty of being human,” says Marcus Webb, technical director at Hadley Wood Healthcare.
Chamomile is well known as a relaxing tea, but Crisp strongly recommends taking Chamomile Flowers in capsule form. “If you have a nervous tummy, chamomile will calm you right down. It’s my desert island herb. It’s a remedy that’s been around for a long time and works in the digestive tract as well as the nervous system, so you benefit in two ways. It isn’t going to make you feel sleepy either.” She also recommends it for when people are bereaved: “You don’t want to take away the feeling of bereavement, as this is very important to go through, but you want to calm down and it’s perfect for that.” L-theanine – the amino acid found in green tea – has been found to be extremely effective when it comes to stress. It works in around 30 minutes and has no known drug interactions.
“I honestly believe one of the best things you can do for stress is to take time out … you have to switch off and stop”
L-theanine is a derivative of glutamic acid, one of the neurotransmitters found in the brain. “Once you ingest L-theanine, it enhances alpha wave production in the brain – alpha waves are the dominant brainwave pattern when people are alert, yet relaxed,” explains Webb. “The great thing is that L-theanine works without sedation. When our patients swapped from kava kava to L-theanine years ago, the response from them was that they were getting the same, if not a better, effect on their stress but didn’t feel tired on it,” he adds. For panic attacks, Webb advises taking the powder directly on the tongue as it gets into the system far quicker for fast relief.
Sleep your troubles away
Good quality sleep is vital in times of stress, however insomnia or poor quality sleep is often one of the first indicators of anxiety, so some-thing soporific is just what is required, at least at night time. “I would say valerian and passiflora are the two herbs you naturally think of first for de-stressing,” says Crisp. Often used in combination, valerian is a natural relaxant useful for nervousness, insomnia, restlessness and a nervous stomach, while passiflora (passion flower) – used by the Aztecs as a relaxing drink – has a mild sedative effect and aids sleep. Crisp adds that as there are many herbs which are useful for different aspects of stress and anxiety, and which work in different ways, you need to think about how stress specifically affects you. “If you’ve got butterflies or a bit of sickness – if that’s the way stress affects you – Camomile Flowers is the one to use. But if you’re finding it difficult to fall asleep, valerian is good. If you fall asleep but then wake up in the early hours of the morning, passiflora is good,” she explains. Another sleep inducer is hops which acts directly on the central nervous system to aid relaxation and create a calming effect. It is often taken in combination with other herbs, including passion flower and valerian. Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb that works by relaxing the body and balancing mood. A recent study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, found that ash-wagandha improves sleep quality and promotes mental calm and relaxation. The randomized, placebo-controlled trial found that taking a daily dose of 600mg high concentration full spectrum ashwagandha root extract for 60 days was associated with a 27.9% reduction in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as a 44% reduction in the Perceived Stress Scale and 72% in the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale. Staying in the Ayurvedic arena, Webb says he gets good results with holy basil. “In Ayurvedic medicine it is called tulsi and is taken as a tea or capsule as a regular anti-anxiety supplement,” he explains. “The actual volatile oils contained in holy basil appear to have a calming and sedating effect on the central nervous system; it also has the ability to slightly enhance mood, so as well as calming people, they do feel generally happier on holy basil.”
The magnesium solution
Magnesium is a critical mineral involved in over 300 of the human body’s bio-chemical reactions but it can be depleted by certain stress hormones and this can lead to a vicious circle as deficiency can result in increased anxiety and panic attacks. Andrew Thomas, founder and managing director of BetterYou Ltd, explains: “Magnesium is our natural relaxant – it is responsible for our body’s ability to relax, to cope with stress, to produce oxygenated energy, to normalise blood flow and to help muscles rest after contraction. Recent studies suggest that magnesium can have a calming effect on the nervous system, help ease anxiety and relax stiff and aching muscles, helping people achieve a good quality of sleep. “When magnesium levels are low, the nervous system gets out of balance and we feel increasingly anxious, with our muscles naturally tightening. Magnesium defic-iency promotes excessive muscle tension, leading to spasms, tics, restlessness and twitches. Studies also suggest that magnesium deficiency may be one of the causes of insomnia.” Natural food sources of magnesium include rice bran, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, kelp, coconut water, cashews and buckwheat. However, the decrease of magnesium levels in fruit and veg and the increased consumption of processed foods has led to widespread deficiency. In addition, several factors prevent efficient magnesium absorption, including reduced stomach acid due to age and stress, overuse of antacids, and fizzy drink consumption which causes the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys, as does caffeine and alcohol consumption. “We believe that mag-nesium chloride – the most stable form of magnesium – is the type best absorbed and retained by the body,” says Thomas, who adds that transdermal magnesium supplementation allows the mineral to be slowly fed into the body over time and also avoids any potential laxative effect. “So the key to magnesium uptake is little but often,” he explains. Omega-3s have also been cited as a potential stress-reducer. A 2012 study from Australia concluded that an increased intake of omega-3 DHA docosahexaenoic acid may reduce risk of anxiety. The study involved 935 women and found that those who had the highest intakes of DHA had a 50% reduction in the risk of anxiety and were 70% less likely to report a current depressive disorder than those with the lowest average levels. However, Harry Rice, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3, warned that the results had been over-inter-preted. He said that although he believes omega-3s are beneficial in the treatment of anxiety and depression, “I would be remiss to pretend the evidence was compelling today.” So, pending further research, the jury appears to be out on omega-3. New research has also found that Relora, a pro-prietary blend of Magnolia officianalis and Phellodendron amurense (amur cork tree), can significantly improve mood and other psychological states in moderately stressed subjects. In the study by Supplement Watch/GLH Nutrition, overall stress was reduced by 11%, tension by 13%, depression 20% and fatigue by 31% in subjects who took Relora twice a day for four weeks. The bark of both trees has seen a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine, with magnolia bark being noted for cortisol regulation.
“When magnesium levels are low, the nervous system gets out of balance and we feel increasingly anxious”
Another regulator of cortisol appears to be pomegranate juice. In a study by Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, in which 60 volunteers were asked to drink 500ml of pomegranate juice per day for two weeks, there was a ‘significant reduction in the level of the stress hormone cortisol in saliva and a significant reduction is systolic and diastolic blood pressure in all volunteers.” Other useful supplements used to reduce stress include chromium, which helps to balance blood sugar levels; GABA, an amino acid and the main calming neurotransmitter, which switches off stress hormones; taurine, an amino acid which helps you relax; and tryptophan, an amino acid, which helps form serotonin (the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter) and is helpful for panic attacks. B vitamins also have a positive effect on the nervous system, while vitamin C plays a vital role in the proper funct-ioning of brain chemistry and adrenal glands and is often deficient in stressed indivi-duals. Vitamin E is important for anxiety as it helps transport oxygen to the brain. And if none of these remedies inspire you, how about the new ‘relaxation’ ice cream product which is currently being developed by Bebida Beverage Co in the US? Containing melatonin, valerian root, milk thistle and rose hips, the yet-to-be-named dessert will be sold as a dietary supplement for those who don’t sleep well or are suffering from stress and anxiety. Get your freezers ready… Food and mood As with most health conditions, diet plays a major part in anxiety and stress. Patrick Holford advises eating a low GL diet containing slow-releasing carbohydrates eaten with protein to balance the blood sugar and therefore reduce the release of adrenal hormones which are associated with anxiety. Mintel recently identified ‘mood foods’ as an up and coming trend as research continues to emerge that links diet and behaviour. In its recent paper, Mood to Order, Mintel wrote: “Scientists and psychologists alike have long promoted the link between diet and behaviour or emotional state, hence the expression ‘you are what you eat’. Neurogastroenterologist Michael Gershon has gone so far as to describe the nervous system in our gastrointestinal tract as the ‘second brain’”. The research company predicts: “As science continues to cast its gaze at the links between health and diet … there will be more overlap between food and mood.” •
Do: • Take regular exercise to combat the effects of stress • Try to get eight hours of sleep each night – good quality sleep is vital for health and wellbeing • Try some relaxation exercises – join a yoga class or learn tai chi • Treat yourself to a massage which, especially when combined with aromatherapy oils, can help you relax and unwind • Ensure you take some time out to just sit and relax for an hour or so each day
Don’t: • Try to do everything – pace yourself – just do what you can • Drink more than two cups of coffee a day, or switch to decaf. Caffeine causes the adrenal glands to release stress hormones • Drink too much alcohol, as although this is a relaxant, it has a short-lived effect and actually makes anxiety worse; it also disturbs sleep, leading to tiredness and irritability • Smoke – like caffeine, smoking is also a stimu-lant which will increase stress and anxiety
Stress solutions Bio-Health offers a variety of products designed with stress and anxiety in mind, including Neurotone, a combination of low level herbs including hops, valerian, skullcap and gentian; Valdrian valerian root capsules to relax and aid sleep; and GoodNight, a combination of herbs which together aim to improve sleep quality.
Relax with magnesium
BetterYou Magnesium Oil Goodnight Spray aids the absorption of this essential mineral through a long-lasting spray which is enhanced with essential oils for the ultimate in relaxation. The combination includes chamomile, clary sage and bergamot, along with magnesium chloride to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Amino acid action
Elthea-100, produced by Hadley Wood Healthcare, is a supplement containing the high quality Japanese ingredient Suntheanine which is 99% pure L-theanine, an amino acid known to improve emotional wellbeing and act as a natural calming agent.
For a combination product, New Image’s recently launched range of Health Support supplements includes a Mental Support product which combines ginkgo biloba, 5-HTP – which may contribute to an overall feeling of wellbeing – vitamins B5 and B12 as well as magnesium, B1, B6 and B3 to contribute to the normal functioning of the nervous system. Another combination product is Patrick Holford’s Mood Food, designed to help support the ‘feel good’ brain chemicals and nervous system activity. The supplement, which combines L-tyrosine, trimethylglycine, 5-HTP, vitamins B6, B12 and D3, zinc, folic acid and chromium, also aims to reduce the tiredness and fatigue commonly associated with stress.
The science of life
Ayurvedic medicine offers a lot of helpful support in the area of anxiety. Relax (vata) body oil from Tri-Dosha features ajwain as well as chamomile and frankincense essential oils to help your customers ‘bliss out’ and relax in times of stress. Pukka offers a Night Time Tea, with organic oat flower, lavender, limeflower and valerian, to help you unwind before bed, as well as an Ashwagandha supplement which generates inner calm and helps the body cope with and adapt to stress.
Health File Listings
If you are confused over which L-Theanine to recommend or stock look no further than Hadley Wood Healthcare’s Elthea-100 product. Hadley Wood only uses the Suntheanine ingredient from the pioneers of green tea science, the Japanese manufacturer Taiyo. Research by Taiyo found the relaxation effect associated with green tea was due to the presence of the amino acid L-theanine. Suntheanine is the trade name for Taiyo’s patented pure form of L-theanine. Suntheanine is not an extract of green tea, but rather is produced via a patented fermentation process that mimics the natural process in green tea leaves, resulting in a 100% pure L-isomer-theanine.
Health Plus have a wide selection of products that may be useful when dealing with stress and anxiety. There’s our Tranquility Pack (part of our Daily Pack range), 5-HTP Complex, Omega-3 EPA fish oils – including the new High Potency 33:22, as well probiotics, Siberian Ginseng and more. All are available from stock in single units, with no minimum order and excellent customer service. Health Plus have been serving over 200 quality products to the retailer and practitioner market for over 20 years now. If you haven’t tried us yet, now’s the ideal time!
Calming restful sleep – SleepAid tablets are specially formulated, using a blend of natural herbal extracts such as Hops, Valerian and Passion flower. Hops and valerian are two potent herbs that are commonly used, to help insomnia and calm the nervous system. The combination of these powerful herbs with the additional benefit of passion flower can help to relax, sleep more soundly. SleepAid tablets help to promote a refreshing natural night’s sleep – without feeling sluggish the following day. Retailing at £8.99 for 60 tablets, Contact HealthAid Ltd on 0208 426 3400 for purchase and stockist information or visit www.healthaid.co.uk.
Stress Relief forms part of an exciting new homeopathic range from Helios. Authorised under the National Rules scheme, Stress Relief combines three remedies traditionally used to relieve mild stress and anxiety. The beauty of the new range, which will be available in March, is it says exactly what is does on the box making it easy for your customers to choose what they need. For details of Stress Relief and the full range of new products please contact Roz Crompton at Helios 01892 537254 [email protected]
A highly active and intensely active botanical formula to support healthy energy levels, endurance and stress management. This is an energising combination of 100% fresh freeze dried botanicals featuring a powerhouse trio of adaptogens – Cordyceps historically used for its adaptogenic properties and may support endurance, healthy energy metabolism, exercise tolerance and oxygen utilisation; Rhodiola Root – Rhodiola has significant adaptogenic properties and may support healthy energy metabolism and nerve function; American Ginseng – One of the most researched of adaptogens, American Ginseng may help support healthy adrenal function and energy metabolism.
Nature’s Answer Platinum Liquid B-Complex offers a High Potency Formula providing high levels of vitamin B1 (3333%), 2 (2941%), 3 (350%), 5 (700%), 6 (2500%), 12 (1667%) and Vitamin C (200%) in just one tablespoon. B vitamins support energy production and overall cell health and can help the body cope with stress and anxiety. Liquid B-Complex provides nutritional support in an easily absorbed form and Quik-Sorb is an exclusive blend of herbs known to enhance delivery of nutrients into the body. Nature’s Answer are the pioneers of liquid low alcohol and alcohol-free herbal extracts and tinctures, since 1972.
A natural way to Stress free living with StressEeze® StressEeze® forms part of Natures Aid’s licenced Traditional Herbal Medicines range for Rhodiola. StressEeze® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress such as: fatigue; exhaustion and mild anxiety based on traditional use only. Each Natures Aid StressEeze® tablet contains 166mg of dry extract from Rhodiola rosea (L) roots and rhizomes (equivalent to 832 – 996mg Rhodiola rosea roots and rhizomes). Natures Aid StressEeze® is available in 60 film-coated tablets (1 month supply) and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. RSP £16.95. For further information call Natures Aid on 01772 686231.
BetterYou Magnesium Flakes are a pure and naturally condensed source of magnesium chloride and when bathed in, delivers this essential mineral directly into the skin tissue. Recent studies suggest that magnesium, among its many important qualities, has a natural calming effect that can help the body to achieve normal restful sleep, encourages the body to absorb calcium and relaxes muscles and joints. Flakes provide a relaxing body or foot bath delivering this mineral in its most absorbable form, feeding every cell and replenishing magnesium lost through the pressure of modern life. Available at Holland & Barrett, independent health stores and www.betteryou.com
PLANT EXTRACTS THAT MAY HELP YOU SLEEP ALL NIGHT LONG! New Nordic has developed an all-natural aid to your sleep problems. Melissa Dream is based on the newest studies of how plan t extracts can be used to calm your mind and body. The unique tablet, manufactured in Sweden, supports the body in maintaining a normal restful sleep and the ability to deal effectively with impulses, which affect the focus of your mind. Melissa Dream ™ contain s a lemon balm extract, L –theanine, chamomile extract, vitamin B complex and magnesium. The tablets are available from you local health food stores. Call 01482 300695 or visit newnordic.co.uk.