How Diet, Supplements, and Adaptogenic Herbs Can Help You De-StressNovember 9, 2018 /
The Role of Adaptogens
Adaptogenic herbs have been used in Aryuvedic and Unani medicine for thousands of years to rejuvenate and support the body and increase resistance to stressors.8 These medicinal herbs have been gaining popularity among integrative and complementary health practitioners. They can safely be taken by most people without adverse effects, and they have a range of benefits including reducing inflammation, inducing relaxation, stimulating the immune system, and improving well-being in individuals with stress, anxiety, and/or depression.8,9 Some of the more commonly used adaptogenic herbs include:
- Holy Basil
- Panax ginseng
- Siberian ginseng
Recently, Shara et al studied the effects of an adaptogen-based supplement on 74 healthy volunteers.10 After taking the supplement, which contained a blend of 10 adaptogenic herbs plus B-vitamins, for 28 days, subjects reported a significant decrease in perceived stress. The researchers also measured inflammatory markers, including highly-sensitive C-reactive protein (HS-CRP), and homocysteine. They found a 30% overall reduction in HS-CRP, with a 40% reduction in HS-CRP in those with high levels at baseline, and a slight, but non-significant reduction in homocysteine levels in the treatment group.
Ashwagandha root is one of the most commonly used and studied adaptogens and, even taken on its own, appears to have benefits. Compared with placebo, a 300 mg dose of Ashwagandha root taken twice daily improved various measures of perceived stress and self-assessed quality of life, as well as significantly reduced serum cortisol levels without adverse effects.11
Other Nutraceutical Supplements to Consider
In addition to a nutrient-dense diet, supplementing with a multi-vitamin and mineral formula as needed, other nutraceuticals and herbs play a role in reducing stress, including:12
- L-Theanine – may help enhance cognitive performance and reduce feelings of stress
- Valerian – may be helpful for insomnia and reducing feelings of stress and anxiety
- Lemon balm extract diffused, used topically, or taken orally– may reduce anxiety symptoms and increase feelings of calmness and alertness
- Lavender essential oil diffused or used topically – may improve anxiety and sleep
- St John’s Wort – may improve depression and anxiety
- Kava – may improve symptoms of anxiety and reduce physiological symptoms associated with short-term mental stress
The Bottom Line
Everyone is affected by stress, but for those who internalize it, stress can have serious chronic health implications. RDNs should consider the impact of stress on disease risk and management, and should work with patients on ways to strengthen and support their body through diet and supplements, if appropriate. In addition, it is important to learn about other available resources, including behavioral health, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and exercise therapists, and refer patients so they can adopt a more holistic approach to stress management.
- Hinkle J, Cheever K. Individual and family homeostasis, stress and adaptation. In Hinkle J, Cheever K, eds. Brunner and Sudarth’s Textbook of Medical Surgical Nursing. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA. Wolters Kluwer; 2018: 77-94.
- Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI J. 2017;16:1057-72.
- Schneiderman N, Ironson G, Siegel SD. Stress and health: Psychological, behavioral, and biological determinants. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2005;27(1):607-28.
- Roberts CJ, Campbell IC, Troop N. Increases in weight during chronic stress are partially associated with a switch in food choice towards increased carbohydrate and saturated fat intake. Eur Eating Disord Rev. 2014;22(1):77-82.
- Kiecolt-Glaser JK. Stress, food, and inflammation: psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition at the cutting edge. Psychosom Med. 2010;72(4):365-69.
- Gonzalez MJ, Miranda-Massari JR. Diet and stress. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2014;37(4):579-89.
- Foster JA, Rinaman L, Cryan JF. Stress & the gut-brain axis: regulation by the microbiome. Neurobiol Stress. 2017;7:124-36.
- Ray A, Gulati K, Anand R. Stress, Adaptogens and Their Evaluation: An Overview. J Pharma Reports. 2016;1(110):2.
- Panossian A, Amsterdam JD. Adaptogens in psychiatric practice. Complementary and Integrative Treatments in Psychiatric Practice. Edited by Gerbarg PL, Muskin PR, Brown RP. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association Publishing; 2017:113-34.
- Shara M, Kakish E, Stohs SJ. Effects of an Adaptogen-Based Supplement on Stress Parameters in Healthy Volunteers. Int J Complement Alt Med. 2017;10(1):00321.
- Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults.
Indian J Psychol Med. 2012;34(3):255.
- Natural Medicines. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com. Accessed August 6, 2018.