Since the beginning of the covid pandemic, stress is a word that we hear bandied about a lot, but what exactly is stress and how does it affect our health? Stress is the response of the body to pressure, the demands of which can evoke strong emotions or physical tension (M.D., 2020) Stress can be positive in that it enables you to respond to danger, for instance if you were being chased by someone or it can be motivational in helping you to meet deadlines. The stress response that is built in to our bodies is only meant to be temporary, once the stressful situation or danger has passed the body is meant to return to normal functioning. However, the stress caused to people by the fear of the corona virus or of having lost their jobs due to it has led to people undergoing prolonged stress which leads to a weakening of the immune system with the resulting likelihood of illness. Many of the illnesses that can result from prolonged stress are headaches, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome and back pain. When the immune system is weakened it leaves the body more susceptible to contracting viruses and other infectious illness. Stress can also impact on mental health, can cause depression and anger, tearfulness and over indulgence in food and alcohol. (Shapiro, 2007)
There are lots of ways to help ease the impact of stress in our lives, from mindfulness to relaxation, nutrition and spirituality. While a well balanced programme is necessary for stress management, herbs can play a fundamental role in this programme. The following herbs are but a few that are in the large range that are available for helping to relieve stress. (David Hoffman, 2003)
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
One of its most commonly know uses of Chamomile is as a digestive herb, it soothes colic pain and that of ulcers, it eases the physical symptoms as well as the underlying stress that caused them. Chamomile is useful for all types of stress related disorders, it relaxes and tones the nervous system, it also works on the peripheral nerves and muscles and thereby helps relax the whole body. In the words of Herbalist David Hoffmann, “When the physical body is at ease, the mind and heart follow”. (David Hoffman, 2003)
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora).
Skullcap is undoubtedly one of the best herbs for treating the nervous system. It can be used to treat depressed states and is also used for premenstrual tension. Priest and Priest indicated Skullcap for nervous irritation of the cerebro-spinal nervous system.3
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon Balm is a wonderful calming herb with mild antidepressant properties. It is also used as a digestive herb as its oils appear to act on the interface between the digestive tract and the nervous system. Lemon balm can also be used for palpitations associated with anxiety, neuralgia and tension headaches. (David Hoffman, 2003)
Information given here is not intended to replace advice from your Medical Practitioner
Always consult an Herbalist before taking herbs
David Hoffman, F. A. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Vermont: Healing Arts Press.
M.D., F. K. (2020, October Fifth). Stress and Your Health. Retrieved April Tenth, 2021, from US National library of Medicine: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003211.htm#:~:text=Stress%20is%20a%20feeling%20of,danger%20or%20meet%20a%20deadline.
Shapiro, D. (2007). Your Body Speaks Your Mind. London: Piatkus Books Ltd.