This post originally appeared on Wise Woman Herbals blog. Please note there are affiliate links throughout this article.
Our health is arguably one of the most important things we have. When we lose our health, we lose our functionality and our zest for life. Nearly 60 percent of the U.S. adult population is living with a chronic disease and a majority of us are suffering from chronic fatigue, stress and mood conditions like anxiety and depression. As our lives get busier, we tend to continue to add more to our proverbial plate without realizing the toll it is taking on our body and brain. And sometimes life is just complicated. Stress comes in many forms: financial, personal, family responsibilities, career, economic. Oftentimes we don’t realize the stress surrounding us, or we don’t take the time to invest in self-care practices to help regulate our stress response hormones but in this article we will discuss herbs for stress and adrenal support.
“Adrenal fatigue” has become a popular term in the wellness community, however, it can be used quite loosely. Many people do have overworked adrenals, but few of us have legitimate adrenal fatigue.Let’s first learn what the adrenals are and then how we can support their normal healthy function.
Your adrenals are two small glands that sit atop your kidneys. They are important for regulating and producing vital hormones such as your sex hormones and cortisol levels. Cortisol is one of your main stress hormones. It helps you quickly respond to stressful situations when your “fight or flight” response is activated. Your heart rate rises, your senses become heightened and your body conserves energy by slowing down the function of your digestive system and other systems non-essential for survival.
Our ancestors commonly relied on this stress response system to protect them from life threatening situations such as an enemy invasion or animal attack. However, in today’s modern world, most of us are not very often in a life or death situation when we’re stressed. Instead we find ourselves in a low level state of chronic stress that keeps our cortisol levels constantly elevated. This is not how they should function. When we recognize a stressor, our brain sends signals to our organs to release these hormones to turn on the sympathetic nervous system — think of it like stepping on the accelerator of your car. When the stressor passes, cortisol levels come down.
If cortisol levels remain constantly elevated, even slightly, this can wreak havoc throughout our entire system. Cortisol will raise our insulin levels and we will start craving certain foods, our appetite will increase. We might find we are moody and may have trouble focusing during the day or sleeping at night.
Eventually our energy stores will become so depleted from being “on” all of the time that we will continually feel exhausted, but might be unable to wind down in the evening. This cycle of stressful days and sleepless nights is fairly common and it impacts our daily lives significantly. This is akin to never taking your foot off the gas pedal — eventually, you will run out of gas and then you’re in trouble. The bottom of the gas tank is where you’ll encounter adrenal fatigue. Most of us have some varying degree of adrenal exhaustion.
The good news is that you can support normal healthy adrenal gland function through food, lifestyle, herbal remedies and natural supplementation at the foundational level. Now we are going to look at four of my favorite herbs that help our bodies adapt to stress.
Supporting your adrenals with these healing herbs can be a great way to help you find balance and maintain homeostasis in your life. I’ve personally used all of these herbs over the years throughout my healing journey, and love their unique properties.
However, before considering adding any of these herbs to your daily regimen, it’s always best to consult your doctor or practitioner to figure out the best way to incorporate these as part of your existing healing routine. Nothing in this article is intended as medical advice.