Natural Stress Relief: Herbs and Aromatherapy

Keep your stress in check with these herbs.


| March/April 2000



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1. Brew some chamomile. When Peter Rabbit ate himself sick in Mr. McGregor’s garden, then got chased out at the wrong end of a hoe, his mother gave him chamomile tea. She was a wise herbalist. The two medicinal species of chamomile (Matricaria recutita and Chamaemelum nobile) contain apige­nin, which binds to the same cellular receptors as pharmaceutical tranquilizers and has similar effects, but without sedation, morning-after grogginess, or risk of addiction.

Japanese researchers exposed experimentally stressed laboratory animals to chamomile oil. Compared with unexposed animals, the ones that inhaled the vapor showed lower stress hormone levels. Meanwhile, the bisabolol in chamomile relaxes the digestive tract, which relieves a common stress symptom, indigestion.

To make chamomile tea, use two to three heaping teaspoons of flowers per cup of boiling water. Steep ten minutes. Or add a handful of chamomile flowers to a hot bath and inhale their calming aroma.

2. Pop a kava capsule. The latest herbal stress reliever is kava, the age-old social intoxicant of the South Pacific. In the large doses used in places like Fiji, kava has the effect of a couple of beers. But in lower doses, it’s a nonintoxicating stress re­ducer. Kava (Piper methysticum) contains kava­lactones that have a mild tranquilizing effect similar to Valium, but without its side ­effects.

Kava may cause some numbing of the mouth. This is harmless. Do not mix kava with alcohol or other sedative or psychoactive medications because kava adds to their sedative effect. And don’t use kava if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you have any condition that impairs coordination such as Parkinson’s disease.

The recommended dose is 100 mg three times a day of a standardized extract containing 60 to 75 mg of kavalactones per capsule.

anton g
11/6/2012 1:02:49 PM

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