Holistic Healing with Herbs: Stress

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By Dr. Christina Wilke-Burbach PhD, RMT

There are so many different forms of stress in our society nowadays that it is almost impossible to escape. A stressor acts like a trigger as it causes the body to go into fight or flight mode. The natural order in the body is disrupted and normal bodily functions and brain/body chemistry is interrupted. The point of these physiological changes throughout evolution was to enable the species to survive through fighting danger or running away from threats. But instead of physical danger, much of today’s stress is emotional. Individuals interpret situations as being beyond their control or perceive that they do not have enough resources to cope with the situation thus creating stress.

Stress is cumulative; it continues to add up and its effect can impact health. Stress increases heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and the inflammation response. Stress also increases the production of stress hormones and neurotransmitters. If these levels do not return to baseline, they continue to circulate in the body and do serious damage. It is estimated the stress is either directly or indirectly responsible for up to 85% of dis-ease and illness; particularly chronic ailments such as heart disease, headaches, autoimmune disorders, and digestive disorders.

One of the best ways to combat stress and counteract the health effects of stress is to utilize the healing gifts of Mother Earth. I personally and professionally have had the best results in herbal healing using botanicals to treat stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Nature has everything we need to promote health and wellness. There is no reason to reach for pharmaceuticals that bring on more side effects than the ailment we originally aimed to treat. I am an advocate for holistic healing; treating the entire person, mind, soul, and self. Let’s take a look at how to use herbs holistically to treat stress.

Physical: Everyone in the United States should probably be using an adaptogenic herb on a regular basis. Adaptogens are a category of herbs that buffer against and protect us from the effects of stress. They are often used as tonics. Adaptogens improve the immune system, have antioxidant properties, increase energy, protect the liver, and decrease our cravings for sugar when stressed. There are a number of Adaptogens, but I will just mention two, Asian ginseng and American ginseng.

Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) is a yang tonic. This means that it promotes yang energy (warm/dry energy). This adaptogen is appropriate for those with a cool constitution: chronic fatigue, lethargic, low blood pressure, cold, “lazy” energy. Suggested dosage is 200-400mg. Ginseng may be used up to 3 months at a time.

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), is a yin tonic. This means that it promotes yin energy (cool/damp energy). This adaptogen is appropriate for those with a hot constitution: type A personality, high blood pressure, aggressive, hyperactive, hard time relaxing, hot, etc. Note: This herb grows well in Wisconsin! Suggested dosage is 100-200mg, up to 3 times a day. Ginseng may be used up to 3 months at a time.

Emotional: There are a number of emotional symptoms of stress but let’s focus on using sedating herbs to reduce anxiety and insomnia. Please note, the herbs below should not be combined with alcohol or other sedatives such as sleeping pills or anxiety medications as they can compound the effects.

Kava (piper methysticum) is the most studied herb used to treat anxiety. It is a potent and significantly effective anxiolytic and sedative and has also been found to relieve insomnia and restlessness. Suggested dosage is 100mg up to three times daily. Do not take Kava on a daily basis for longer than 4 to 6 months. Do not use if you have liver damage.

Passion Flower (Passiflora caerulea or Passiflora incarnate) is a gorgeous vine/flower that grows well in WI. Scientific studies have found that passion flower is just as effective as benzodiazipines in relieving anxiety. Unlike benzodiazepines, passion flower is not addictive! Suggested dosage is 90mg.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) Valerian root is commonly used a sedative-hypnotic for insomnia sleep disorders. Most clinical valerian studies focus on sleep though it has been used for anxiety. Like most of the herbal anxiolytics, it is believed to work on the GABA system. Certain serotonin receptors are also implicated. Suggested dosage is 400-900 mg.

Spiritual: Stress also affects our energetic body; aura, chakras, etc. It’s important to clear away energy we may have absorbed from other people/environments, as well as our own energy that we are holding on to that no longer serves us a higher purpose. A great way to use herbs for spiritual and metaphysical healing is to create a smudge stick. Your intent, along with burning the herbs releases the energetic properties of the herb. Dry the herbs and then braid them together. Light one end as you state your intent for using the herb to the universe. Let the smoke purify your energy system.

Angelica (Angelica Archangelica) protects by both creating a barrier against negative energy and by filling it’s user with positive energy.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is purifying. Use to repel and rid negative energies and influences.

Tobacco Leaf (Nicotiana rustica) is sacred to the Native American Tradition. When burned as an incense purifies a space.

**Any of the above herbs in the physical and emotional section can be used as teas, tinctures, or capsules. Please consult with your physician or pharmacist before taking herbs if you are on medications to avoid potential reactions. Please remember, just because something is natural does not always mean it is 100% safe! The above article is not meant to be a substitution for regular healthcare.

About Christina: Dr. Christina Wilke-Burbach is a Holistic Health Psychologist, wellness consultant, Reiki Master Teacher, ordained minister, intuitive, light worker, and an Awakening Your Light Body Graduate. Her business is Mind, Soul, and Self LLC based in WI. She has her PhD in Health Psychology, a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, 2 bachelor degrees in Psychology and Cultural Anthropology, and a minor in Sociology. As a Holistic Health Psychologist and educator, she specializes in three areas of Complementary and Alternative Medicine: natural health, energy medicine, and mind/body medicine. She has presented at academic conferences and has taught hundreds of classes, workshops, and group sessions throughout the Midwest and beyond. She is a published author and award winning researcher and healthcare provider. She is an instructor in The Art of Healing School of Energy Medicine in Milwaukee, WI and was an instructor in the Institute of Intuitive Arts and Sciences in Madison, WI. She combines science with intuition. For more info, please visit: http://www.mindsoulandself.com/About_Christina.html

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