When did life get so stressful?
In today's fast-paced world, stress seems to be everywhere.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. Ayurvedic medicine has many ways to improve health, vitality, longevity, and protect against stress. Reduce stress and bring your life into balance with our all-natural rasayana herbs.
Stress and inflammation have become the curses of our times and are the main factors in multiple diseases. Over time, stress can adversely impact emotional and physical health.
In Ayurveda, Ojas is the finest byproduct of digestion and the master coordinator of all activities of mind and body. When replenished regularly, Ojas manifests outwardly in glowing skin, bright eyes and silky hair. Inwardly, it helps your reproductive, nervous, and immune systems thrive. It also promotes peaceful emotions, such as gratitude and contentment. Most importantly, Ojas supports stable moods and helps us handle stress with grace and ease.
Ojas is the by-product of a healthy, efficient and contented physiology. When we are producing Ojas, it means all of our organs have integrated vitality and we are receiving nourishment for our minds and bodies. Our whole being hums with good vibrations because we are producing and feeling bliss. A simple way to achieve more Ojas is to be in nature and nourish our sense of peace and serenity.
Psychic conflict, particularly shocking conflict that is perceived as distressing, gives rise to a corresponding physiologic process that includes physical changes in the body. This process may spontaneously resolve when the conflict is addressed. However, in some cases it is necessary to provide further support to the body. Incorporating stress relieving activities such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and massage improves overall health, lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduces inflammation, and changes the body’s physiological responses to stimuli. A number of Ayurvedic herbs also foster health in the mind and the nervous system and can be incredibly supportive.
Natural Ayurvedic Supplements for Stress Management
Ayurvedic medicine has many rejuvenating herbs, traditionally known as rasayana, which improve health, immunity, vigor, vitality, and longevity, as well as protect against stress. Rasayanas are considered to rejuvenate the nervous system and promote tranquility.
Rasayana herbs are specific adaptogens, herbs that fortify the body against stress. These adaptogens can be general, organ specific, season specific, or age and sex specific. The beneficial actions of rasayana herbs have been scientifically proven through experimental as well as clinical studies. Rasayana herbs keep enzymes in the cells in their normal state of function. These cells are revitalized and their composition is changed. Tranquility of the mind is also promoted, which helps combat the process of aging.
A special branch of rasayana that deals with rejuvenation of the nervous system and the brain is called medhya rasayana. Medhya literally means “intelligence enhancement,” or in other words, “brain tonics.” Withania somnifera (ashwagandha), Centella asiatica (gotu kola), Bacopa monnieri (bacopa) and Mucuna pruriens (macuna) are considered nerve and brain tonics.
Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha)
Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) has been used for over 4,000 years in India and has long been celebrated for its ability to encourage quality energy throughout the day and sound sleep at night. More commonly known as “Indian ginseng” due to its stimulating effects, it has been used to calm the mind, relieve weakness and nervous exhaustion, build energy, promote healthy sleep, and improve overall health and longevity. In particular, the root of Ashwagandha is regarded as a tonic and aphrodisiac. It is one of the most highly regarded and widely-used Ayurvedic herbs and is believed to promote energy, support the activity of the immune system, provide brain support, and support thyroid function.
The key constituents of ashwagandha are withanaloids, which play an important role in the herb’s ability to promote physical and mental health. Ashwagandha is most effective during occasional stress, when you need a boost in cognitive and brain function, for immune system enhancement, and to maintain fat and blood sugar metabolism already within the normal range. Traditionally, it is well recognized for its potentially positive impact on joint and tissue health.
Bacopa monnieri (Bacopa)
Bacopa monnieri has been used in Ayurvedic tradition to support the nervous system and may help maintain neurotransmitter levels (especially the vital neurotransmitter serotonin) already within the normal range. It can also support learning, and modulate reactions to occasional stress. Native to India and Southeast Asia, Bacopa is also known as water hyssop and Brahmi. Bacopa monnieri is a neuroprotective herb, nurturing and reducing the chatter of the mind. This herb eases vata out of the mind, reducing anger and worry. Bacopa is revered for its brain tonifying properties aiding memory and cognition. Ancient texts from the sixth century mention the use of Bacopa for nerve relaxation, memory support, brain health, and antioxidant protection for the brain.
Centella asiatica (Gotu kola)
Centella asiatica calms the nervous system and promotes healthy blood circulation, memory, cognitive support, and has general health effects as a rasayana in Ayurveda. Gotu kola is incredibly sattvic (pure, essential, natural, vital, energy-containing, clean, conscious, true, honest, wise; working to bring the body back into balance) in nature and is renowned for its ability to balance the nervous system and the mind. It is a cooling, relaxing tonic for pitta, and it helps to calm vata in the mind. In addition, gotu kola has adaptogenic properties and supports a healthy inflammatory response.
Mucuna pruriens (Mucuna, Macuna, Velvet bean)
Mucuna pruriens, is a vining tropical legume commonly known as velvet bean or cowitch. Macuna is originally from southern China and eastern India, where it was at one time widely cultivated as a green vegetable crop. Raw velvet bean seeds contain approximately 27% protein and are rich in minerals. In India, the mature seeds of Mucuna bean are traditionally consumed by a South Indian hill tribe, the Kanikkars, after repeated boiling to remove anti-nutritional factors. It produces strikingly beautiful flowers and a bean that contains high levels of L-dopa, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine. In Guatemala and Mexico, the beans are sometimes used as a coffee substitute; the seeds are widely known in the region as “Nescafé.” It has long been used in Ayurvedic traditions to support mood, and the seeds and roots of Mucuna pruriens support the male and female reproductive system and kidney function. Mucuna seeds also contain glutathione, lecithin, gallic acid, and glycosides.
Crocus sativus (Saffron)
Saffron has been used since antiquity for culinary, cosmetic, and medicinal purposes. Known in Ayurveda as “Kumkum” and scientifically as Crocus sativus, saffron is recognized as the one that “imparts fairness and glow to the skin.” It is a cooling spice with a bitter taste that is often used in various cuisines around the world. Saffron finds many uses in Ayurvedic, Unani, Chinese, and Tibetan medicine. Monks, noting the peace and tranquility saffron brought to troubled minds, started dying their robes saffron-colored to evoke peaceful states of consciousness. Saffron has mood-elevating effects, and was used extensively by mogul kings of India for this purpose. It is known to enhance memory as well as sexual desire. Saffron is a natural source of riboflavin and thiamine, two B vitamins vital in energy production. Saffron is also recognized in supporting the central nervous system and serves to tonify the heart while providing overall rejuvenation, immunity, and increase in energy.
Additional Natural Supplements for Stress Management
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a natural lipid essential to proper cell function and signaling. It is found in particularly high levels in the brain and promotes cognitive function and a healthy stress response. It is also helpful during recovery from strenuous exercise. PS is one of the most important brain nutrients where it supports several unique regulatory and structural functions and modulates the activities of receptors, enzymes, signalling molecules and ion channels while influencing numerous neurotransmitter systems. Phosphatidylserine plays an active role in benefiting cognition, regulating neurotransmitters, promoting speedy recovery from exercise, and normalising cortisol levels while promoting overall health. PS fights against the stress-induced activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis when faced with a physical or mental stressor, thus relieving some of the burden that the nervous system endures. Studies show that phosphatidylserine may help balance stress hormones already in the normal range and enhance mental performance when under stress.
Magnesium, acting as an electrolyte, supports calmness of the nervous system and muscle tissue, easing the body into a restful state. In addition, magnesium promotes relaxation by supporting the brain chemicals that encourage rest and helps to maintain healthy levels of calcium and potassium, both essential minerals for brain health. Magnesium is required in over 300 biochemical processes in the body, including serving in mood stabilization, eating behavior, cognition and memory, sleep and stress responses, neurological and cardiovascular health, nutrient utilization, bone formation, metabolism, and acid-base balance.
Other Ways to Manage Stress
Ayurveda recommends several options like pranayama (“control of the breath”), yoga, meditation, exercise, and sleep as ways to reset the nervous system and cultivate a healthier physiological response to stress.
- Breathing exercises are important because under stress, not enough carbon dioxide exchange occurs because the breath is often fast and shallow. This exercise is not only good for the lungs, but for the cardiovascular and nervous systems. One example is Nadi Shudhi. Nadi Shudhi begins with exhalation and an inhalation through the left nostril, followed by a full breath through the right, with the whole pattern repeated several times. It is highly effective in clearing emotional blocks, infusing energy, and calming excess vata in the nervous system.
- Meditation is the art of practicing mindfulness. Gaining mindfulness helps individuals to become aware of their thoughts and feelings, good and bad, but not react to the negative ones. Mindful meditation is also a good way to help regulate mood. It can help balance the levels of cortisol, the main stress hormone, and support immune system function. In addition, meditation can assist in the body’s ability to eliminate harmful chemicals, which can affect neurotransmitter receptors and alter mood.
- Yoga, which means “union” in Sanskrit, combines three aspects: physical postures, breath work, and meditation. The philosophy of yoga is to bring the mind, body and spirit together in united alignment. Many studies indicate yoga can help support mood and promote relaxation.
- Exercise is an essential way to stimulate vitality, strength, and the natural healing mechanisms of the human body. If you follow the Ayurvedic principle of balaardh, exercising to half your capacity, you can exercise every single day without straining your muscles. Research has demonstrated positive effects of exercise on stress management. Regular physical activity has the direct effect of promoting adaptability of the heart, the vascular system, and the nervous system. Physical activity also promotes harmonious relationships between the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, nervous system, and endocrine (hormonal) system. In addition, exercising regularly is important for developing exercise tolerance, as well as improving stamina and endurance.
- Practice good bedtime habits. Ayurveda considers sleep just as important as diet in maintaining health.