How plants can help us better adapt to stressful times!
Our modern world is a stressful one, with deadlines, social media and continued systems of oppression-it can be a lot for anyone to handle. Throw in 2020 and all of our nervous system's are feeling it (and probably not in a good way). Plants and herbal medicine can be a great way to smooth out your rough edges and level up your toolkit. Below are some top tips for tuning up your stress response and a brief explanation of what some herbal actions are that support your nervous system.
How does our Nervous System work?
Our nervous system is a complex web through which consciousness manifests. It is a web consisting of neurotransmitters & channels which help us integrate shifts in our outer & inner environments. Our nervous system is connected to all of our other bodily systems, but is especially integrated with our digestive & endocrine systems.
Apart of our autonomic nervous system we are moving between our sympathetic (fight or flight) & our parasympathetic (rest & digest) system. Where we run into trouble is either getting stuck in one of those responses or our body isn't good at switching easefully between the two. In an ideal world we would go back and forth when needed. Chronic stress and learned trauma responses are usually the culprit for hiccups in this department.
A Baseline for a healthy Nervous System
Without these baseline factors being taken care of, system disregulation is common.
Sleep- It is important to get regular sleep, ideally between 7 -9 hours, but more importantly getting in the habit of falling asleep and waking at the same time most days. Winding down once the sun has gone down, such a limiting screen time, using apps that limit blue light and practicing self care can greatly improve our sleep. Sleep is so important for so many reasons but mostly it is needed for recovering and replenishing our system.
Diet-Focus on eating a blood sugar balancing, whole food, diet (organic & local if accessible). Focus on having fibre, protein and fat at every meal. It isn't a one-diet fits all when it comes to choosing what is right for you, but stay away from any fad diets. It can be helpful to carve out time to sit and eat mindfully. Bitters can also be helpful! Remember that up to 90% of your serotonin & 50% of dopamine is produced in the gut!
Movement-Move at least 30 minutes a day! This helps your lymphatic and digestive system flow smoothly. Mindful movement that connects to breath is great, things like qigong, yoga & tai chi. If you are to engage in more high intensity work outs, make sure to wind down and switch into parasympathetic at the end.
Lifestyle-Mitigate your stress factors, find ways to connect with yourself, nature & others. Self care is very important. Take time away from social media & screens. Meditate! Practice mindfulness!
Herbs for Support
These are just snippets of some examples of herbs that can benefit you. Nervous system disregulation can show up in many ways; anxiety, depression, panic attacks, insomnia, digestive upset. Please do careful research or work with a qualified herbalist.
Adaptogens-an herb that assists in adapting to environmental, physical or psychological stress. They usually have very low toxicity and are amphoteric. Adaptogens work on the HPA axis. In simple terms they help balance your system overall without negatively impacting one system or organ.
Ashwagandha: very calming for the nervous system, balancing for reproductive system and immune boosting.
Schisandra: Both relaxing for for the nervous system but can increase alterness as well. Great for people with sluggish attitude. Not the best choice for someone with anxiety.
Eleuthero: Smoothes the energy peaks and valleys due to chronic stress. Very helpful for stamina and helps reduce fatigue.
Tulsi: Calming adaptogen but also helps clear out mental fog and mind chatter. Uplifting.
Reishi: Medicinal mushroom that has an affinity for the heart & immune system. Grounding.
Rhodiola: Great for sluggish depression, helpful for a weakened immune system. * Very drying.
Nervines-an herb that has a mildly calming or soothing effect on the nervous system.
Chamomile: Very underestimated herb! Chamomile is gentle and powerful herb for the nervous system and also a great bitter for the digestive system.
Lemon Balm: Calming and uplifting nervine. Light bearing plant. Also great for people that have gas & bloating. Wonderful for those that are really rigid.
Linden: The tree of joy & sorrow. Wonderful sweet tasting nervine that has an affinity for the heart.
Skullcap: Great nervine trophorestorative that is both nourishing and restorative to the nervous system. Great for acute anxiety bouts.
Milky Oats: Strengthens and nourishes the nervous system. Indicated for those at the exhaustion point & chronic stress. Great for anyone going through withdrawals. * Look for fresh tincture.
Albizia: Considered the tree of collective happiness. Very uplifting, great for those with seasonal depression.
Passionflower: Wonderful for anxiety in smaller doses and can be used as a sedative in larger doses. Great for anxiety.
Tinctures and teas would be my go to. But bathing with herbs or using an herbal infused bodily oil can do wonders for the nervous system.
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