If you feel anxious all the time, have trouble sleeping, can’t stop gaining weight, or suffer from frequent stomach upset—you may be trapped in a chronic stress cycle.
More than just feeling stressed most (or all) of the time, a chronic stress cycle actually changes the way your body responds to stress. It never gives your body a chance to calm down, and it keeps you on high alert all the time—even if you don’t realize it.
Once you’re stuck in that cycle, smaller stressors cause larger effects. These can take an enormous toll on every system in your body, and cause serious damage to your long-term health.
You can break this devastating cycle and restore your body to its natural, healthy balance. How? With targeted stress management herbs and botanicals. These amazing natural healers work incredibly well to calm even the most frazzled nervous systems. And when you combine them with other healthy stress relief practices, like regular meditation, your entire experience of life can change dramatically.
Stress Can Make You Sick
Stress is more than a feeling.
It’s a series of physical reactions designed to help you avoid harm. Those reactions work well when the threat you’re facing is temporary, like a fender bender.
But when stressors seem to come at you all the time—traffic, bills, 24/7 bad news cycle—that alarm system stays armed and ready, without any relief.
When your body’s normal stress response has a hard time turning itself off, it can trap you in a chronic stress cycle. And that can take a terrible toll on your mental and physical health.
In fact, scientists have discovered that chronic stress connects to many serious conditions and diseases,1 including:
· Heart disease3
· Alzheimer’s disease5
When your body is stuck in a never-ending stress reaction, your immune system and other important defenses can’t work properly.9 That’s why it’s so important to break the chronic stress cycle and give your body a chance to reset.
When the Normal Stress Response Goes Wrong
Here’s how your body is supposed to respond to stressors:
1. The alarm system in your brain (your hypothalamus) goes off.
2. It sends “Danger!” signals to your pituitary gland.
3. That gland warns your adrenal glands about the threat.
4. They produce high levels of stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, to help you survive.
5. You escape the dangerous situation.
6. Your brain turns off the alarm and sends an “All clear” message.
7. Your adrenal glands stop pumping out those extra stress hormones.
8. Your body returns to its normal resting state.
Your hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands form the HPA axis, your body’s internal stress response system.
The problem is, when stressors feel like they’re coming from all sides, the ”danger” signal doesn’t turn off. That keeps your stress reaction active, and those stress hormones pumping.
Unlike our ancestors, who faced temporary stressors (like wild animal predators), our lives are filled with constant daily stress triggers that never go away. And even though they might not seem as extreme as a bear attack, your body can’t always tell the difference.
That’s why your stress reaction system stays on high alert even when you’re not facing physical danger: Your brain feels threatened by these everyday stressors and sends out the same alarm.
Stressors Surround You
Modern life is full of stressors, and some of them you just can’t avoid. And while stressful events (like divorce or death of a loved one) can set off a stress reaction, everyday stressors may trigger more of a chronic stress cycle.
The most commonly mentioned everyday stressors include things like:
· Paying bills
· Relationship issues
· Health problems
· Losing things (wallet, keys, credit card)
· Work overload
· The economy
· Social media
When you’re faced with constant stressors, and trapped in a chronic stress cycle, the usual stress management strategies (like sleep, healthy diet, and regular exercise) may not be enough to help your system rebalance itself and calm down.
If your body needs more help breaking out of a chronic stress cycle, special herbs called adaptogens can get the job done.
Adaptogens: Nature’s Answer for Stress-Filled Lives
For centuries, traditional healers have counted on adaptogens—a special class of medicinal herbs—to help the body adapt to stress. Adaptogens keep hormones and body systems in balance so they can respond better to stressful situations, and prevent a chronic stress cycle from starting.
To qualify as an adaptogen, each herb has to meet four very strict standards:10
1. Improve the body’s ability to manage stressors in a healthy way
2. Be effective after single or long-term use, and increase stress capacity over time
3. Balance and stabilize bodily functions
4. Be completely safe and cause no negative side effects
Because of their balancing actions, adaptogens can both revitalize and relax you at the same time. They have profound healing effects on over-stressed bodies: Boosting stamina and strength, decreasing fatigue, and evoking a sense of well-being.
Four Proven Stress-Relieving Adaptogens
Adaptogens can help you break out of a chronic stress cycle and retune your body’s stress response. Some of the most potent stress-busting adaptogens include:
· Ashwagandha is well known for its stress-reducing effects. It works by reducing cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and rebalancing other hormones. Clinical studies show that supplementing with ashwagandha can significantly reduce stress and anxiety levels and help the body become less reactive to stressors.11
· Eleuthero has been used as for stress management in Traditional Chinese Medicine for more than 2,000 years. This ancient herb helps the body deal with stress, and gently stimulates the nervous system to boost energy and relieve fatigue. A robust clinical study found that taking eleuthero helped military personnel manage chronic stress and lower blood pressure.12
· Ginseng helps regulate the HPA axis (your body’s natural stress response system) to keep it from overreacting. This rejuvenating adaptogen is known for increasing mental clarity, balancing immune system responses, promoting a sense of calm, and reducing the risk of stress-induced diseases.13
· Medicinal mushrooms such as Cordyceps, Reishi, and Turkey Tail—though not technically herbs—have a long, rich history of use as stress balancers in herbal medicine. These adaptogenic mushrooms work well individually and in combination to relieve stress and anxiety, restore a healthy immune response, and improve calm focus.
While all adaptogens help reset and balance the body’s stress response, they each have different effects on various systems. Some are better for energizing your mind and body, for example, and others work better for relieving anxiety.
Pure Honokiol—A potent stress-relieving extract
When it comes to reducing stress and supporting overall health, another botanical ingredient deserves mention: Pure honokiol. This active compound is extracted from Magnolia officinalis bark. While it’s not technically an adaptogenic herb, extensive research shows it offers broad-spectrum support against stress while actively supporting numerous critical areas of health in the process.
Pure honokiol works to safely promote a sense of calm and a healthy mood, without being habit-forming or causing dependency. It also offers powerful neurological health benefits, with support for cognitive function, healthy nerve growth, and optimal sleep cycles. And it’s a potent antioxidant compound, with extensive research in cancer, mitochondrial function, antimicrobial support, and other critical areas. Because of its extensive research and broad-spectrum of critical benefits, pure honokiol is one of the most important ingredients I recommend to my patients in the treatment of a wide range of conditions.
Adaptogens, botanical extracts, and other natural stress solutions do more than take the edge off—they form a solid foundation for rebuilding health, giving us not only more resilience against stress, but greater energy, clarity, vitality and overall sense of wellbeing.
4) Harris ML, Oldmeadow C, Hure A, Luu J, Loxton D, Attia J. Stress increases the risk of type 2 diabetes onset in women: A 12-year longitudinal study using causal modelling. PLoS One. 2017;12(2):e0172126.
5) Machado A, Herrera AJ, de Pablos RM, Espinosa-Oliva AM, Sarmiento M, Ayala A, Venero JL, Santiago M, Villarán RF, Delgado-Cortés MJ, Argüelles S, Cano J. Chronic stress as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Rev Neurosci.2014;25(6):785-804.
11) Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Malvi H, Kodgule R. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(37):e1718.
12) Ciumaşu-Rîmbu M, Popa L, Vulpoi C. Neuropeptide Y stimulation as primary target for preventive measures of maladaptative cardiovascular reactions in occupational chronic stress exposure. Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Iasi. 2012 Jul-Sep;116(3):790-3.