According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the stress in America has now become a national mental health crisis with nearly 50% of people surveyed saying stress has negatively affected their behavior.i The APA points out that stress not only has a significant mental/emotional toll, but there are also long-term physical health consequences associated with chronic stress that also need to be addressed.
One way to help offset the damaging effects of stress is to proactively pursue the state of calm! While this is primarily a mental exercise, key nutrients and herbs can help. We call these herbs adaptogens.
Herbs for Mood Management
In herbal medicine, adaptogens help promote adaptability, resilience, and survival during stressful times by activating the stress-response signaling pathway to instill a sense of calm and help people cope.ii Adaptogenic herbs have been used to help people handle stress for decades and have a long history of other health-promoting benefits such as improved memory, concentration, physical strength, and energy levels.iii Common adaptogenic herbs include ashwagandha, Rhodiola, and bacopa.
For example, a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study featuring 58 adults found that ashwagandha helped reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and also improved sleep quality compared to the placebo group.iv The same is true for Rhodiola. In one study that featured 80 anxious participants, Rhodiola resulted in a significant reduction in self-reported anxiety, anger, confusion, depression, and stress after 14 days compared to the group that did not take the Rhodiola.v Bacopa has also been shown to help enhance mood and provides some protection to brain function.vi
Adaptogens aren’t the only herbs that can help promote feelings of calm. Lemon balm extract, hawthorn, hops, and passion flower also have calming qualities and can help promote sound sleep.vii
Nutrients That Promote Calm
Certain nutrients have been shown to help people cope with stress as well, especially B vitamins. A 2019 analysis of 12 different randomized controlled trials showed that B vitamins significantly improved mood and helped healthy and at-risk populations cope better with stress.viii
Magnesium is another important calming nutrient. Interestingly, magnesium deficiency is associated with a poor stress response, and yet stress in and of itself can actually increase magnesium loss, and magnesium deficiency increases the body’s susceptibility to the harmful effects of stress.ix In the scientific literature, this is known as the “magnesium and stress vicious circle concept.”
If you are looking for calm, focus, enhanced mood, and better social stability, the right combination of vitamins, minerals, and herbs can help. Many of these calming nutrients are combined to provide an even more powerful synergistic effect. Look for a product that contains adaptogenic herbs, calming botanicals, B vitamins, and don’t forget about magnesium! There are definitely steps you can take to help protect yourself from the damaging effects of stress. If you’re under stress, calm is within your reach.
i American Psychological Association. Stress in American 2020: a national mental health crisis. 2020, Oct. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2020/report-october
ii Panossian AG, Efferth T, Shikov AN, et al. Evolution of adaptogenic concept from traditional use to medical systems: pharmacology of stress- and aging-related diseases. Medical Research Reviews. 2021;41(1):630-703. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/med.21743
iii Todorova V, Ivanov K, Delattre C, et al. Plant adaptogens—history and future perspectives. Nutrients. 2021;13. https://mdpi-res.com/d_attachment/nutrients/nutrients-13-02861/article_deploy/nutrients-13-02861-v2.pdf?version=1629707484
iv Salve J, Pate S, Debnath K, Langade D. Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus. 2019;11(12):e6466. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6979308/
v Cropley M, Banks AP, Boyle J. The effects of rhodiola rosea L. extract on anxiety, stress, cognition and other mood symptoms. Phytother Res. 2015;29(12):1934-9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26502953/
vi Brimson JM, Brimson S, Prasanth MI, Thitilertdecha P, Malar DS, Tencomnao T. The effectiveness of Bacopa monnieri (Linn.) Wettst. as a nootropic, neuroprotective, or antidepressant supplement: analysis of the available clinical data. Sci Rep. 2021;11(1):596. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7803732/
vii Motti R, de Falco B. Traditional herbal remedies used for managing anxiety and insomnia in Italy: an ethnopharmacological overview. Horticulturae. 2021;7(12). https://www.mdpi.com/2311-7524/7/12/523/htm
viii Young LM, Pipingas A, White DJ, Gauci S, Scholey A. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and 'At-Risk' Individuals. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2232. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770181/
ix Pickering G, Mazur A, Trousselard M, et al. Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited. Nutrients. 2020;12(12):3672. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7761127/