Adaptogen-ing to Stress – Supplements for Stress Management

Posted by Traci Garcia on

In today’s fast-paced world, many people complain of feeling stressed. Addressing stress is an important clinical goal to support better outcomes and there are several supplements can help people adapt better to stress.

Stress
In today’s fast-paced, busy world, it’s common everyone complains of feeling “stressed out”. “Feeling stressed” is a general description for feeling concerned about activities of the day, feeling irritable and edgy for no reason, being unable to focus on one task at a time, feeling like there is too much to do and too little time to do it all. Feeling overwhelmed can interfere with the ability to prioritize and be productive. These stress related symptoms are not imaginary or made up. They result from overstimulation and overactivity of not one, but several physiological systems, which end up affecting the entire body and brain. Addressing stress is an important clinical goal to support better outcomes, and there are several supplements we can choose to help us adapt to stress.

L-Theanine

Many of us may benefit from L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea. L-theanine is absorbed in the small intestine via a sodium-coupled active transport process that allows it to cross the blood-brain barrier fairly quickly. Because of this, in most cases it can have an effect in about 30 minutes after ingestion. 
Research involving human electroencephalograph (EEG) results demonstrate that L-theanine can significantly increase alpha wave activity in the brain. Alpha waves, which measure between 8 and 12 Hz, occur when people feel relaxed and when the brain is in an idle state without concentrating on anything. Alpha waves usually occur when engaged in activities such as daydreaming, meditating, or practicing mindfulness. In addition to increasing alpha waves in the brain, L-theanine also simultaneously decreases beta brain waves. Beta waves are associated with an excited state of mind, so by influencing both alpha and beta brain waves, L-theanine has the ability to support a state of calm relaxation without drowsiness. 
L-theanine also binds to glutamate receptors. This blocks the binding of L-glutamic acid (an excitatory neurotransmitter) to the glutamate receptors in cortical neurons contributing to a calmer mind. Some research also shows that L-theanine may help up-regulate gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and help modulate serotonin and dopamine concentrations in the brain. 
In many studies, L-theanine has been shown to support calm focus, attention and concentration, and practitioners recommend it to patients for stress support during the day. There are studies indicating that L-theanine can also help support sound sleep, which may also support a patient’s ability to handle stress. The typical dosage of L-theanine is between 50 and 200 mg; however, at least 100 mg daily is recommended for most applications.

Silexan LEO

Essential oil (EO) of lavender is produced by steam distillation from the flowers of Lavandula angustifolia. Silexan is a proprietary brand of lavender essential oil (LEO) in oral capsules, produced by a standardized manufacturing process which assures its quality and consistency from batch to batch. Silexan has been shown to support relaxation, calm mind, foster sleep quality and support general mental health as demonstrated in controlled trials published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
Multiple studies have shown that Silexan benefits people struggling with stress and is also helpful for those with a mixed combination of stress and mood health concerns. In Germany, Silexan is an approved product for restlessness related to stress and mood. The unique mechanisms that make Silexan an effective compound for relieving stress, also make it extremely safe for human use. Despite its calming effects, it has no sedative action. Some people experience sleep-supportive effects when taking Silexan, but that occurs because of mood-related biochemistry rather than direct hypnotic action.
Along with L-theanine and Silexan, there are some time honored herbs that support normal HPA axis function to help combat the effects of stress. Supporting the HPA axis over time may result in greater physiological resilience to stress, better ability to adapt to stressful situations, and increases an overall sense of wellbeing.

Ashwagandha

Belonging to the pepper family, ashwagandha is found in India and Africa, and used in their traditional practices as a rejuvenator and for energy and well-being. As an adaptogen, there are many animal studies showing it’s stress-support activity. Human studies have also suggested that ashwagandha may be helpful for reducing the effects of stress, including mental and emotional stress, as well as supporting a healthy and calm mood. In a double-blind study of people experiencing stress, supplementation with 300 mg per day of a concentrated ashwagandha extract for 60 days significantly decreased perceived stress, compared with a placebo.

Eleuthero

Eleutherococcus senticosus a.k.a “eleuthero”, belongs to the Araliaceae family and is also known as Siberian Ginseng. It grows in Siberia, China, Korea and Japan and has been used in traditional practices for centuries to invigorate qi as well as energy and vitality. Russian research was the first to describe human studies showing stress supporting effects in humans, and describe its adaptogenic actions. A double-blind study of healthy elderly people reported that those who took 60 drops per day of an eleuthero liquid extract (concentration not specified) scored higher in some quality-of-life measures after four weeks, compared with a group taking placebo.

Asian Ginseng

Ginseng, from the root of plants in the genus Panax, is a member of the Araliaceae family, commonly grown on mountain slopes in Asia, but includes American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) as well. It’s been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine for overall health and well-being. A 2017 review published in the Journal of Ginseng Research concluded that “when a person faces a stressful environment, ginseng can improve their response by regulating the function of the HPA axis.” There have been thousands of studies on ginseng, to try to understand its mechanisms of action, and many studies examining its effects related to energy and fatigue. In a double-blind trial, people taking a daily combination of a multivitamin-mineral supplement (MVM) with 40 mg of ginseng extract (standardized for 4% ginsenosides) for 12 weeks reported greater improvements in quality of life measured with a questionnaire compared with a group taking only MVM. One study suggested that Asian ginseng can support feelings of well-being in nurses working night shifts. A 2017 review published in the Journal of Ginseng Research concluded that “when a person faces a stressful environment, ginseng can improve their response by regulating the function of the HPA axis.”

Rhodiola

While there are upwards of 50 species of rhodiola, it is the fragrant root of the species Rhodiola rosea that is historically used in traditional practices. In a double-blind study, 100 mg per day of standardized rhodiola extract was given to medical students during a stressful exam period. Those taking the extract reported a better sense of general well-being and performed better on tests of mental and psychomotor performance. Another double-blind study of military cadets performing a 24-hour duty showed that 370 to 555 mg of rhodiola extract per day significantly reduced mental fatigue, as measured by several performance tasks. Another double-blind trial confirmed the effectiveness of rhodiola for stress-related fatigue.
While all of these ingredients help support the body’s ability to handle stress, it is important to include other stress relieving lifestyle strategies, including adequate sleep, exercise and proper diet as well as mind-body medicine.

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