The two best natural survival responses - get it out of the way or get the hell out of its way. But now in the modern world how do you punch away or run off excess hormones when its only somebody in your parking space or the thousandth menu in the letter box this week – we still get the hit of hormones pushing all our anger and go buttons but we have no way to use it up. We carry it to the next pushed button and each pushed button in a given day has more biochemical impact.
So the game now is to escape our reactions to the perceived threats or the events and situations that we pair with danger. Mindfulness is excellent, physical actions look like tantrums when you have missed your train but a few star jumps or skipping on the spot does work and keeps you limber for when they come for you with the big butterfly nets. A sense of humour is key; it activates happiness which is the antidote to stress hormones. Of course there are chemical constituents in food and plants that can counter the surges and ease the system too.
Garden treatments: Prescribed Anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals target GABA receptors in the brain to influence neural signalling and calm the central nervous system – thus providing a more tranquil experience. Chamomile, parsley, thyme, yarrow and vervain and other herbs and foods with apigenin have similar GABA influencing properties. Chamomile is equally effective in the form of a natural soothing beverage as it is aroma-therapeutically. Chamomile significantly also influences or triggers monoamine neurotransmitters – which include serotonin and dopamine – the ‘happy’ hormones. Likewise as a tea, culinary herb or aroma, Lavender has the ability to neutralize stress thoughts and affect a calm response. Infusions of Lemon balm foliage are packed with phytochemical terpenes that reduce stress responses and promote calm as does valerian tea.
Passionflower is another powerful anxiolytic (reduces anxiety and stress responses) and has a long herbal tradition in treating anxiety, apprehension and excitability - the flowers, leaves and stems of the plant yield a slightly sedative tea, capsules of the herb are readily available. Similarly, infusions of evening primrose flowers have a reputation to reduce mental stress but the calming and neurotransmitter support of GLA in evening primrose oil is beneficial also and easily soured in a local health store. The roots of Rhodiola, are considered an “adaptogen” herb – which helps the system cope more effectively with mental, physical, biochemical, and even environmental stresses. Basil is also adaptogenic, as is white mulberry, sea buckthorn and schizandra berries. While at the extreme end of the anxiety spectrum St John’s wort has a long history of use as a regenerative nervine for both neurologic and psychiatric disorders. Hyssop tea is sedative.
Kitchen support: Ok comfort eating long term can lead to obesity but sometimes a little comfort food makes a suitable medicine for a bad day- Tryptophan is an essential amino acid contained in milk, cheese, bananas and other sources of protein, it is a neurotransmitter in human physiology that regulates sleep and releases serotonin, a hormone which could be regarded as the neurotransmitter of wellbeing and psychological stability- serotonin production and efficacy is supported by 5-HTP found in potatoes. Oats are naturally nervine and their b-vitamins are beneficial to stabilizing mood – as porridge or flapjacks make no difference to their action.
Apigenin is an amazing bioflavonoid compound for general health and lauded for its anticancer properties etc. but as previously highlighted with the chamomile reference above, it is a anxiolytic compound – working directly on brain chemistry and signalling pathways to make us feel better and more relaxed. It is abundant in parsley, basil, tarragon, coriander, oregano, celery, onions, grapefruit, oranges and the fruits of passionflowers. It is in beer and red wine which is perhaps why so many people self-medicate that way but why have the hangover when a diet of fruits and veg will energize your physical self and that in itself energizes your psychological self too.