Stress & Anxiety

  • Finding Inner Peace During the Holidays

    If the fast pace of the holiday season leaves you feeling more like a zombie than an elf, turn to Pharmaca for ways to help calm your nerves and relax your mind. We’ve even put some of our favorite stress and sleep products on sale this month to make getting help that much easier.

    Stress Less

    Holiday stress and anxiety can peak during this time of year due to a range of triggers that are present, from financial strain to family conflicts. Our practitioners often recommend these products to help alleviate the body’s reaction to stress.

    WishGarden Herbal Remedies Deep Stress

    Relying on the traditional stress relieving properties of herbs like Ginseng, Motherwort and Nettles, this formula helps reduce both acute and chronic stress. Simply add 2-4 drops to water and drink your relief.

    Pharmaca Bath Salts

    Take some time for a therapeutic soak combining the mineral benefits of natural salts from the Dead Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Utah. Pharmaca’s fine-grained aromatherapeutic bath salts use only the purest ingredients so you can relax a little easier as your troubles melt away.

    New Chapter Stress Take Care

    This formula incorporates the anti-inflammatory properties of Curcuma xanthorrhiza with 9 other traditional herbals and powerful adaptogens to alleviate symptoms associated with stress. Just take 2 soft gels with food whenever you feel the need to take care.

    Bach Rescue Remedy Drops

    One of our best-selling products, this formula relies on a unique combination of flower essences to help the body restore balance after traumatic situations. Not only is it easy to take, it is also safe for adults, pets and kids. 20 ml


    Sleep Easy

    Enzymatic Therapy Sleep Tonight

    Clinical studies have shown Sleep Tonight to be effective at reducing stress hormones in the body. This valerian-free formula encourages relaxation, is non-habit forming and helps promote a positive mood through more restful sleep.

    Natural Factors Tranquil Sleep

    This safe, fast-acting formula contains the amino acid 5-HTP, the hormone melatonin and green tea’s stress reliever L-Theanine to help support restful sleep. Each dose comes in a tasty, fruit-flavored chewable tablet.

    Our practitioners can recommend other stress and sleep-oriented products specific to your needs. Take comfort in knowing that finding support is as easy as going to your local Pharmaca.

  • Merry Meditation

    Meditating is one of those wonderful gifts that life offers. This holiday season, give yourself just a few minutes of time and the willingness to shift into a calm frame of mind. Cara Phillipo, a naturopathic doctor at Pharmaca in Mill Valley, shares pointers on finding mental peace in the midst of the holiday bustle.

    Periodically working to empty the mind of its clutter has proven health benefits. These range from relieving stress to helping with focus, and from slowing down the heart rate to improving cellular immunity. “It is great for physical health as well as mental health,” says Dr. Phillipo.

    Most beginners find meditation to be simple, although not always easy. Dr. Phillipo offers words of encouragement, saying that it does get easier with practice. Until then, try experimenting with a few different methods to find out what suits you best. For example, some people prefer to use visualization, while others enjoy silent and soothing meditation.

    For newcomers to the practice, Dr. Phillipo recommends these easy steps to get you started.

    1. Start by sitting in a comfortable position. Try either sitting up with your legs crossed, arms resting on your knees and palms up, or lying down if you think you won’t fall asleep.

    2. It is a good idea to find a place in your home where you will not be disturbed. Carve out a special place just for meditating and return there each time you practice.

    3. Start with focusing on your breathing. Take long easy breaths in and long easy breaths out. Keep your attention on the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen.

    4. If your attention wanders simply bring it back to your breathing. 5. Remember to take slow and natural breaths. This is meant to be very relaxing.

    6. If you fall asleep, that is okay. When you wake up continue where you left off. It simply means your body is taking what it needs at the moment, rest.

    7. Start out with five to fifteen minutes and work your way up to twenty minutes a day.

    8. First thing in the morning is the best time to do your meditation. Wake up ten minutes early tomorrow. This is a wonderful way to start the day.

    Keep in mind that there is no wrong way to meditate. “The correct way is the one that works for you,” say Dr. Phillipo. Simply take the time to relax, reset and unwind your mind.

  • The Link Between Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

    The adrenals are a key player in our stress responses, kicking into high gear when we get stressed out. To find out more about ways to support your adrenal glands, we spoke with Cari-Lynn Debie, herbalist at Mill Valley, and Paul Clark, herbalist from our Sonoma store, about the best herbs for helping to rejuvenate your adrenals.

    “Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s part of the fight or flight response,” says Paul. The adrenal glands continue to produce cortisol while we’re in panic mode, which effectively puts a damper on the rest of our bodily processes, impacting all of our organ functions.

    Cari-Lynn says people suffering from adrenal fatigue are usually very run down, have difficulty sleeping, wake up with panic and can be overly emotional. “I like to think of the adrenals like a bank account,” she says. “You have funds in there, but stress drains those funds, pulling from other parts of your body. Your immune system starts being affected, allergies can be heightened, it basically can impact everything.”

    As we age, our ability to slow down our stress response changes. “If a child gets scolded, his cortisol will spike, but then come back down within hours,” says Paul. “For someone in their 50s, it could take days, or even weeks, to bring that back down.” Meanwhile, our adrenals are working overtime to keep the cortisol pumping.

    Paul says deep sleep is the most effective remedy for banishing cortisol. “When someone isn’t sleeping well, has too many toxins in their body or has nutritional deficiencies, cortisol remains elevated,” he says.

    Your body then needs help to calm the stress response and rejuvenate your adrenals. That’s where herbs called adaptogens come in. “Adaptogens are defined by their ability to help the body adapt to stress, whether environmental, physical or emotional,” says Paul. “Adrenals and adaptogens work hand in hand.”

    Adaptogens like rhodiola, ashwaganda, eleuthero and holy basil can gently work together to replenish your adrenals. Both Paul and Cari-Lynn recommend Vital Nutrients Adrenal Support, which combines ashwaganda and eleuthero with a bovine-based adrenal extract that helps replace what your adrenals are missing.

    Another great adaptogenic option, Vital Adapt by Natura, an herbal formula that contains eleuthero, schisandra, ginseng and ashwaganda, as well as green tea and reishi mushrooms. Cari-Lynn also recommends B vitamins, and will often suggest an individual eleuthero formula, like Gaia Herbs Eleuthero. “Rhodiola can be too much for some people, so eleuthero works well as an adaptogen that’s very mild yet very effective.”

    Of course, reducing stress and sleeping better are always the best options for adrenal health. To support your adrenals in the long term, make time for yoga, meditation and breathing deeper.

    If you’re feeling run down and are wondering how stress may be affecting your adrenals, talk with a Pharmaca practitioner today for customized solutions.

  • Dr. Low Dog's Ashwagandha Tonic Tea

    If you missed Dr. Low Dog's webinar on Menopause Solutions yesterday, you missed this soothing recipe that's great for a variety of symptoms of menopause, or just to help you sleep better. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb, which Dr. Low Dog says is relaxing, can help with night sweats, mental fog, aches and pains, even boosting the immune system. "Drink this at night, before you got to bed," she says, "and I promise you’ll be sleeping better."

    Ashwagandha Tonic Tea

    •1-2 tsp powdered Ashwagandha
    •2 cups milk (dairy, soy or almond)
    •1 Tbsp raw sugar (or honey or agave nectar)
    •1/8 tsp cardamom

    Simmer ashwagandha in milk on low heat for 15 minutes. Add the sugar and cardamom and stir until well mixed. Turn off heat. Drink 1 cup 1-2 times day.

  • Ask a Practitioner: What can I do to increase focus and concentration?

    We get questions nearly every day via Ask a Practitioner from people with a variety of health concerns. Our practitioners take turns answering these questions, offering advice based on their experience and expertise. Each week we'll be posting some of these questions with the hopes that our practitioners' advice can help answer some of your health questions.

    Q. What are your recommendations for increasing focus and concentration? My adult son has ADD and doesn’t want to go the prescription medication route.

    A. Thank you for your question. The following are suggestions to assist your son with focus and concentration:

    1. DHA—is an essential fatty acid found in great concentrations in fish and flax oils. The human brain is approximately 70 percent DHA, so when we supplement with it, we are directly supporting the function of the brain and nervous system. I would recommend taking 2+ grams of a good quality fish oil (Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega is my favorite). Other great brands include: Pharmax, Renew Life, Pharmaca, Metagenics, and New Chapter.

    2. Think Clearly by Supernutrition—I used this product often when I was studying in my doctorate program and had great results. It’s a natural vitamin/herbal supplement, made from whole foods, and has many elements that support brain activity.

    3. A good multivitamin—My favorite is New Chapter’s Men’s Daily, which is also food-based. Supernutrition and Megafood also make fantastic multivitamins.

    4. Bach Flower Essence Clematis—This is literally a formula extracted from the Clematis flower that “helps you live more actively in the present.”

    5. Phosphatidylserine—Helps the brain cells to function properly.

    6. Digestive health—Examine your son’s digestion and diet. Is he getting proper nutrition? Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can lead to poor concentration. Taking a good probiotic can play a crucial role in aiding with digestive and immune issues, which can also have an impact on concentration.

    -Kate Brainard, Naturopathic Doctor, La Jolla

    The information provided here is intended for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

  • Essential Oil of the Month: Lavender

    This month, we're starting a new tradition of examining a new essential oil to discover more about its healing properties. Since March is Sleep & Stress month, we thought it fitting to take a closer look at the benefits of everyone's favorite relaxing essential oil: Lavender. Pharmaca offers two different strains: French lavender and Bulgarian lavender.

    What it does
    Lavender is a natural antibiotic, antiseptic and anti-depressant. Lavender is best known for its balancing properties, as it can rejuvenate and inspire a tired person, or calm someone who is stressed or tense. 

    Bonus use
    Lavender can also stimulate the immune system and allay the effects of shock or injury.

    Ways to use it

    • Add to a hot bath for a soothing, stress-relieving experience
    • Add to a carrier oil or unscented body product and smooth onto skin
    • Put a few drops on your pillow for relaxing sleep
    • Add to laundry rinse or your iron to freshen clothing
    • Keep a bottle and tissue in your purse or car. Drop lavender oil onto tissue and inhale when you're on the go for an immediate feeling of clarity and calm.

    Interesting tidbit
    One of the founders of aromatherapy, R.M. Gattefosse, started his research into essential oils when he experienced how well lavender helped heal a burn on his hand.

    Discover the power of lavender today!

  • Shaking the Winter Blues

    If you experience sadness, lethargy or a case of the blues during fall and winter, you’re not alone. Winter depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects more than 10 million Americans every year. Symptoms of SAD, which usually begin in October and subside in March, include mild to moderate depression, a feeling of hopelessness, lack of energy, increased need for sleep, a craving for sweets and weight gain.

    “Exercise and increased outdoor activity on sunny days are good ways to extinguish the winter blues,” says Chris Turf, a pharmacist at our South Boulder store. “The most common treatments for SAD are ionized-air circulation and light therapy, in which the use of bright, low-glare artificial light is used to stimulate an antidepressant response from the lower half of the retina,” he added.

    Anat Barak, a certified nutritionist from Pharmaca’s Madison Park store in Seattle says, “The first thing I would recommend is vitamin D. It is best to get 2,000-5,000 IU every day during the winter.” She likes vitamin D because it doesn’t interact with other medications and is safe to take. Try brands like Biotics and Thorne to replace depleted vitamin D levels from getting less sun exposure.

    Spring will soon be here, but if you experience symptoms of SAD that affect your daily living, consult your physician or visit with a Pharmaca practitioner.

  • The (healthy) glory of chocolate

    We just stumbled on this little nugget by John Robbins over at the Huffington Post—we've never seen someone lay out the true health benefits of chocolate quite so well. It turns out it's not just full of antioxidants, it's also great for your heart, your mood, etc. As Robbins says, "There is in fact a growing body of credible scientific evidence that chocolate contains a host of heart-healthy and mood-enhancing phytochemicals, with benefits to both body and mind."

    He goes on to talk about how it's packed with polyphenols that inhibit atherosclerosis, how it helps lower blood pressure, elevate moods by releasing pleasurable endorphins and boosts serotonin levels in the brain. Sounds like a superfood to us! (And it's good to know that the bad rap that chocolate has gotten over the years is mostly due to the additives we put in it--butterfat and sugar, namely--that can boost fat and high cholesterol.)

    Robbins concludes by talking about how much chocolate we really need to reap all those benefits: "According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adding only half an ounce of dark chocolate to an average American diet is enough to increase total antioxidant capacity 4 percent, and lessen oxidation of LDL cholesterol."

    The perfect afternoon snack. Grab one of Pharmaca's fair-trade or organic dark chocolates and munch happy (and healthy)!

  • Meditation good for heart health

    In doing some research for a new article on the link between stress and heart health, we found this great study on the effects of meditation on the body. The study, done in Thailand in 1991, is an oldie but a goodie: it included 20-something men who either practiced Dhammakaya Buddhist meditation or didn't. The result? The meditating men saw significantly reduced cortisol levels and blood pressure, all good for keeping your heart calm and healthy.

    Want to learn more about good heart health? Visit your local Pharmaca in February for our Healthy Heart Events (click for individual store dates). Get cholesterol tests, practitioner consultations and great product samples.

  • Overcoming Holiday Stress

    The holidays are here—and so are the potential headaches from long shopping lines, overbooked party calendars and awkward conversations with distant relatives. If you could use some natural assistance in staying healthy, calm and yes, cheerful this season, Pharmaca has you covered. Yvonne Casaus, herbalist at our Santa Fe location, shared her tips with us.

    Let’s start with supplements. I’ve had a lot of success with the Culturelle Lactobacillus Probiotic, which supports the immune system. One a day goes a long way in boosting the prevention of illness. Holy Basil Leaf by Gaia Herbs is a good option for tired-and-wired feelings. With the stress of the holidays we tend to overexert ourselves, and Holy Basil helps us feel more patient by giving us a sense of extra space. It also helps with mood elevation.

    Maintaining healthy sleep also helps keep holiday stress down, so I suggest Sleep Tonight by Enzymatic Therapy. It’s the only product I’ve found that specifically reduces the cortisol secretions that awaken us in the night when we’re overly stressed, and it also contains ashwagandha to boost long-term sleep.

    Finally, do your best to keep up a balanced diet. This time of year has us craving lots of warming and sugary foods, so a nice way to counteract that is to incorporate more warming red pepper, cayenne, black pepper and cinnamon into your drinks and dishes.

    Now is the perfect time to switch to tea from coffee, which depletes the nervous system and adds tension. For stress modulation, I rely on chai spices to warm my body up and get rid of phlegm, and dark leafy greens for pH balancing. Remember, even people with the best diets stray, but you can help counteract that with balancing ingredients.

    For more advice on keeping your stress levels down and good holiday cheer up, speak with a Pharmaca practitioner today.

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