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  • Stress Supplements 101

    Young woman drinking tea at homeWe can all feel overwhelmed by stress sometimes—the last thing we need is to be overwhelmed by the number of stress relief options available. Here’s a short list of popular practitioner recommendations for stress relief, and what they’re good for.

    Racing mind: L-Theanine
    This unique amino acid, found in green tea, supports mental calmness by increasing dopamine and GABA in the brain; it also assists the alpha brainwaves associated with relaxation, without any drowsiness.

    Tense muscles: Magnesium
    Identified in more than 300 bodily processes, magnesium relaxes small muscles and is also a key player in mental relaxation, neuromuscular transmission and energy—serving double duty both rebuilding the body, and giving a sense of wellbeing.

    Anxiety: L-tryptophan/5-HTP
    In the body L-tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP, which can then be converted to serotonin; serotonin deficiency has been linked to poor sleep, loss of appetite, as well as depression and anxiety.

    Long-term stress: B Complex
    “B vitamins are also hugely important regarding stress,” says Cassy Dymond, naturopath at our Wallingford store in Seattle. B vitamin deficiency can exacerbate stress and anxiety, since B vitamins are critical to many functions in the body including calming the nervous system. “When we’re stressed, we burn through B5 and B6 more quickly.”

    Irritability: GABA
    GABA is the predominant inhibitory neurotransmitter that works to calm over-excitement in the nervous system that can lead to irritability, restlessness, sleeplessness and spasmodic movements. GABA increases the production of calming alpha waves and decreases stress-related beta waves in the brain.

    In-the-moment stress: Flower Essences
    Bach’s Rescue Remedy, a combination of five flower essences, is designed for immediate relief from stress or some kind of trauma,” says Lindsay Fontana, homeopath at our Santa Fe store. “Sometimes when you can just get a little distance from things, you can find more peace.” The formula includes essences of rock rose, clematis, impatiens, cherry plum and star of Bethlehem.

    Chronic stress: Adaptogenic Herbs
    Our adrenal glands produce stress hormones (such as cortisol), and can quickly become imbalanced with chronic stress. That’s where adaptogens come in—they help improve adrenal gland function and boost your body’s natural stress response. Our practitioners often recommend rhodiola, eleuthero, astragalus and ashwaganda—in single extracts or combinations.

    Ask a Pharmaca practitioner for other stress-busting supplement recommendations.

  • A Holistic Approach to Stress

    Whether you need just a few extra minutes of calm in your day or more long-term stress relief, Pharmaca offers a variety of different approaches to beating anxiety. And don’t forget—helping your body better cope with stress can go a long way toward optimal health and reducing your risk for chronic conditions like cancer, obesity and heart disease.

    The Herbal Approach
    When it comes to stress-fighting herbs, Cassy Dymond, ND at our Seattle - Wallingford location, says her go-tos are passionflower, lemon balm and milky oats. “WishGarden Herbs has some really nice formulas,” says Cassy. Deep Stress, for example, contains herbs like nettles, oat seed, thyme, bladder wrack and skullcap—“a really great herb for stress. This one is ideal when you have stress and anxiety with agitation and a hard time falling asleep,” says Cassy. She also likes their Emotional Ally, which can be helpful when you’re going through a difficult period in life, like a personal or professional change. That one also includes skullcap and St. John’s wort.

    In addition to calm-inducing herbs, says Cassy, “My tendency is to look for herbs that are supportive to the adrenals. If someone is stressed out it’s important to address the adrenal glands, too.” That’s when she turns to adaptogenic herbs like ashwaghanda, eleuthero and rhodiola, found in Gaia Herbs’ Adrenal Health and Vitanica’s Adrenal Assist.

    The Vitamins & Supplements Approach
    “B vitamins are also hugely important regarding stress,” says Cassy. “They are co-factors in so many different cellular processes, and when we’re stressed, we burn through B5 and B6 more quickly.” Look for B complexes from Thorne Research, MegaFood or New Chapter.

    Two more to add to the stress-fighting toolkit, according to Cassy: vitamin C, which offers good antioxidant support during times of stress, and magnesium, which can be help relaxing the muscles and offer physical calm.

    The Homeopathic Approach
    This subtle, gentle form of healing can work on very specific forms of stress.  Elizabeth Vassar, homeopath at our Brentwood store, tells us about some of her favorites.

    Ignatia amara: “This is one of my number ones for coping with sudden disappointment or loss, such as the ending of a relationship,” says Elizabeth.

    Natrum muriaticum: “This is good for people who have a tendency toward mild to moderate depression,” she says.

    Kali phosphoricum: Elizabeth commonly recommends this for overworked people. “I usually give it to people who are tired of their job! It helps calm the nerves.”

    Bryonia Alba: This is good for someone who has suffered big losses—like their job, a home, etc., and is experiencing depression because of it, says Elizabeth.

    Arsenicum album: “This is for the people who worry about everything!” says Elizabeth.

    Because homeopathy is so specialized to each person’s individual needs, it’s best to speak with a homeopathic practitioner at Pharmaca about proper strengths and dosages.

    The Flower Essence Approach
    Much like homeopathy, flower essences are made via multiple dilutions of flower, tree and bush extracts, and work on an energetic level. In the 1920s, British homeopath Edward Bach isolated 38 flower essences that he felt were especially helpful in balancing emotions—making them ideal for beating stress.

    Bach’s Rescue Remedy, a combination of five flower essences, is a best-selling stress-relief option. “Rescue Remedy is designed for immediate relief from stress or some kind of trauma,” says Lindsay Fontana, homeopath at our Santa Fe store.  “Sometimes when you can just get a little distance from things, you can find more peace. And that’s what Rescue Remedy really gives you.” Available in drops, as a spray and in tasty pastilles, the formula includes five flowers: rock rose, clematis, impatiens, cherry plum and star of Bethlehem.

    Lindsay cites a few other individual flower essences that can be helpful for different stressful scenarios:

    Aspen is good for stress—literally for fears and worries of unknown origin

    Cherry Plum is for fear of losing control

    Elm is for when you’re overwhelmed by responsibility

    Honeysuckle helps when you’re dwelling on the past

    Pine relieves self-reproach or guilt

    Again, because of the specialized nature of these essences, it’s best to work with a Pharmaca practitioner on choosing individual products.

  • Your Everyday Stress-Relief Guide

    Whether we’re meeting deadlines at work or school or taking the kids to soccer practice, we could all use a little daily stress relief. Keep this helpful guide on hand to remind you of daily practices that can help reduce the stress in your life.

    Get on a regular sleep schedule. “Try and go to sleep and wake up at the same time,” says Brian Vaitkus, naturopathic doctor at our Portland store. He recommends having a nighttime ritual, like a warm bath, to relax you and induce sleep more readily.

    Why is sleep so important? “Your adrenal glands are the glands most affected by stress in your body because they function on a circadian rhythm,” says Brian. “As our sleep becomes less regular, our adrenal glands suffer more.”

    To nourish those adrenals, Brian likes Pure Encapsulations Daily Stress Formula. “It has all the active forms of your B vitamins, as well as an herbal adaptogenic blend.” (Read more about the connection between stress and your adrenal glands.)

    Breathe deeply. In the midst of a busy day, take a moment to escape the world around you and focus on you. We like Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise, as follows, because it can be done anywhere. (This one is meant for relaxation, but the Stimulating Breath exercise here, can be helpful in stressful times, too):

    • Exhale audibly through your mouth.
    • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose while counting to four.
    • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
    • Exhale completely through your mouth, audibly, to a count of eight.
    • Repeat the cycle three more times, for a total of four breaths.

    Try aromatherapy. “Aromatherapy is now recognized medically because we know it works on different energy centers in the brain,” says Shizandra Fox, herbalist at our Sonoma store.

    Lavender is the queen of stress-relief,” says Shizandra. She also recommends small amounts of clary sage, bergamot or rosemary to help create mental clarity during a stressful time.

    Even if you don’t have a diffuser in your car or on your desk, keep a small bottle of your favorite relaxing essential oil with you and take a whiff every once in awhile, or even apply to a tissue and keep it nearby. “If you want to apply it to your skin, combine it with a carrier oil like jojoba oil,” says Shizandra. “Jojoba binds to the oil and keeps it from dissipating.”

    Get rescued.
    There’s a reason Bach’s Rescue Remedy is one of our customers’ favorite things to have on hand when life and work get really stressful. A blend of Impatiens, Star of Bethlehem, Cherry Plum, Rock Rose and Clematis, Rescue Remedy naturally works to calm your nerves. “The flower essences help balance the body and bring out a more positive state of being,” says Shizandra. “When the body is working in a positive state, the negative influences are less challenging.” Rescue Remedy is available in pastilles, a spray and liquid drops—even a lip balm—to help you prep for everything from a big presentation to a longer-than-you’d-like to-do list.

    Get regular exercise
    . “Even walking for 15 minutes a day, with good deep breathing, can be helpful,” Brian says. And don’t forget, “Do your best to smile as often as possible.”

    To find out more about everyday stress relief, speak with a practitioner at your local Pharmaca.

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