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    Stress and adaptogens

    • 4 min read

    Written by Janette Mason, CNP

    What a crazy few months we’ve had! If you’ve noticed your sleep is shot,[1] you’re a little bit anxious[2] and you are craving way too many carbs,[3] you’re probably feeling the impacts of stress. Pour yourself a cuppa calming chamomile tea, take a deep breath, and read on for some stress relievers to keep you feeling healthy and happy.

    The ABCs of stress coping:

    Vitamin A. Along with other antioxidants vitamins C and E, vitamin A help to protect telomere length. Life stress is linked with shortening of telomeres, which has been associated with aging.[4]

    Vitamin B. Chronic stress depletes B vitamins. Add a B Complex formula to your nutritional supplement routine.[5]

    Vitamin C. Adrenal glands are rich in vitamin C. New research shows that our adrenal glands secrete not only hormones in response to stress, but also Vitamin C. Remember that Vitamin C is crucial for supporting your immune system. Shore up your intake during the colder weather with supplemental C.[6]



    Adaptogens help the body adapt to stress by increasing both physical and mental capacity, reducing fatigue as well as promoting restorative activities. In order to be considered adaptogens, substances must act quickly and have long-lasting effects, have properties that reduce stress-induced damage and be innocuous.[7]

    Ashwagandha (Sensoril ®) Research supported benefits include the reduction in stress symptoms such as fatigue, sleeplessness, irritability, and inability to concentrate when standardized to 250 mg/day.[8]

    Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) may help to reduce symptoms of anxiousness with continued use.16In Western herbal medicine, Chamomile is credited the actions of an anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, mild sedative, anti-ulcer, carminative, vulnerary, and diaphoretic (17).

    L-theanine has been found in research to mitigate both the physiological stress response and the ‘felt’ and emotional stress response.[9]

    Panax Ginseng enhances physical capacity and performance, in cases of physical stress and has also been shown to support cognitive function and reduce mental fatigue.[10]

    Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) may be helpful to reduce symptoms of nervousness, particularly heart palpitations, attention deficiencies and insomnia.[11]

    Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)Clinical research shows that this herb helps to relieve stress-related conditions and indicators of burnout, including emotional and physical exhaustion, irritability, and low mood.[12]

    Schisandra Berries supports resistance to stress when fatigued.[13]

    Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) has been shown to have a calming effect in healthy, mildly anxious adults. Some research shows mood enhancing effects without a reduction in energy or cognition. No toxicity, adverse reactions, tolerance, dependability or rebound excitability was found in the study.  It is an herb with a very strong tradition as a mild improver of sleep quality.[14]

    Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) root may help reduce feelings of uneasiness and to promote calm without causing drowsiness.[15]

    Watch for the sneaky stressors:

    • Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine
    • Toxins in personal care products
    • Dietary nutrient deficiencies
    • Physical injury or chronic illness
    • Poor sleep
    • Emotional or mental health concerns

    We can’t always control what happens in our lives, or even how we react to unexpected events. But we can help our bodies cope when life throws us a pandemic-sized curve ball!



    [1] Vgontzas, A., Tsigos, C., Bixler, E., Stratakis, C., Zachman, K., Kales, A., … Chrousos, G. (1998). Chronic insomnia and activity of the stress system: A preliminary study. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 45(1), 21–31.

    [2] Wacogne, C., Lacoste, J., Guillibert, E., Hugues, F., & Le Jeunne, C. (2003). Stress, Anxiety, Depression and Migraine. Cephalalgia23(6), 451–455.

    [3] Svetlak, M. (2010). Food Craving, Stress And Limbic Irritability. Activitas Nervosa Superior52(3), 113–117.

    [4] Min, K., & Min, J. (2017). Association between leukocyte telomere length and serum carotenoid in US adults. European Journal Of Nutrition56(3), 1045-1052. doi:10.1007/s00394-016-1152-x

    [5] Stough, C., Simpson, T., Lomas, J., McPhee, G., Billings, C., Myers, S., & ... Downey, L. A. (2014). Reducing occupational stress with a B-vitamin focussed intervention: a randomized clinical trial: study protocol. Nutrition Journal13(1), 159-180. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-122

    [6] Human adrenal glands secrete vitamin C in response to adrenocorticotrophic hormone. (2007). American Journal of Clinical Nutrition86(1), 145-149.

    [7] Pawar Vinod, S., & Hugar, S. (2012). A current status of adaptogens: natural remedy to stress. Asian Pacific Journal Of Tropical Disease, Vol 2, Iss Sup 1, Pp 480-490 (2012), (Sup 1), 480. doi:10.1016/S2222-1808(12)60207-2

    [8] Auddy, B. et al. (2008). A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. JANA, 11(1), 51-57. 

    [9] Giles, G. E., Mahoney, C. R., Brunyé, T. T., Taylor, H. A., & Kanarek, R. B. (2017). Caffeine and theanine exert opposite effects on attention under emotional arousal. Canadian Journal Of Physiology & Pharmacology95(1), 93-100.

    [10] Panax Ginseng. Health Canada. Accessed May 19, 2020

    [11] Appel, K., Rose, T., Fiebich, B., Kammler, T., Hoffmann, C., & Weiss, G. (2011). Modulation of the [gamma]-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system by Passiflora incarnata L. Phytotherapy Research25(6), 838-843. doi:10.1002/ptr.3352

    [12] Kasper, S., & Dienel, A. (2017). Multicenter, open-label, exploratory clinical trial with Rhodiola rosea extract in patients suffering from burnout symptoms. Neuropsychiatric Disease And Treatment, Vol Volume 13, Pp 889-898 (2017), 889.

    [13]  Cognitive Function Products. Health Canada. Accessed May 19, 2020

    [14] Brock C, Whitehouse J, Tewfik I, Towell T. American Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora): A randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study of its effects on mood in healthy volunteers. Phytother Res 2014; 28:692–698.

    [15] Thomas, K., Canedo, J., Perry, P. J., Doroudgar, S., Lopes, I., Chuang, H. M., & Bohnert, K. (2016). Effects of valerian on subjective sedation, field sobriety testing and driving simulator performance. Accident Analysis And Prevention92240-244. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2016.01.019

    16. Mao JJ, Xie SX, Keefe JR, Soeller I, Li QS, Amsterdam JD. Long-term chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized clinical trial. Phytomedicine. 2016;23(14):1735-1742. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2016.10.012

    17. Bone, Kerry. (2016) Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy - E-Book: Modern Herbal Medicine (p. 475). Elsevier Health Sciences. Kindle Edition.