Top 5 Herbs To Manage Your Holiday Stress

Top 5 Herbs To Manage Your Holiday Stress

By Stephen Brenna, Pn1

Top 5 Herbs To Manage Your Holiday Stresss

The year-end holiday season is upon us, which can mean many different things for many people. For some here in the U.S., it's the most festive season of the year, where many gather with friends and loved ones to acknowledge and celebrate the year's accomplishments. For others however, it can be a season of tight deadlines, loneliness, familial responsibilities, and revisiting past trauma.

Regardless of the cause, the holiday season can be a stressful time of year. And what tends to go hand-in-hand with the holidays? Dietary temptation aplenty! From indulgent dinners to sweets and alcohol, overconsumption can be difficult to resist at this time of year, especially when one's willpower may be weakened by increased stress.

The good news is, there is a host of beneficial herbs one can utilize to mitigate some of that excess tension and build one's resilience to stress. Collectively, these are referred to as "adaptogens;" herbs that help us adapt to challenging circumstances (i.e. fatigue, stress and increase stamina) and bring us back to homeostasis (balance).

Here are my top 5 holiday adaptogens, ranked by volume of both benefits and research:

  1. Ashwagandha- This herb has emerged into the mainstream as the king of Ayurvedic adaptogens in recent years, and for good reason. Ayurveda is an ancient Indian medicinal system rooted in the belief that disease is the result of imbalance or stress, therefore homeostasis must be restored in order to avoid illness. A growing body of research suggests ashwagandha may help mediate several biological stress markers, including cortisol. It may also reduce the activity of the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, a key component of the body’s stress-responsive endocrine system.

  2. Rhodiola Rosea- Perhaps less well-known but almost equally potent in terms of benefits, Rhodiola has been associated with a reduction in symptoms of "burnout" due to chronic stress. Research has linked supplementation of Rhodiola with decreased symptoms of depression, decreased physical and mental fatigue, and increased cognitive function.

  3. Holy Basil- Also known as Tulsi, Holy Basil is highly coveted in Ayurvedic medicine. The herb contains high concentrations of ursolic acid, a compound that exhibits antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Looking to avoid that December cold that disrupts your tight schedule? Holy Basil can help. It's also associated with fending off both psychological and physical stress.

  4. Licorice Root- Does stress, coupled with overindulgence in rich food and drink have your gut in a bind? Licorice root is a proven digestive soother, improving symptoms of indigestion and acid reflux. In addition, it may aid both the dry skin and upper respiratory issues that are common in the winter months.

  5. Kava Root- Kava has moved to the forefront of the growing non-alcoholic cocktail/elixir industry, as more individuals seek to unwind and socialize without the detrimental effects of alcohol. The plant contains kavalactones, a compound unique to Kava that may help reduce anxiety. This anxiolytic effect may also help improve sleep, one of the best ways to mitigate stress.

Whether you need a boost of physical or mental stamina, less anxiety, increased immunity, or improved mood, there's an adaptogen for that. Each of the medicinal herbs above have been in use for centuries, and modern research is now validating them on a scientific basis. So regardless of what types of challenges the holiday season may throw your way, supplementing with any of these adaptogens will promote greater resiliency and a healthier stress response.