Stress and Relaxation
Relaxation, insomnia and anxiety
There are many natural ways to help relax.
Natural methods of relaxation aren’t as strong as prescriptions, but are often enough to help reduce stress. Ideally, natural options are simple useful “tools” to assist you while you work to find the cause of your problem and its solutions.
Always consider thyroid and adrenal problems potential components of your stress issues.
The classes of relaxing supplements are: nervines, muscle relaxants, sedatives, and mood altering treatments.
Mood altering treatments
Mood altering treatments change brain chemistry and neurotransmitters. Mood altering treatments are used for anxiety, depression and swinging emotional changes. Often MDs prescribe mood-altering treatments such as serotonin uptake inhibitors (e.g. Prozac) and other chemicals.
It may be safe to use mood altering natural and prescription treatments at the same time, but this must be done under a doctor’s supervision.
It is safe to try mood-altering treatments if you aren’t on other medications, but discontinue if your condition becomes worse.
I often start people with depression or anxiety on 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5HTP).
- 5HTP increases production of serotonin in the brain (a relaxing hormone) and promotes emotional balance and improved moods, usually without fatigue.
- Eating turkey causes a tryptophan effect, commonly seen at Thanksgiving. People become happy and tired. Plant Derived 5-hydroxytryptophan causes mood alteration without the fatigue that turkey causes.
- 5-HTP improves serotonin. Serotonin’s “job” is to regulate hormone balance, brain activity, appetite and the sleep/wake cycle. It is non-addictive and your body only converts the necessary amount into serotonin.
5HTP dosage: 50-100 milligrams 1-3X/day (total of 50-300mg/day)
Theanine is a good short-term treatment for anxiety and stress, especially if you experience short-term episodes of stress. Theanine is relaxing without creating fatigue. It is isolated from green tea, but isn’t a stimulant.
Theanine dosage: 1-2 as needed for stress/anxiety.
Nervines are supplements that help calm nerve response. They relax nerve tension by reducing electrical stimulation.
Kava Kava: Kava has received some bad press lately, despite the fact Kava has been used safely for thousands of years. Historically Kava was made from just the root pulp of Piper methysticum. Recent preliminary evidence showed that the root peelings and leaves cause the Kava extract to be toxic. Unfortunately, some companies bought the discarded peelings and leaf to a make a less expensive product that caused liver damage in some people.
If you use Kava extract, use the best possible extract such as Herb Pharm’s Pharma Kava.
WARNING: If you turn yellow, have pain under your lower right rib cage or in your right shoulder blade, or have any history of liver damage discontinue Kava immediately.
I do consider Kava a useful tool preferably for short-term use.
Pharma Kava is a spray-dried extract of a Kava water isolation, which is much safer than chemical isolations. Herb Pharm makes one of the best and safest Kava treatments.
Pharma kava dosage: 1-2 as needed for nervine effect or relaxation.
Muscle relaxants work to relax muscle without depressing the central nervous system. They relax the body but don’t knock out the mind.
Magnesium causes muscle relaxation without mental sedation.
Which form of magnesium to use?
Constipation: If you don’t have a complete bowel movement daily use magnesium citrate which helps relax bowel spasms and is an osmotic laxative (see the section on constipation for more information). Magnesium citrate is a non-addictive and gentle laxative. To determine the level of magnesium citrate to take, start with 1/day with or without food. Then daily, increase by 1. Stop when stools are normal. For instance, 1-2 magnesium citrate 1-2X/day is a common dosage.
Regular bowel movements: If you tend to be regular or have loose stools, use magnesium glycinate or magnesium taurate.
Dosage of magnesium: anywhere from 100-1500mg/day depending on blood pressure.
- Valerian is both a sedative and a muscle relaxant.
- It is a safe, non-addictive muscle relaxant that also induces sleep. Valerian is an excellent choice for pain relief at night or for stubborn cramps that are associated with stress and anxiety.
Valerian dosage: 1-4 caps as needed for relaxation, pain, or to induce sleep.
Sedatives are supplements that reduce nerve function (as opposed to nervines, which help to balance nerve function). Sedatives tend to be addictive, however, they are useful to induce sleep and to calm anxiety.
Sedatives are useful to induce sleep and relax anxiety.
Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that induces sleep. It is addictive, because it reduces your internal melatonin production.
- Melatonin is OK to use occasionally, but will damage sleep with continued use.
Often, different relaxing supplements are combined into one product.Kalmerite glycerite:
- Kalmerite glycerite is a mix of non-alcohol herbal extracts that are inclusive of all classes of calming and relaxing supplements.
- Kalmerite glycerite is a good choice for severe PMS cramping, muscle/back pain or insomnia.
- Kalmerite glycerite is made in a glycerine base, which is thick and sweet. Even though some of the herbs in the mixture are strong tasting, the glycerine base makes it far more tolerable.
Dosage: Add 10-30 drops to water, 1-6 times per day.