Even before we arrived at the tumultuousness of life as it is now in these global circumstances, many of us were dealing with the overwhelm, pressure, strain and tension of work, family life, relationships, social media, and more. After the pandemic hit, our global stress and anxiety have increased – and evidence indicates that women are bearing the brunt of this worry.
I fully recognize that a stress-busting latte and herbs for stress relief aren't going to solve all your problems, but my intention is to offer a little deliciousness and support to your day. As I've said many times before, every choice counts, and maybe this optimal choice may replace one that might not have been so beneficial.
How Stress and Anxiety Impacts Our Physical and Mental Health
We tend to think of stress as something that only impacts our brain and mental health. It does, this is true, but stress also has wide-reaching effects throughout the body. Stress can impact our:
- Digestive tract function
- Immune system health
- Memory and cognition
- Hormone balance
- Reproductive health
- Cardiovascular system
- Muscles and nerves
10 Key Herbs for Stress relief
There are a number of herbs for stress relief you can add to your regular diet and lifestyle. Many of the herbs I recommend are adaptogens, which are a category of herbs that help us adapt to mental and physical stress.
Reishi is an adaptogen commonly touted for its immune benefits, but it's also incredible at helping us adapt to stress by soothing and calming the nervous system. It contains a compound called adenosine, which helps to relax our muscles, lessen anxiety, and boost mood. What's more, reishi is packed with antioxidants to protect our cells from damage.
Maca is an adaptogenic root that grows in Peru's Andes Mountains, some of the hardest terrain in the world. The root has to be tough, durable, and adaptable to not just survive, but thrive in that kind of climate. It's hardy and resilient, which helps increase our resilience too. Maca helps to protect the brain and nervous system, improves energy levels, has anti-depressant properties, and aids with hormone balance. It's also a good source of Vitamin C, a nutrient our adrenal glands burn through in times of stress.
How to Use It: Maca is one of those herbs for stress that has a strong, malty flavour that isn't for everyone! I like using maca in elixirs, dairy-free ice cream, and sweet treats like chocolate almond butter cups.
How to Use It: Best used in tea, either on its own or in a blend.
These berries have long been used in Eastern medicine. Yes, they are technically a fruit, but I am including them in this list of herbs for stress because they essentially behave as a medicinal herb. Goji berries are absolutely packed with nutrients, including Vitamin C and other antioxidants that help protect our bodies from stress. It contains compounds that protect the brain and reduce anxiety. In this study, participants who ate goji berries for two weeks reported they felt calmer, happier, and less stressed out compared to those who didn't.
How to Use Them: Goji berries have a natural sweetness, but can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Add them to teas, smoothies, elixirs, oatmeal, chia pudding, chocolate, granola, or ice cream. For a savory option, I like to add them to broths (along with maca too!) and sprinkle goji berries over salads.
How to Use It: Passionflower has a lovely flavour when brewed as a hot tea, plus you can chill your passionflower brews to add to smoothies. Passionflower essential oil works well in the bath or dropped on your pillow.
This adaptogenic herb is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine as an overarching and rejuvenating tonic. Studies on ashwaghanda show that it helps to calm the mind, lower anxiety and stress levels, reduce inflammation, and guard us against neurodegenerative diseases.
Holy basil is an adaptogen that supports mental health by lowering stress and anxiety, and it helps to reduce depression.
How to Use It: Tulsi is best used as a tea, on its own, or in a blend. It's also lovely in infused honey.
Panax ginseng is an adaptogenic herb long used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It has a wide array of health benefits, notably its ability to help improve energy levels and reduce fatigue, lower inflammation, and reduce the risk of central nervous system diseases. Ginseng can also inhibit the secretion of stress hormones so they don't flood the body.
How to Use It: Simmer ginseng into teas and broths, or take it as a tincture.
How to Use It: Add rhodiola to your smoothies and elixirs, or use it in a tea blend.
More Resources to Help You Handle Stress
Stress-Busting Latte Recipe
This stress-busting latte recipe is warm and comforting, with a natural sweetness from the goji berries, cinnamon, and nut/seed milk. You can easily double, triple, or quadruple the decoction ingredients to use in recipes throughout the week, or freeze it for later.
Yield: 1½ - 2 cups
- 4 cups water
- 2 Tbsp, or 2 slices of dried Reishi mushroom
- 2 Tbsp Chaga
- 1 Tbsp Maca
- 2 Tbsp goji berries
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 Tbsp clove, optional
- 1 cup herbal decoction
- ½ cup dairy-free milk of choice, warmed
- 1 Tbsp collagen(optional)
- 2 tsp ghee or coconut oil
- honey to taste
- Simmer decoction ingredients for 20 minutes or up to 2 hours. Pour the decoction through a strainer and discard the solids.
- In a blender, combine one cup of decoction, dairy-free milk, collagen, ghee/oil and honey.
- Pour into a mug and top up with additional hot tea if desired.
Remember that when using herbs for stress, particularly the adaptogens, the effect is cumulative. You're not going to notice a massive difference after one cup of reishi tea. Start with small amounts, and make stress-reducing herbs a part of your routine, along with a whole food diet, sleep, exercise, and immune support.