Stress and Relaxation

Stressed? Find Your Zen

Natural nervous system-balancing substances help regulate the body’s response to stress

We all have the weeks (or months!) when stress levels are high, and nerves frazzled. Whether it be the upcoming family vacation or move or a deadline in the office, events in our lives both good and bad often are experienced as stressful. But do they have to be?

L-theanine: an amino acid with mood-balancing effects 

Green tea is well known for its high amounts of antioxidants, particularly one known as epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG. However, green tea also contains a high amount of an amino acid known as L-theanine. L-theanine is widely used and studied in Japan, a culture particularly known for their tea consumption.[1] L-theanine has been observed to promote relaxation and reduction of stress by a variety of possible mechanisms. Clinical studies have shown L-theanine may increase alpha-wave activity in the brain, as well as increasing neurotransmitters that are important for a balanced mood.[2],[3] It also has been shown to protect the cells in the brain from excess excitation, support the growth of nerves and new pathways connecting them, and increase levels of glutathione (a powerful antioxidant).[4],[5],[6]

In clinical settings, supplementation with L-theanine has been shown to have a relaxing effect, reducing the anxiety-related parameters of heart rate and blood pressure, and improving immune response under stress.

In clinical settings, supplementation with L-theanine has been shown to have a relaxing effect, reducing the anxiety-related parameters of heart rate and blood pressure, and improving immune response under stress.[7],[8],[9] In children with ADHD, L-theanine has also been shown to improve aspects of sleep quality, and has been studied and found safe to be used for this purpose at doses of 200 mg twice daily.[10]

GABA: L-theanine’s sidekick

GABA, as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, is one of the mediators responsible for reducing the response to fear or anxiety-provoking stimuli. Similar to L-theanine, supplemental administration of GABA has been shown to significantly increase alpha wave patterns (the kind of brain waves seen in relaxation) in humans, and reduce anxiety levels.[11],[12] Although the ability of supplemental GABA to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) under normal conditions is debatable, there is evidence of a specialized GABA transporter in the BBB, suggesting that the neurotransmitter can indeed support the brain.[13] There also are many settings in which the permeability of the BBB is increased,[14] much like we see with “leaky gut,” increasing the ability of GABA to pass through. It also has been proposed that the effects seen clinically with GABA are due to the binding of receptors in the nerves of the digestive tract.[15] Additionally, liposomal delivery systems may promote improve delivery of therapeutic agents like GABA to the central nervous system.[16]

Who’s down for some collective happiness?

In a world of stress where we all are looking for something to lessen some of the blows of life, the question should really be: who ISN’T looking for more collective happiness? Collective Happiness Bark, also known as Silk Tree (Albizia julibrissin), is one of three herbs in a blend of botanicals used in Chinese medicine for their calming effect, as well as to support sleep at higher doses. The other botanicals in this blend are Ramulus uncariae, also known as Gou Teng or Gambir Vine, and Jujube (Ziziphus spinose) seed. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), mood issues such as irritability, frustration, and nervousness, as well as insomnia, are seen as a collective issue of the heart and the liver.

This blend of botanicals is focused at calming the liver, clearing heat and removing spasm, also removing obstructions to the flow of Chi (healing energy, or Life Force) and quieting the spirit.

This blend of botanicals is focused at calming the liver, clearing heat and removing spasm, also removing obstructions to the flow of Chi (healing energy, or Life Force) and quieting the spirit. Although these descriptors may be unfamiliar to those of us in the West, the research behind these botanicals has shown they help protect the nerves in the brain and promote neurotransmitters such as GABA and serotonin.[17],[18],[19] These botanicals also have been demonstrated to have antioxidant effects, which also is important to consider in mood disorders such as depression.[20],[21],[22]

A mood and adrenal-supporting food from the deep seas

One of the things that can be helpful when stresses run high are substances known as adaptogens. Adaptogens help the body adapt to stressors:  physical, mental, or other challenges of endurance. Many adaptogens which are commonly used are the roots of herbs such as licorice, ginseng, maca, rhodiola, and many more.

Not only are these deep plant parts useful – an extract from the deep sea fish, Blue Ling (Molva dypterygia), has also been shown to have adaptogenic effects. This deep-water fish, found at a depth of 1,500 to 3,000 feet, where the oxygen deficiency and extreme pressure and temperature have made it develop a highly specialized metabolism and physiology, was used by the ancient Celts who lived off the Armorican peninsula of Brittany to improve resilience to physical and emotional stress. In clinical studies, this extract, containing amino acids, peptides, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, has been shown to support animals and humans under conditions of stress – improving motivation and concentration, decreasing fatigue, and increasing alpha wave activity in the brain.[23],[24],[25]

So rather than letting stress get the best of you, with nerves running ragged and sleep compromised, consider trying these natural supportive options. Because who can’t use a little support to help keep the mood in check and support healthy sleep?

 

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Breaking Habits and Making Resolutions
Adrenal Fatigue, Adrenal Insufficiency, or Something Else?

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