Stress is something we all deal with. In fact, it’s become pretty synonymous with modern life.
Most of us are also pretty aware that some stress is good for us – it can push us to step outside of our comfort zone, take radical action, and make necessary changes. However, too much stress (especially the chronic kind) is not something we should ignore.
Too much chronic stress, whether stemming from your career, relationships, family, financial situation, etc … can take a serious toll on our health and performance. Just from a physical performance standpoint, chronic stress can cause stress hormone levels to rise (like cortisol and adrenaline) which can lead to weight gain, low energy levels, and even less muscle growth. And this is just from a single physical standpoint: the mental and emotional effects are, as most of us have experienced, grueling to say the least.
But there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel! While stressful situations won’t necessarily disappear overnight, there are things you can do to help bolster your physical resistance to stress, including supplementing with various herbs.
These 5 herbs listed below are some of the most widely studied in their ability to help ease stress and symptoms of anxiety, which can lead to better physical and mental performance in the gym, and in life.
5 Herbs That Help Ease Stress, Improve Energy Levels, And Even Improve Performance
We’ve all most likely come across lavender at least once, whether as a tea or in essential oil form. It turns out these small purple flowers can pack a big punch against stress and anxiety: studies show that people with anxiety disorders who took lavender capsules experienced significant decreases in anxiety. And, not to mention, if stress is keeping you up at night (aka: you can’t turn off those racing thoughts), lavender has been shown to help reduce insomnia and improve sleep quality.
Sleep is ultra-important for muscle repair and energy levels, so you want to make sure you’re getting good quality sleep.
To use lavender, you can inhale lavender essential oil using a diffuser an hour before bed, take lavender capsules as a supplement, have a cup of lavender tea, or even inhale the aroma from the fresh flowers when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.
2. Valerian Root
Valerian root is another herb that has shown a ton of positive effects in studies for stress and anxiety. Many have revealed that valerian is able to increase GABA levels, which has a sedative effect, while valepotriates — the compounds that give valerian its pungent smell — may also have anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects.
Many people dislike the strong smell of valerian, so capsules may be the best choice for dosing it when you’re feeling stressed. It is also recommended to take in the evening, as the sedative effect could cause light drowsiness.
Unlike valerian root and lavender, Ashwagandha is a different class of herb belonging to the adaptogen family. Adaptogen herbs contain compounds that help your body adapt to stress more effectively, so that it has less of a negative impact on your health.
Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years to relieve stress, increase energy levels, and improve concentration, and modern studies are now revealing that it can indeed help significantly reduce cortisol and improve mood.
Also unlike valerian and lavender, ashwagandha is an herb you’ll want to take daily to reap the benefits. It’s effects build up over time, so it’s best to continually dose it while using herbs like lavender for short-term stress relief.
Interestingly, other research has also shown that ashwagandha can help enhance muscle gains and performance, so you also cash in on a win-win effect!
Chamomile is another herb most of us have heard of, especially in the form of chamomile tea. These flowers have strong sedative properties that soothe your nervous system to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. One study even found that taking chamomile long-term significantly reduced symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
Chamomile is awesome as a tea before bed, but you can also diffuse and inhale the essential oil or take capsules.
5. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is yet another all-star stress-fighting herb, complete with an enticing lemon fragrance. Studies have shown it can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, improve mood, and even help you sleep and improve brain function.
Again, lemon balm can be taken as a tea, diffused and inhaled as an essential oil, or in capsule form.
Last but not least, you may want to try supplementing with magnesium if you’re experiencing high stress levels. Typically, most people are deficient in magnesium, which can lead to low mood, high anxiety, reduced energy levels, and more. Not to mention, it can also help improve performance by optimizing muscle contractions, so it’s truly an all-around beneficial supplement.