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How can I relieve stress and anxiety naturally?
First we must examine what exactly stress is and what happens to the body during stress. Stress is something everyone experiences every day and a natural part of life. The body responds to stress by releasing adrenaline and corticosterone giving you the so called ďFight-or-FlightĒ response, this occurs automatically. Your adrenal glands produce these hormones which include cortisol, adrenaline, and corticosterone which give you an energy boost to fight or run away. These hormones boost energy, increase awareness and focus which happen whether itís a physical threat or emotional stress. Some stress in life is good for us. Stress helps keep us focused while there is an emergency; however, itís chronic stress that causes a problem.
When stress becomes chronic, elevated stress hormones can be a problem. These stress hormones effect inflammation, immune system response, and metabolism. When our bodies are continually stressed these hormones are continually high and can affect the nervous system causing anxiety and depression, suppress the immune system which can lead to sickness or disease, or effect the digestive function causing over eating and weight gain. Although we donít want to turn off the stress mechanism, we donít want to remain in a state of constant stress. (1-3)
There is hope, Holy basil is an herb found in India used for more 3000 years for medicinal purposes. Holy basil is a member of the mint family. Closely related to the sweet basil we cook with. Holy basil is native to tropical regions of Asia and can now be found throughout the tropical parts of the world. Holy basil is a strong antioxidant that demonstrates antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. (4-6) Holy basil has been used to treat everything from the common cold to bronchitis and even fever. Holy basil has been used as a digestive aid and can be good for ulcers. Letís examine how modern science has taken a closer look at this herb.
In the past ten years scientific studies have focused on the benefits of holy basil consumed orally. These studies have revealed great promise and suggesting holy basil may indeed provide effective relief of those previously mentioned customary uses. Studies have even suggested that holy basil can be taken with radiation therapy to help fight side effects, and even good for diabetes. (4,5,7-9) Holy basilís greatest potential is in the area of stress relief and relaxation.
Holy basil is an adaptogen, enhancing the bodyís ability to cope with physical and emotional stress. Adaptogenic herbs help the body function at optimal levels during stress with out effecting mood. Several studies examining holy basil have found this amazing herb to lower corticosterone levels. Lowering corticosterone can improve mental clarity and memory and help reduce age related mental disorders. 10 Lets look further to see how this actually works.
Holy basil has various compounds that provide health benefits. Such as, eugenol and caryophyllene which are aromatic compounds that are pleasing fragrant scents said to boost mood and spirit. Studies suggest that eugenol helps combat stress and enhance mental clarity. Triterpenoic acid an isolate of holy basil has been shown to improve the bodyís response to stress. Several studies have examined the anti-stress effects of the different components of holy basil. When isolated and examined individually, the eugenol and caryophyllene significantly reduced the corticosterone level and helped the body cope with stress, elevate mood and improve mental clarity. (12-14)
If you are looking for a good brand of holy basil, look for a product that is standardized to the active ingredients eugenol, caryophyllene and triterpenoic acid, in the form of ursolic and oleanolic acid. These components differ significantly in their chemical structure, different extraction methods are needed to get the most beneficial components out of holy basil. There are three extraction methods that are most common, steam distillation, alcohol extraction, and super critical (CO2) extraction.
Steam distillation breaks down plant tissue and pulls out the essential oils and key components released into the steam and collected when cooled.
Alcohol extraction is a bit more complex and the most frequently used form of extraction. The plant is complete dissolved and distilled for purification. Then alcohol is applied to remove the insoluble plant constituents, and then the solution is distilled to remove the alcohol leaving only the active components.
Finally, supercritical extraction has become popular, where carbon dioxide (CO2) under extreme pressure to removed the active components of the herb. This process is executed at low temperature which preserves the components ensuring that the components arenít damaged by high temperature. High temperatures can alter or damage the components of holy basil and this is why CO2 extraction is becoming more popular.
Stress can be triggered at any time in life both physical stress and mental stress. Over time the negative effects of stress can affect our health through our immune system, digestion, or nervous system. Figuring out what is causing stress in life and working to eliminate this stress can ultimately bring healing to your body, holy basil can help aid in the process by reducing the stress hormones and help in recovery for quick relieve of your daily woes.
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8. Vrinda B, Uma Devi P. Radiation protection of human lymphocyte chromosomes in vitro by orientin and vicenin. Mutat Res. 2001 Nov 15;498(1-2):39-46.
9. Agrawal P, Rai V, Singh RB. Randomized placebo-controlled, single blind trial of holy basil leaves in patients with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1996 Sep;34(9):406-9.
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12. Sembulingam K, Sembulingam P, Namasivayam A. Effect of Ocimum sanctum Linn on noise induced changes in plasma corticosterone level. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1997 Oct;41(4):429-30.
13. Archana R, Namasivayam A. Effect of Ocimum sanctum on noise induced changes in neutrophil functions. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000 Nov;73(1-2):81-5.
14. Sen P, Maiti PC, Puri S, Ray A, Audulov NA, Valdman AV. Mechanism of antistress activity of Ocimum sanctum Linn, eugenol and Tinospora malabarica in experimental animals. Indian J Exp Biol. 1992 Jul;30(7):592-6.
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