Stress. It’s something that all of us experience, regardless of job, geographic location or family situation. Stress is the body’s response to environmental stimuli (stressors). It’s natural and healthy to a degree; stress can motivate us and move us forward in life. Too much stress and an inability to manage it, however, can have dramatic health consequences for an individual.
In Canada, statistics reveal the prevalence of stress in our modern society. Almost three-quarters of Canadian workers report being “stressed.” Of those stressed workers, more than one-third consider themselves “highly stressed.” Although there are numerous sources of stress, 60% of highly stressed individuals cite work as the primary cause.1
The cost of high stress levels to the Canadian economy is crippling. An estimated $20 billion per year is spent or lost in dealing with stress issues. An incredible 75% of short-term work disability is due to stress. 2
The dark side of chronic stress
Stress triggers adrenaline and cortisol production in the body allowing the individual to react to the stressful situation. Heart rate, body temperature, endocrine response and anxiety all increase. Productivity increases for a short time, but fatigue and exhaustion can follow and if the stress is prolonged, health issues can occur.
Chronic high levels of stress are associated with mental health issues. The Canadian Mental Health Commission reports that anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue as well as alcohol and drug abuse occur more frequently in those under extreme stress.3 These states can lead to memory loss, poor brain performance, anxiety disorders and accelerated aging. Further, with the mind-body connection in humans, stress issues can go beyond mental to physical disease. Heart disease, arthritis, joint conditions, diabetes, respiratory issues, migraine headaches, metabolic syndrome, obesity risk, poor sexual performance and weakened immunity all increase in the shadow of long-term stress.
Solutions for managing stress and anxiety
The pharmaceutical industry offers a wide selection of drugs to help individuals cope with stress. Some common prescriptions are anxiolytics (tranquilizers) (e.g. benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax), beta blockers for anxiety symptoms or sleeping pills to assist with sleeping. The downside of these medicines can be dependence, decreasing effectiveness with regular use, memory loss, cognitive decline and withdrawal symptoms. Dependence can occur in just two weeks with some medications.4
To avoid the potential risks of pharmaceutical medications when dealing with stress and anxiety, there are a number of lifestyle adjustments suggested by the Canadian Mental Health Association to help the mind and body cope:5
Natural supplements can also assist the body and mind in coping with stressful conditions. Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and magnesium have been shown to be helpful. Traditional herbal remedies also have a history of assisting the body to perform when under mental or physical stress.
Adaptogens – Natural stress resistance
Herbs that can enhance one’s capability to deal with stress are classified as adaptogens. These are plants with medicinal components that can help normalize the body’s functions during periods of mental and physical stress to rebalance and rejuvenate an individual. A number of herbs are classified as adaptogens. The best herbal adaptogens are those that have the following traits6:
One herb that satisfies all the requirements of a true adaptogen is Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Its name, Ashwagandha, means “smell of horse” owing to its distinctive odour and its ability to give one the “strength of a horse.” The root of Ashwagandha has been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years as a rejuvenative herb for enhancing the performance of multiple body systems: the neurological, immune, energy-production, endocrinal and reproductive systems.
Ashwagandha has had a long history of use as an adaptogen and even some basic clinical trials showing promise. A unique, full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha has now been tested in a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to evaluate the full potential of the herb to assist humans to manage stress and anxiety. This Ashwagandha, branded as KSM-66®, has been called “the world’s best Ashwagandha.”
KSM-66® – Ashwagandha for mental stress
KSM-66® is a superior Ashwagandha extract for several reasons. It is a root-only extract for one. Only the root extract is used in Ayurvedic medicine, not the leaves. KSM-66® has the highest concentration active withanolides at 5% of any root-only Ashwagandha extract. KSM-66® is a full spectrum extract that contains the complete profile of nutrients found naturally in Ashwagandha. But most importantly, the KSM-66® extract is backed up by extensive clinical studies for its many benefits.
Researchers believed that Ashwagandha’s ability to reduce blood cortisol levels was the primary reason for its effectiveness against stress and anxiety symptoms. During stressful mental or physical situations, cortisol can rise as much as 20 times normal levels due to excess adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) secretion.12 Elevated cortisol leads to increased heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar. High cortisol levels for short periods can save our lives, by focusing all body systems on survival. High cortisol levels for long periods can have detrimental effects on anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, memory and concentration impairment.13
Clearly, KSM-66® Ashwagandha is proven to be an effective adaptogen, with research continuing to document its wide applications. Users of this special herbal extract will quickly understand why it was recently selected as the “Best Botanical Ingredient” by Engredea at the Natural Product Expo – the world’s largest natural health exhibition.