Ayurveda is an old Indian medical system that can help you manage stress and anxiety. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri ) are two herbs that have been shown to lower cortisol levels and boost mood. Changes in lifestyle, like exercise, meditation, and deep breathing, can also help reduce stress and clear your mind.
Changes to your diet, like staying away from caffeine and alcohol, eating regularly, and eating healthy fats, can also help to reduce stress and anxiety. Ayurvedic health consultants may also suggest herbal formulas, which can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Before diving into Ayurveda herbs and their ways to manage stress and anxiety, let’s first understand the stress
So Would you want to reduce your stress to zero?
No, it’s not healthy to reduce stress to zero. You need some amount of stress to function in the stressful chaotic world with crazy situations in life.
The ability to remain attentive and vigilant in the face of adversity is a vital survival skill. As we continue to put our bodies under shorter episodes of stress, such as exercising or physical training, for example, our bodies will become stronger. The problem arises when we remain in prolonged cycles of persistent stress for longer periods of time; at that point, it begins to burn out and degrade organs and impede their functioning.
The negative impact of Stress on Human Health
Stress and Immunity
Stress has a significant short- and long-term impact on the immune system. Acute stress has been shown to increase the production of cytokines and other immune-related molecules, which leads to increased inflammation and the risk of infectious diseases. Chronic stress, on the other hand, has been shown to suppress the immune system, resulting in decreased cytokine production and a decrease in the number of immune cells, raising the risk of infections, autoimmune diseases, and other health issues.
Stress can hurt the immune system by changing how the central nervous system (CNS) and neuroendocrine system (NE) work. Chronic stress shrinks your lymph nodes, spleen, and thymus, eventually killing your immune system.
Stress and the Brain
Stress activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, causing cortisol, a stress hormone, to be released. Cortisol affects the brain by influencing the functioning of the hippocampus, a region important for memory and emotion regulation. Chronic cortisol exposure has been linked to hippocampus shrinkage and memory impairment, as well as depression and anxiety.
Higher cortisol levels also enter your organs and cause them to adjust to stress. Stress also has an impact on neurotransmitters and neuroendocrine systems, such as the dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin systems, resulting in additional changes in mood, behaviour, and cognition.
Stress and its impact on the heart & cardiovascular system
The very first effect of stress on heart function is usually on the heart rate, which becomes irregular, increases, or decreases. Blood pressure is the next significant effect of stress on cardiovascular function.
Stress can cause the autonomic sympathetic nervous system to increase vasoconstriction, which can lead to an increase in blood pressure, an increase in blood lipids, blood clotting disorders, vascular changes, and atherogenesis, all of which can lead to cardiac arrhythmias and subsequent myocardial infarction.
Of course, there are individual differences in the level of autonomic-based responses to stress, which depend on a person’s personal characteristics. Furthermore, there are gender differences in the cardiovascular response to stress, and it has been estimated that women begin to exhibit heart disease ten years later than men, which has been attributed to the estrogen hormone’s protective effects.
Stress & Digestive system
Because your gut is a second brain, when you are stressed, your digestive system goes into overdrive. Stress can cause acid reflux (GERD) and ulcers by increasing gastric acid in the stomach, eventually leading to gastritis. The PNS (parasympathetic nervous system) regulates your digestive system by inducing states of rest and relaxation.
So, basically, if you are relaxed and sleep well, you will digest well. If you don’t sleep well for a few nights, pay attention to how your digestion functions. You lose your appetite, become constipated, and become acidic. As a result, stress effectively shuts down the digestive system.
Stress can also affect the intestine’s functional physiology. Many inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and other ulcerative GI tract diseases, are linked to stress.
Other harmful impacts of stress and anxiety on your health
Stress leads to alkalosis
Stress lowers your PH+ levels by depleting hydrogen ions, causing you to become more alkaline, a condition known as alkalosis. Muscle cramps, fatigue, anxiety, and weakness are common symptoms. As a result, your body, particularly your stomach, produces more acid.
Stress leads to diabetes
Stress raises blood sugar by converting things into sugar. As your brain sends an emergency signal to your liver to release more glycogen into the bloodstream, your fat, and protein begin to convert into sugar. High levels of stress can lead to diabetes and obesity, particularly belly fat. Even though you are not eating sugar, all of this sugar is being generated from various sources.
Also Read: Treatment of Diabetes in Ayurveda
Stress causes muscle cramps and stiffness
It makes your muscles stiff and tight, so muscle twitching & spasms become common.
Stress affects your respiratory system negatively
Stress affects your respiration rate. You start breathing faster as your body wants to have more oxygen. Breathing goes fast and broken and you hyperventilate when stressed or during panic attacks. Fast breathing provides you with more than enough oxygen but not enough CO2 which basically disrupts oxygen absorption in the tissues.
You need to breathe slowly, long, and deep to balance oxygen and CO2 exchange in the lungs. That’s why all relaxation exercises have one thing in common which is slow rhythmic deep breathing which I teach in my yoga sessions.
How to manage stress and anxiety?
Understanding the stress mechanism: GABA and cortisol
Gaba is a pathway in the form of a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger in the brain. 50 % of all the synapses in the brain are a combination of GABA and glutamate and only 5 to 7 percent are serotonin and dopamine.
GABA plays a role in regulating neuronal excitability and has inhibitory effects, meaning it helps to calm down the activity of neurons and prevent over-stimulation. It controls cortisol. People going through excessive sustained stress actually burn out the GABA and thereby shooting up their cortisol levels even further. It is involved in regulating mood, sleep, muscle tone, and anxiety. Deficiencies in GABA levels have been linked to various neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and epilepsy.
Cortisol is widely known as the “stress hormone.” However, it has many important effects and functions throughout your body aside from regulating your body’s stress response.
More specifically, cortisol does the following things to your body:
When you’re stressed, your body can release cortisol after releasing “fight or flight” hormones like adrenaline. This keeps you on high alert. In times of stress, cortisol also makes your liver release glucose (sugar) so that you can get energy quickly.
By regulating your metabolism, cortisol helps control how your body uses fats, proteins, and carbs for energy.
Getting rid of inflammation
Cortisol can help your immune system by reducing inflammation in short bursts. But if your cortisol levels are always high, your body can get used to having too much cortisol in your blood, which can cause inflammation and a weaker immune system.
Controls blood pressure
Cortisol controls blood pressure, but it’s not clear exactly how it does this in humans. But cortisol levels that are too high can cause high blood pressure, and cortisol levels that are too low can cause low blood pressure.
Increasing and controlling blood sugar
Under normal conditions, cortisol cancels out the effect of insulin, a hormone made by your pancreas that helps control your blood sugar. Cortisol raises blood sugar by letting out stored glucose, while insulin brings it down. When cortisol levels are always high, blood sugar levels can stay high (hyperglycemia). This can lead to diabetes type 2.
Controlling your sleep-wake cycle
Normally, your cortisol levels are lowest in the evening when you go to sleep and highest in the morning before you wake up. This suggests that cortisol is a key part of waking up and is involved in the circadian rhythm of your body.
The Role of GABA in the Brain
GABA is the main neurotransmitter that slows down brain activity in adults. During embryonic development, however, It acts in the opposite way, as a neurotransmitter that makes nerve cells more active. GABA is thought to be the first neurotransmitter to work when the brain is developing.
GABA’s main job in the CNS is to calm down nerves by stopping them from sending signals. In a way, it is like a set of brakes that slow things down when neurons get too excited.
GABA has been called your body’s “calm down” signal because of this. Its job is to make your body feel calmer by acting as a kind of “anti-anxiety neurotransmitter.”
When we are stressed, our adrenal glands make hormones that fuel the body’s “fight or flight” response. One of these stress hormones is cortisol.
Even though cortisol plays some important role in the body, having too much of it can cause long-term health problems. GABA helps the brain relax so that this hormone doesn’t have as much of an effect.
The reciprocal relationship between cortisol and GABA
When it comes to keeping stress at bay, GABA and cortisol have the opposite effect on one another. When under stress, the body releases cortisol and then GABA to combat the stress hormone’s negative effects. Consequently, elevating GABA and decreasing cortisol levels are both effective strategies for relieving tension and to manage stress and anxiety.
The Effects of Low GABA Levels
It is very important for the body to have the right amount of GABA. When stress hormones are released, your body can’t relax as well if your GABA levels are low or not normal. In fact, mood disorders like anxiety and depression have been linked to low levels of GABA.
Also, your sleep health might be affected by how much GABA you have in your body. GABA receptors are a very important part of how your brain calms down before bed.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. One study found that people with insomnia had 30% less GABA than people without the disorder.
Controlling your sleep-wake cycle: Normally, your cortisol levels are lowest in the evening when you go to sleep and highest in the morning before you wake up. This suggests that cortisol is a key part of waking up and is involved in the circadian rhythm of your body.
How to raise levels of GABA naturally through an Ayurveda diet and herbs ?
There are several scientifically proven methods for increasing GABA levels in the brain and thereby manage stress and anxiety symptoms effectively. But I’m not here to overwhelm you with options. I’m going to share a highly effective, clinically proven Ayurveda wonder herbal tea that will help you break free from this vicious stress cycle. Following that, I’ll share a few GABA-rich foods and Ayurveda herbs, but this stress- and anxiety-relieving tea will suffice alone.
Ayurveda Stress and anxiety relieving Tea
Popular ancient Indian remedy for stress, anxiety, and related symptoms:
I don’t have a specific name for it but I have personally tried it when I was going through depression and sustained stress mechanisms. I can tell you with absolute confidence that it really works:
Ashwagandha powder (½ tsp)
Tagar (½ tsp)
Brahmi powder ( ½ tsp)
Honey 1 tsp
Recipe: add all 3 herbs (ashwagandha, tagar, and Brahmi) in 3 cups of water and boil on low flame until the water reduces to 1 cup then divide this into two equal parts. Add one teaspoon of honey Have a one-part empty stomach in the morning and one 1 hour before going to bed.
Other simple hacks to beat down stress and raise levels of GABA are:
Regular exercise has been shown to increase GABA levels in the brain, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. Exercise also stimulates the release of endorphins, natural painkillers that can improve mood and reduce stress.
Some foods contain compounds that can raise GABA levels in the brain, such as magnesium-rich foods (such as spinach, almonds, and pumpkin seeds) and probiotics found in fermented foods (such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut).
Ayurvedic Herbs and Supplements
Some herbs, such as passionflower and Tagara (valerian root), have been shown to raise GABA levels in the brain and reduce or manage stress and anxiety. However, it is important to note that these supplements can have side effects and interact with other medications, so it is always best to consult a healthcare professional before using them.
Deep Breathing and Relaxation Techniques
Deep breathing and relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation, have been shown to manage stress and anxiety. It also increases GABA levels in the brain.
Getting adequate, restful sleep is important for maintaining healthy GABA levels and reducing stress. Lack of sleep can reduce GABA levels and exacerbate feelings of stress and anxiety. Research has also shown that stress management techniques, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, and exercise, can help to reduce stress and improve immune function.
4 Ayurveda herbs to cure stress and anxiety
As an adaptogen, ashwagandha controls the body’s reaction to stress. The stress hormone cortisol is lowered, anxiety is mitigated, and sleep quality is enhanced. Memory and concentration are two further areas that benefit from the herb’s use.
Brahmi is commonly used to calm the nerves and achieve a state of equilibrium. It has been tried and found effective in alleviating stress, sadness, and sleeplessness. It has also been demonstrated to enhance one’s ability to focus and think clearly. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities found in both herbs may aid in stress reduction and general well-being.
Spikenard, also known as jatamasi, is an herb that reduces stress and fatigue. The main medicinal components of jatamasi that might relieve tension from your mind are the plant’s roots. These roots create a sense of stability and maintain the body and mind free of toxins and obstructions, which promotes healthy brain function.
This herb’s miraculous root has been shown to have a calming effect on a wide range of psychological issues. In addition to helping you get a good night’s sleep, its sedative effects will also ease any anxiety you might be feeling. It also helps people remember things better and remember more.
Role of Yoga Therapy in managing stress and anxiety
Yoga therapy has been shown to help people feel less stressed and anxious. It has been looked into as a way to help people with depression, stress, and anxiety feels better. Studies have shown that yoga can help lower cortisol levels and raise GABA levels, which can help manage stress and anxiety.
Yoga can also help people become more mindful, aware of their bodies, and relaxed, which can help reduce stress and improve their overall health. Yoga therapy can be used to improve physical, mental, and emotional health. It can also be adapted to each person’s needs to help them feel less stressed and anxious.