Stress, Anxiety and Alertness – Finding the Balance
Our cell phone is ringing. E-mails pour in by the minute. Deadlines, competition, budgets, bottom lines. The modern workplace is stressful. As a result, more people than ever are suffering from sleep disorders, anxiety attacks, depression and a number of other serious stress-related disorders.
What we need is the ability to meet the mental demands of the day without feeling over-stressed.
“People have told me that if they take tranquilizers it reduces their anxiety, but then they feel so drowsy that they can’t work,” say Maharishi Ayurveda experts. “Research shows that certain Ayurvedic herbal formulations provide the best of both worlds: they not only reduce generalized anxiety and calm stress, it also heighten alertness so you can meet the demands of your day and prevent mental stress from mounting.”
Reduces Generalized Anxiety
Researchers at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) conducted a randomized, controlled pilot study to measure the effects of one Ayurvedic formulation on ten patients who suffered from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a condition that affects 25% of the population.
The treatment period was three months. At post-testing, after three months of taking the Ayurvedic herbs 80% of the test group no longer exhibited Generalized Anxiety Disorder, exhibiting a two-fold greater decrease in the Hamilton Anxiety Scale than the placebo subjects.
What is the Ayurvedic explanation for this dramatic drop in generalized anxiety?
In Ayurveda, mental abilities are divided into three categories. They are dhi (acquisition) dhriti (retention) and smriti (recall). Worry Free helped patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder because it contains a special group of herbs such as Herpestis Monniera, Aloeweed, and Heart-leaved Moonseed, which have an enhancing effect on dhi, dhriti and smriti.
These special herbs are called medhya herbs in the traditional texts, and are known to not only nurture the three areas of the mind individually, but also to nurture coordination among them.
Muskroot (Jatamansi) and Greater Galangal are additional herbs that clear the channels. These keep the gaps between dhi, dhriti and smriti free of toxins and blockages. In the Vedic understanding, the gap, or union, is where all intelligence resides.” Thus these herbs keep the coordination between acquisition, retention, and recall working well.
“So if people who take these herbs are confronted with a stressful situation, they have the tools to make it a positive, rather than a negative experience. They can recall related experiences from the past to help them deal with the present problem, and they tend to learn from each new one,” says an Ayurvedic expert from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians, “They can do this without disturbing their mind, without feeling anxious.” Ask your physician about which herbal formulations might be suited to your health needs.
One herb in particular has a key effect. Winter Cherry (Ashwagandha) enhances the mind’s overall ability to fight stress. Because it helps overall mental functioning, not targeting just one area of the mind, people find that they can think more clearly and can solve their problems without incurring stress. They avoid being damaged by stress in the first place.”
Reduces Cortisol and Other Markers of Stress
One of the measurements used in the UCSD study was the salivary cortisol level. Cortisol is a hormone related to stress, and high cortisol levels show high stress. In the patients who took the Ayurvedic herbs for three months, the average salivary cortisol levels went down 2.77 nmol/l.
Again, The Council provides an explanation from Maharishi Ayurveda. There are three subdoshas that govern the mind, he says. Prana Vata is the subdosha of Vata that governs the brain, sensory perception and the mind. Tarpaka Kapha is the subdosha of Kapha that governs the cerebral-spinal fluid. And because acquisition, retention and recall originate in the heart, Sadhaka Pitta (the subdosha of Pitta that governs the emotions and their effect on the heart) is also involved.
“When people overuse or misuse their minds, the subdoshas governing the mind counteract that overuse by producing more fluid,” says The Council. “It’s similar to the extra saliva that is produced by the taste buds when you’re about to eat chilies or other hot foods. The extra saliva protects the whole digestive system, and prevents the chilies from creating an abrasive effect.”
When your mind is strained by engaging in excessive mental work, the subdoshas go out of balance. Sadhaka Pitta begins to create a burning effect and Prana Vata creates a drying effect. Then Tarpaka Kapha generates extra fluid to counteract this effect and protect the brain.
But if you overuse your mind over and over and over again, the lubricating value of Tarpaka Kapha becomes excessive, and begins to diminish the metabolizing fire (medhya agni) in the gaps between dhi, dhriti and smriti. t’s similar to the effect of too much moisture in the digestion — it can put out the digestive fire (agni).
When this happens, ama (toxins) start to be created. Ama accumulates in the gaps and channels of the brain, and mixes with the fluids created by Tarpaka Kapha, creating a harmful type of cortisol, the indicator of stress.
“Cortisol in itself is not bad, in fact it’s created by the body to protect the brain,” says an Ayurvedic expert from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians. “But when Tarpaka Kapha becomes excessive and there is ama in the physiology, it does more harm than good. That’s when anxiety attacks and other signs of too much stress take over.”
The reason that the subjects’ cortisol levels when down after using the Ayurvedic herbs is because the Muskroot and Greater Galangal enhance the medhya agni, says The Council. From the Ayurvedic perspective, “Medhya agni began to burn brightly again, ama was no longer produced and no ama was no longer mixing with Tarpaka Kapha. Thus only a good quality of cortisol was released, which actually protected the brain from stress. That’s why the salivary cortisol levels went down.”
As mentioned earlier, Muskroot and Greater Galangal also help clear the channels of ama, as does Winter Cherry. “Winter Cherry is such a sharp, cleansing herb that it in itself self-sufficient, but when combined with Muskroot and Greater Galangal, it becomes an extremely effective agent for clearing the channels, enhancing medhya agni and reducing ama,” says The Council.
Relaxed But Alert
The subjects in this study and many have reported that it makes them feel relaxed, but also more alert.
“My job involves a tremendous amount of mental stress and sometimes I feel torn in several directions,” says one patient, a graphic designer. “The Ayurvedic herbs take me to a whole new level of calm. It settles me down so I can focus, accomplish and not feel confused.” An Ayurvedic expert from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians explains that people feel more alert even though calmer because of the factors already mentioned. The medhya herbs enhance the capacity of dhi, dhriti, and smriti and improve coordination between them. Other herbs clear the channels. Winter Cherry increases overall alertness. Researchers were so intrigued with this effect that a whole new study is being conducted to measure how much these herbs increase the alertness of the mind.
DISCLAIMER: These results may not be typical. Results with products may vary from individual to individual. Information in this article is presented for the sole purpose of imparting education on Ayurveda and neither the information nor the product is intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical condition, or are pregnant or lactating, please consult a health professional. Before making changes to your diet or routine, it is recommended that you speak with your physician