Chinese herbalists have long known the benefits of herbal remedies and their effects on stress. Modern scientists have shown a marked interest in some of these Chinese remedies of late. There is some fantastic research proving the positive effects some of these supplements can have on stress response. These herbs are often used alone or in conjunction with each other for maximum benefit.
Dang gui, also known as tang kuei or angelica root, is a common ingredient in many ancient Chinese herbal concoctions. It is touted to be beneficial for a number of health conditions, including stress.
Dang Gui Study
A study published in the January, 2012 edition of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine outlines a group of patients experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after surviving a major earthquake in China. One group of patients was treated with a Chinese herbal formula containing dang gui. A control group was not given this supplement but given an inactive placebo. The group treated with the herbal supplement reported significantly reduced symptoms of PTSD after eight weeks on the herbal supplement.
The researchers go on to discuss the biochemical effects this formulation has on key neurotransmitters and conclude this herbal remedy may be a safe, effective, and relatively inexpensive support for those suffering from stress.
There is no established recommended daily allowance of this herb, but 2,000 to 4,000 mg per day is typically considered safe and effective.
Consider the following cautions when using dang gui:
- Potential side effects include photosensitivity, so people should avoid taking this if they are sensitive to sun.
- Dang gui in high concentrations may be carcinogenic, so consumers should follow manufacturer's recommendations for appropriate dosing.
Bupleurum has long been used in Chinese traditional medicine to combat stress. Modern research has been able to show the effectiveness of this herb in stress management.
An article shared in the January, 2012 edition of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine shows how a group of laboratory rats that had been subjected to stress-inducing conditions were given an herbal concoction rich in bupleurum for three weeks. A control group was also subjected to the stressful conditions, but did not receive the herbal concoction. The group treated with the bupleurum formula demonstrated much lower levels of biochemical agents known to increase stress, such as cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), than the group not treated with the formula. Researchers concluded this formulation has antidepressant and anti-stress properties and may play an important role in stress reduction.
There is not an established recommended daily allowance of this herb, and consumers should follow the manufacturer's directions.
Consider the following cautions when using bupleurum:
- Side effects include increased intestinal gas or bloating.
- Avoid bupleurum if you have any autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, or bleeding disorders. Bupleurum may slow blood clotting.
- Pregnant women should avoid the use of this herb. Safety to the unborn child has not been determined.
Xiao Yao San
Xiao yao san is a popular formula that combines dang gui and bupleurum for extra support in stress management. These two herbs work together to help reduce the effects of biochemical activity that leads to the experience of stress. Xiao yao san is available in capsule or powder formulations.
There is no established recommended dietary allowance of this product, which is often the case for Chinese herbal remedies. Consumers should follow manufacturer's recommendations for daily intake.
Potential side effects would be consistent with that for xiao yao san's constituent components.
Valerian root is a flowering plant native to Europe and parts of Asia. It has long been used by Chinese traditionalists for stress relief. According to WebMD, valerian root acts as a sedative on the central nervous system, which leads to its anti-anxiety effects.
Valerian root is easy to find in most drugstores or online and is available as a tea, capsule, or tincture. A daily dose of 400 to 600 mg is based on what researchers have typically used in studies. No specific dosing has been established by the FDA, however, and consumers should follow manufacturer's suggestions for dosing.
Side effects are related to the action of this herb.
- As this herb induces calm, it has a sedative effect and should be avoided with alcohol.
- Some people may experience an unexpected side effect that this herb makes them restless.
- There is not enough information as to the safety of this herb for pregnant women. As such, consumption should be avoided during pregnancy.
Rehmannia is commonly used by itself, or in combination with other herbs as a stress reliever. Several studies have shown rehmannia acts on the pituitary and adrenal glands in a way that counteracts the effects of corticosteroids in times of prolonged stress. This action leads to an experience of stress reduction, and researchers support the use of rehmannia for stress reduction.
Consumers should follow manufacturer's recommendations for dosing, as there is not an FDA established daily dose.
Consider the following precautions when using rehmannia:
- Rehmannia can affect blood glucose levels and should be avoided by diabetics.
- There is not enough research to support safe use during pregnancy. Pregnant women should avoid consumption.
Magnolia officinalis is a plant of the magnolia species that is native to China. This plant is also known as saiboku-to, or magnolia bark. It is often made into a tea and is also available in capsule formula. The root of the plant is used to improve mood in Chinese traditional medicine.
There is not an established daily dose for this herb, and consumers should follow manufacturer's recommendations.
According to WebMD, this herb is considered safe for short-term use for most individuals. As it does have a sedating effect, it should be avoided if any anesthesia is being administered.
Phellodendron amurense, or phellodendron tree, is native to Eastern Asia. The bark of this tree has been long used for medicinal purposes in Chinese traditional medicine and has been touted for its positive effects on stress. Phellodendron amurense is also known as cork tree. Although native to Eastern Asia, it also grows in parts of North America. The bark can be ground into a powder form and used as a tea. It is also available as a powder or capsule.
Dosaging is not established for phellodendrun, and consumers should follow manufacturer's recommendations.
Phellodendrun is considered safe with few, if any, side effects for short-term use for most adults, according to WebMD.
The combination of magnolia officinalis and phellodendron amurense creates a common anti-stress formula known as relora. Relora has long been used in traditional medicine as a powerful anti-stress remedy, and modern-day research backs up its efficacy.
In one study, participants who consumed relora for four weeks showed significantly lower levels of perceived stress, lower fatigue, higher vigor, and improved mood than participants that were taking an inactive placebo. The researchers support the use of relora for stress reduction.
Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for appropriate dosage of relora.
Side effects and cautions are consistent with those for its two main ingredients.
Consult With a Primary Care Provider
As with any supplement, it is important to consult with a primary care provider before adding anything to the daily routine. For many people, a daily supplement of one or a combination of these herbs can be a beneficial addition, as well as a natural way to help cope with the many daily stressors everyone faces.