Can CBD and other plant-based supplements reduce the effects of stress on the body and mind?
Health care professionals fear the pandemic has side-lined mental health services and could be creating a ‘tsunami’ of mental illness to come. The CANNAVIST asked plant medicine and stress less experts at Kiara Naturals for some advice on how to de-stress our minds to benefit our overall health.
A survey conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in May 2020 reported that 43% of UK psychiatrists saw an increase in urgent cases following the initial lockdown period, which as we know, came into being in March.
According to data from the Office for National Statistics, by June, almost one in five adults (19.2%) in Great Britain were likely to be experiencing some form of depression.
That’s nearly double the rate before the pandemic.
The Mental Health Foundation says that of those who have experienced stress due to the pandemic, almost nine out of ten (87%) are now using at least one coping strategy. But not all coping mechanisms are good for us. Stress-eating and upping our consumption of alcohol are not our friends.
Boaz Lehman is a clinical herbalist, foraging instructor and a self-declared man of the wild. Oren Landa is an osteopath and naturopath. Together, they are a pair of herbal medicine gurus based in Appenzellerland, Switzerland. Boaz and Oren believe we can manage our stress effectively by making some simple lifestyle changes.
First, we need to understand what causes those feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious about things that are often out of our control.
“It’s important to remember that stress and its effects on the body have their roots in healthy and important mechanisms that play a key role in maintaining homeostasis. It’s the typical western lifestyle that imposes extensive and chronic stress that brings on the negative effects related to stress.
“For the body, the most noticeable and best researched negative effects caused by stress are related to Cortisol. This is a hormone self-made by the body that is produced by the adrenal glands. High levels of cortisol are normal in the morning and decline as the day goes by. The effects of this hormone are increased energy storage, elevated heart rate and other mechanisms that are needed to get us going in the morning. When cortisol is secreted over time due to stress, it leads to high blood sugar levels, reduced insulin sensitivity (which is related to diabetes), and increased weight gain.”
Basically, Boaz and Oren say cortisol tells your body there is a stressful situation happening, so prepare for the worst. “Cortisol stimulates the fight or flight mode of the sympathetic nervous system.”
That’s the physical feeling of being stressed. How is this harmful to our mental health? The experts in herbal remedies and co-founders of Kiara Naturals CBD say it is the fight or flight mode response that leads to the stimulation of things we need for survival, and less for day-to-day living.
“It shifts energy away from our immune and digestion systems and leads to agitation, short concentration, and mood changes. This is of course enhanced with fluctuating blood sugar.”
Both holistic therapy experts, Boaz and Oren are based in Switzerland, which boasts a higher quality of life rating than the UK on the Better Life Index. Both agree that stress gives rise to inflammation in the body, something which can later lead to disease.
“Another aspect of stress which is just as important and influential,” according to the pair. “It has the ability to raise inflammatory markers in our blood and make us more acidic.”
Read more on CBD for stress: ‘There’s another epidemic in town, stress.’
CBD is often praised for its anti-inflammatory properties. Should our stressed population turn to this plant extract for stress management?
“Absolutely,” the nature-first clinicians add.
“Just by talking to our patients we can see it. The reduced inflammation, the more stable blood sugar and the rest and digest mode all contribute to better mood and a happier, healthier life. Interestingly, CBD has been shown to work directly on serotonin receptors in the brain, leading to elevated serotonin. This can also explain the improved mood experienced by our patients. From a holistic therapy point of view, we have just as much serotonin receptors in our gut as in our brain (possibly even more!) and we know that CBD has very powerful effects on the nerve system of the digestion system. A happy gut means a happy person! From our clinical experience, CBD has helped our patients with depression, anxiety and chronic pain related mood changes.”
There are, of course, other plant extracts which can benefit the body and mind in winter. According to Boaz and Oren, we should not be taking immune system stimulants such as Echinacea unless we are ill.
“Plants that stimulate the immune system such as Echinacea or Propolis should only be used when you are actually sick. We see a lot of people that use immune stimulating plants throughout winter as prevention, but in fact they are weakening their immune systems and setting themselves up for disease. If you are sick, these plants are great for you, along with a few others which can be found in our Winter Care Tincture.”
If you are trying to prepare your immune system for winter and practice preventative care, Boaz and Oren suggest opting for plants that strengthen the immune system.
“We recommend using plants from the Adaptogenic family, meaning they help the body to adapt to new situations. Plants such as Astragalus Membranaceus (AKA Huang Qi- which means Chi root), Siberian Ginseng, Ashwagandha and Reishi mushroom. Coincidently, these plants are amazing for a variety of other things such as libido, circulation, concentration, and body strengthening. Since winter has its fair amount of related depression, we always recommend our patients to take plants that also support the mental aspect. Korean Ginseng and Rhduioa Rosea promote mental capacity and brain functions. They also directly affect serotonin levels and support better and happier moods!”
How can CBD make me stress less?
CBD works as a nervous system modulator, which means it has the ability to regulate the activity of our nervous system. It promotes the rest and digest mode of the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for our feeling of satisfaction, calmness, and relaxation. This all leads to increased immune activity and healthy digestion.
Perhaps most important is the effect of CBD on systemic inflammation. Via its relation to Anandamide, CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, doing the exact opposite than stress related molecules. Really, it’s a highly therapeutic and effective supplement. In the clinic, we can also see the gradual build up effect that CBD has on stress. Most people want an easy fix, so they take large doses and knock themselves out. Take enough CBD, and you will relax right away. However, people who take smaller doses over time, get a much better result of not only reducing overall stress, but get better at dealing with stress when it comes.
Related: CBD 101 – 10 CBD questions answered!
With thanks to Kiara Naturals for contributing to this feature, which was originally published in Issue 9 of The CANNAVIST.
Meet our contributors, Boaz and Oren!
Clinical Herbalist. Kiara Naturals.
Boaz ‘Bobo’ Lehman is a man of the wild. His relationship with plant medicine started in 2009 in the Himalayan mountains where he absorbed the knowledge of the locals. After witnessing the power of plants first-hand, Boaz travelled the world gaining a wealth of first-hand ethnobotanical knowledge about all types of plants from across the planet. After completing his training in a variety of natural therapy methods, he started formulating remedies for both patients and therapists. Driven by a belief in the importance of respecting and connecting with nature, Boaz makes all of his remedies using plants he has foraged according to season, location, moon cycles, and local traditions.
Osteopath & Naturopath. Kiara Naturals.
Trained as an osteopath and naturopath, with a master’s in osteopathy, Oren has always been fascinated with the human body. He believes understanding the human body can be translated and applied not only to individual health, but to how we handle our relationships, our communities, our businesses, and our planet. He says: “Natural therapy by necessity must be holistic, and it looks at the person as a whole, from his/her relation to him/her self all the way to the environment. Self-help is key to health but changing our lives and habits to a healthier lifestyle is hard, and we all could use some help.”