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2020 happened, and now there’s a new normal. Some would say that there are many things that needed a ‘vaccine’ before a virus came along. Many of us have been held up indoors for the better part of a year and now it’s time to get back out. This may mean returning to work in an office, going to weddings, joining family dinners, just overall socializing once again. This can be extremely overwhelming for many people. It’s almost as if we need to retrain our minds and our brains on how to process many outside stimuli.

Initially, it seems that many individuals felt trapped, with complaints of increased anxiety from being stuck inside. Some sought out medications prescribed by a physician to be helpful. However, after a while, we became comfortable with our new reality. Just as we started to get comfortable with ourselves and our new way of life, things change again. How can we find our new normal? 

Photo by Massimo Rinaldi on Unsplash

Medicine and Change

Anxiety increases again as things change. Emotions go haywire, safety and danger become interchangeable, and paranoia or worry, or depression sets in. So off we go to the doctor, to get medication to help us once again. Now let me make it clear, in no way am I suggesting not to take medications prescribed by your psychiatrist, as psychiatric diagnosis and medication to address underlying symptoms are very real and important to recognize. However, I am suggesting we can look at additional options as well.

Some may turn to self-medication using alcohol to alleviate feelings of anxiety, but this can lead to a slippery slope ending in potential addiction if over consumed. There are indeed many healthy ways in which one can help themselves process and cope with stress and ease their minds coming back into what is the new every day. Mental wellness is of the utmost importance. So lets take a look at a few natural ways one can help address some of the stress and concerns that may arise as one resumes what I can hope is a semblance of normalcy.

Herbal Wellness Options

One excellent option to address mental wellness is by utilizing herbs and plant-based remedies. Although there are hundreds of herbs that have been studied for stress and anxiety, let’s talk about three: ashwagandha, skullcap, and hemp. 

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha (withania somnifera), belongs to a category of herbs called adaptogens. This means that they help the body have a more healthy response to stress as opposed to the general unhealthy response. Some studies have shown that ashwagandha can potentially help lower blood sugar, help maintain healthy cortisol levels, and potentially help with symptoms of anxiety. 

Skullcap

Skullcap (scutellaria lateriflora), has been used in traditional herbal medicine to address anxiousness and occasional insomnia. This herb can be sedating. It is a great alternative option for sleep or when a stronger option is necessary to help with anxiety or a more immediate reaction. Add a skullcap tincture to club soda for a relaxing alternative to alcohol at the end of a stressful day.

Hemp

Cannabis sativa, or Hemp, can be a powerful tool. Hemp contains many phytocompounds, and one of the most used for stress and overall anxiety is CBD (cannabidiol). The body contains a system called the endocannabinoid system which has been shown to have a hand in the regulation of many chemicals in the body some of which include, endorphins, cortisol, adrenaline, and even melatonin.

My personal favorite method of ingestion for CBD is in a concentrated oil. It can be ingested via infusion in foods, as well as available in capsules and in its raw state in hemp to smoke. This is option is also a great alternative to cigarettes. Another amazing compound found in hemp is CBN (cannabinol). CBN is coined as the sleepy cannabinoid as it is well researched for its ability to cause drowsiness and is excellent for sleeping issues. I use a blend of CBD and CBN for my sleep issues and it works amazingly.

The Mushroom Approach

Mushrooms are a great and delicious option for mental wellness too. There are thousands of medicinal mushrooms that can offer many benefits. For this article let’s focus on turkey tail, lions mane, chaga, reishi, and cordyceps.

Turkey Tail

Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) has a very high polysaccharide content: both peptide and krestin. This mushroom has been extensively researched for its ability to increase white blood cells and boost immunity, which can suffer as a result of overexposure to cortisol caused by stress.

Lions Mane

Lions Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is notorious for being utilized to improve cognitive function. There is ongoing research into this amazing fungus for its potential ability to increase brain-derived neutropenic factors. It may be an option for addressing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Chaga

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) has the highest level of antioxidant content of any known food. Oxidative damage has been know to be a common effect of chronic stress which can lead to a reduced immune response as well as mental fatigue and inflammation throughout the body.

Reishi

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is historically known as the mushroom of immortality. Research is being done due to reishi having a protein that acts as a precursor for endorphins. Endorphins is well known for their mood-boosting abilities. Additionally, reishi has been known to have a relaxing effect on the mind.

Reishi tea

Cordyceps

Cordyceps have been under research for their ability to increase adenosine triphosphate (ATP) within the body. They boost energy and overall physical and mental endurance.

Vitamins and You

Vitamins are also crucial to proper mental and physical health. Some of these include:

Vitamin D

Vitamin D has been known to regulate the immune system as well as neurotransmitters such as serotonin and endorphins which are both important for mental well-being.

B6

Low levels of B6 have been connected to low levels of serotonin output in the brain and throughout the body.

Magnesium

Magnesium has been known to have a soothing effect on sore muscles, as well as having a relaxing effect on the mind.

Mental Health, Herbalism, and Choices

These are far from a full list of herbs, mushrooms, and vitamins that can be added to your mental wellness regimen. This is to show that there are many options for those who are looking to take an alternative approach to their mental wellbeing. One must take the time and have the patience. Understanding mental wellness may not happen overnight but can begin with the acknowledgment that it is important and worth pursuing.

I hope that some of the options discussed here can offer a sense of relaxation. It may be a tough and long journey back to our normalcy, but please take solace in the knowledge that you are not alone.

You are not alone, my friend
Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Jason Erdan

Jason is a clinical herbalist who completed his certification in Traditional Chinese Medicine from The Institute of Herbal Medicine and Nutrition. His educational background is in both Western and Eastern Herbalism, Botany, Psychology, Chemistry and Food Science. Additionally, Jason has his Certification in Mental Health Integrative Medicine(CMHIMP).

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