How I Use Plants for My Stress and Daily Well-being

Posted by Sumeera Rasul on

Do you often dream of slow-living somewhere beautiful while you're in a meeting at work. I personally day dream about owning an herbal farm and a cottage in the south of England. During my full-time job, which I just recently left, I was almost always running from one meeting to another, juggling multiple client 'emergencies' on any given day, and never finding enough time to get it all done. I often found myself justifying it by saying things will be better next week when the project delivers, or next month once I have more team members etc. But, there was always more work and more demands on my time. Being in a constant high-stress environment had a cumulative effect on my health. I was burned out and felt off-centered. It was getting harder for me to provide emotional support for my family and teams at work. 

One of the things I crave especially during such hectic times is leaving the city behind for the countryside. Even though I grew up in a large city in Pakistan, we had lots of orchards and farms around our home and perhaps it's this nostalgia, or perhaps it's the innate human desire for connection nature, combined with scientifically proven benefits of wonderful botanical life around us, that makes me want to reach out for therapeutic effects of nature.

As I talk to more and more friends, I learned that it's not just me. Quite a few of my friends have mentioned that their own health is taking a back seat and they're feeling like they're constantly trying to keep their heads above water between work, family and home. They keep wanting to get healthier for themselves and their loved ones, but don't know where to start. 

So today, I'll share 4 easy ways we can turn to plants to enhance our well-being and make us get more centered.

1. Plants as Nourishment for our Bodies

When we're running around, are stressed or tired, one of the first things that suffer is our food choices. Research shows that chronic stress releases cortisol in our bodies which increases our appetite for sweet and fatty foods. These cravings for bad food are part of a real mechanism that kicks off in our bodies, and we start to deprive ourselves of the vitamins and minerals our bodies really need especially during these times. In fact, bad  foods can alter your gut and it can lead to negative thinking, low-motivation and depression.

Be kind to your body and give it what it really needs first and foremost. Plants provide many of the essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and micro-nutrients that increase our physical and mental health. Make sure you're feeding your body nutritionally dense vegetables and fruits so you can boost your immune system and overall health. As a result you'll be able to balance your stress-levels, rest better, gain mental clarity and even promote positive thoughts.

2. Plants as Medicine

I'm a big believer in medicine. However, I think there are many forms of healing and when possible, I prefer natural remedies (with my doctor's advice) to help boost my body's immune system. Our bodies are amazing healing machines, and if we constantly bombard them with harsh pharmaceuticals, we don't allow for our natural defences to get stronger (not to mention side effects). In fact, bacterial infections are on the rise, and these bacteria are increasingly getting resistant to pharmaceutical antibiotics.

From treating headaches to common colds and taming inflammation to boosting your immune system, there are many healing plant remedies that have scientifically proven benefits. These are not just old wives tales, rather scientific research is just catching up now. A few of my favorite remedies and scientifically researched plant-based herbal medication include

- Ashwagandha and rhodiola for female hormone imbalance

- Turmeric for inflammation

- Garlic for colds and the flu

- Ginger, fennel, licorice and peppermint for digestion

- St. John's Wort, kava kava and rose for anxiety

- Nettles for high blood pressure, and many more.

More to come on each of these herbs and how to easily add them to your diet. 

Even, if you combine these herbs with your regular medicine to start with (until you gain confidence in their use), it can help you strengthen your body's natural mechanisms as you learn more about these foods. 

Note: As always, please make sure to consult with your doctor before using herbal remedies for your specific condition.

3. Plants for Sleep

When I work long days, it's almost impossible for me to shut off my brain during bed time. I've never been a great sleeper since a young age, but I'm cautious to take any pharmaceuticals as I don't want to get too reliant on drugs. I find that incorporating plants such as reishi mushrooms, chamomile tea, passionflower, and CBD oil helps me stop an active mind and regain my sleep patterns. Oh and adding a little honey increases the sleep quality, not to mention give a little dessert-y boost to my evenings. 

4. Plants for Stress & Anxiety

Many of the plant medicines are also considered to be adaptogens and anti-stressors (they protect our bodies from the effects of stress). And yes, stress not only impacts our emotional health, but also triggers a lot of hormonal and chemical responses in our bodies that have long term impacts. It can throw off our hormone imbalances and result in inexplicable weight gain. This actually happened to both Nadia and I at different times in our lives, and we couldn't figure out we we gaining weight despite eating a very healthy diet and exercising regularly. But, once we got our stress levels in check, the weight came off. 

Some of my favorite plants and herbs for stress include incorporating lots of wild mushrooms, avocados, comforting and warming herbal teas, soups in our diets along with bananas, dark chocolates (and I tend to have bananas with a little cacao powder, honey and coconut oil paste... a delicious treat with ).

Other ways of incorporating plants to relieve stress is to spend some time in nature. And when not regularly possible, like for some of us New Yorkers, create an urban plant oasis at home or your office desk. Latest scientific research has proven that spending more time in nature or green spaces has been linked to reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lower heart rate, reduced risk of coronary heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and reduced risk of type II diabetes among other conditions. 

So go out, and find some nature for 'forest-bathing'! Take your family or a friend with you. Even if it is a small park nearby, or your backyard, or your green sanctuary at home, spend some time with plants. They will make you feel centered. Trust me. 

We'd love to hear from you and how you connect with plants to make you feel better. Leave us a comment below. 

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