Last week we talked about foods and supplements that help with improving sleep, gut health, anxiety and energy levels. Diet is always the first component to review before adding in other complementary practices, but this week we’re additionally going to focus on all-natural products that can help alleviate these common health issues.

Essential Oils

These oils are well-known in alternative medicine, but require specific direction to be used properly. Essential oils are concentrated oil, so it’s important to look carefully at the source, distilling process and potency to determine the best use.

Oils can be diluted in water and diffused, used topically directly on the skin, or ingested in a pill form. If you’re unsure the best way to use essential oils for you, take a look at this article.

If you’re searching for fast acting results from essential oils to alleviate symptoms, try these essential oil routines:

Enteric coated peppermint is peppermint oil in a time releasing capsule to allow it to get into the small intestines before being released. It has been shown to relieve symptoms of IBS, indigestion and occasional boating. Start with small doses to see how your body responds and talk to your doctor or essential oil practitioner if you have any pre-existing health conditions like gastric reflux, kidney or liver disease. For more information about uses, quality and where to buy, look here.

Lavender is well known for inducing relaxation and decreasing anxiety, allowing us to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer due to its calming effect on the central nervous system. Not all lavender oils are created equal, some strains of lavender have more of an energizing effect making them good for headaches, burns and inflammation, so if you want improved sleep, look for lavandula angustifolia. This is the most commonly sold strain of lavender and can be used in a few different ways. Since it’s gentle, you can use it topically for quick results. Rub 5-10 drops of lavender onto the bottom of your feet and palms for better absorption. You can also rub lavender onto the temples for tension and anxiety relief. If you’d rather not use it topically, you and diffuse it in water, add a few drops into a bath, or directly onto your pillow.

This specific strain of lavender is also known to help improve respiratory problems through aromatic diffusion and reduce menstrual cramps when used topically on the abdomen.

To learn more about the different strains of lavender, check out this site.

Oil of oregano is touted for improving gut health, immunity, allergies, chronic skin conditions, auto-immune disease, candida and more! For gut health, always be sure you’re using a 100% pure origanum vulgare strain, and dilute 2 drops in tea or beverage of choice to improve digestion and reduce any inflammation in the stomach.

Fennel is another essential oil that promotes GI health and also improves energy levels. It’s well known for reducing bloating, gas and indigestion following a meal, and acts as a gentle laxative for chronic or acute constipation. Neurologically, it helps stimulate the brain and nervous system to combat fatigue and depression. The best ways to use it are to diffuse it in water for aromatic application, massage a couple drops directly onto the stomach or put two drops under the tongue for digestive relief. There are some cautions for using this oil and it shouldn’t be ingested in heavy long-term doses especially in pregnant women and those with a history of epilepsy. To understand all the health benefits and uses for fennel oil look here.

Adaptogens

Adaptogens are a great addition to a healthy diet to naturally reduce stress, improve mood, increase energy and concentration, strengthen immunity, and promote restorative sleep. Adaptogens are food products found in nature that promote balance in the body by adapting to whatever your body needs at that specific time. These are different than supplements or drugs, because they aren’t habit forming, and there’s no specific effect as they help multiple processes in the body in whatever way is needed most to function more sustainably over time.

The way adaptogens work is by regulating the release of stress hormones which overtime can wreak havoc on the body and lead to acute and chronic issues like adrenal fatigue, weight gain, insomnia, hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Here are some great sources of adaptogens that benefit sleep, stress, energy and gut health:

Ashwaganda is a root from India, Africa and the Middle East. It’s used to naturally combat stress and fatigue.

Tulsi, also known as holy basil, has been used for thousands of years to defend the body against pollutants, physical and mental stress.

Rhodiola is a mood shifting herb known to improve mood, boost energy and cognitive functions.

Reishi has been referred to as the “Mushroom of Immortality.” Its functions include reducing anxiety and improving sleep. This mushroom is great in a tea or hot chocolate right before bed. It’s calming and promotes relaxation.

Turkey Tail is a mushroom that’s high in prebiotics helping to support the growth of healthy gut bacteria, and polysaccharopeptide (PSP) which acts similarly to prebiotics in the gut. To receive the most bang for your buck, take this with your daily probiotic to enhance its effects and support a healthy microbiome. 

Cordyceps are mushrooms that stimulate energy and stamina by increasing production of ATP (our body’s energy source), making them a great addition to an active lifestyle or when in need of long mental focus.

You can find all of these adaptogens for sale and much more information at Four Sigmatic

CBD

You’ve probably heard about this cannabis derived compound and all the rave around its proposed health benefits. CBD is just one specific cannabinoid extracted from either the hemp plant or marijuana. If you care to learn more about the difference between hemp and marijuana and how these two have mistakenly been grouped together, take a look at this article.

CBD is different than THC in that it doesn’t contain any psychoactive properties but depending on the source it can also have varying amounts of THC mixed in with it. Its claim to fame is due to its ability to reduce anxiety by acting on specific brain receptors that improve serotonin and GABA levels, which as we talked about in the previous post, can lead to depression and anxiety if levels are too low. Studies have indicated that other benefits of CBD include improving symptoms of social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety-induced insomnia. Suggested doses for anxiety range from 100-400mg. Since it’s not quite regulated just yet, be sure to look for reputable brands with transparent sourcing and start at a low dose and gradually increase with tolerance. Here are some reviews to start your search.

Learn more about the many health benefits of CBD and how it works in the body here.

Take away points: Essential oils are highly concentrated plant oils that can be diffused for aromatic purposes, used directly on the skin or ingested. Enteric coated peppermint oil has been shown to improve digestion and symptoms from IBS, indigestion and bloating. Lavender helps reduce anxiety and promotes relaxation and is best absorbed when applied the feet and hands. Oil of oregano and fennel oil promote gut health and can be applied topically onto the stomach or put under the tongue for quick relief.

Adaptogens are natural food sources such as herbs and mushrooms that adapt to what our bodies need them to do in regards to alleviating stress, improving immunity, boosting energy and concentration and promoting good quality sleep. They are safe for most people and have minimal side effects. You can easily incorporate them into your diet with the help of Four Sigmatic.

CBD Is a cannabinoid found in the hemp and marijuana plant and has multiple health benefits, anxiety being the main focus point. It’s shown promising, low risk results, but more research and tighter regulation is needed to make it more available to the public. It’s important to do your research before purchasing some near you.