Both Siberian and Panax ginseng, which bolster the adrenal glands, may also be effective in coping with stress. These stress-fighting herbs are sometimes called “adaptogens” (because they help the body “adapt” to challenges) or “tonics” (because they “tone” the body, making it more resilient). All can be safely taken together.
Other herbs and nutritional supplements, used singly or together or combined with the supplements above, may be of value in special circumstances. For stress-induced anxiety, try kava, which is best reserved for high-stress periods lasting up to three months. Take melatonin if worry is keeping you up at night, and St. John’s wort if stress is accompanied by mild depression.
Dosage: 100-300 mg 3 times a day.
Comments: Standardized to contain at least 0.8% eleutherosides.
Warnings: Siberian ginseng may interfere with heart medications. Check with your doctor if you’re taking blood pressure or heart medications. Siberian ginseng may cause mild diarrhea and restlessness.
Dosage: 100-250 mg twice a day.
Comments: Standardized to contain at least 7% ginsenosides.
Warnings: Don’t take Panax ginseng if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure or a heart rhythm irregularity. Don’t use Panax ginseng if you are pregnant. Consult your doctor if you’re using blood pressure medications. Panax ginseng increases the risk of overstimulation and stomach upset when taken with neurology drugs such as Ritalin. Don’t use Panax ginseng if you take MAO inhibitor drugs. Long-term use of Panax ginseng may require a change in insulin or other diabetes medications. If you’re taking the diuretic furosemide, Panax ginseng may intensify the blood pressure-lowering effects of the drug.
Dosage: 250 mg 3 times a day as needed.
Comments: Look for standardized extracts in pill or tincture form that contain at least 30% kavalactones.
Warnings: Pregnant or breast-feeding women should not use kava. Don’t take kava if you have Parkinson’s disease. Possible kava side effects include stomach upset, yellow skin, loss of appetite, labored breathing, blurred vision, bloodshot eyes, walking difficulties, intoxication, and skin rashes. Kava may cause excessive drowsiness if taken with antidepressants, antihistamines, muscle relaxants, narcotic pain relievers, psychiatric drugs (antipsychotics, buspirone), sedatives, or tranquilizers.
Dosage: 1-3 mg before bedtime.
Comments: Start with the lower dose and increase as needed.
Warnings: Affects hormone levels and the brain. Caution is advised in those using drugs with similar effects, including antidepressants and hormone drugs. May cause excessive drowsiness if taken with sedatives or drugs that have a sedative effect such as antihistamines, muscle relaxants, and narcotic pain relievers. May cause adverse interactions if taken with steroids.
St. John’s Wort
Dosage: 300 mg 3 times a day.
Comments: Should be standardized to contain 0.3% hypericin.
Warnings: If you’re taking conventional antidepressant drugs, consult you doctor before adding or switching to St. John’s wort. If you develop a rash or have difficult breathing, get immediate help. Side effects can include constipation, upset stomach, fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness, and increased sensitivity to the sun.