Stressed, can’t sleep, depressed, feeling anxious? These are the complaints that send people running to their Doctor looking for a miracle cure. One in ten Americans takes an anti-depressant. For women ages 40-50 the number is one in four. That is an alarming jump in the past decade. With the popular belief being an anti-depressant or Xanax just takes the ‘edge off’, more and more people are going on them. The issue is these are serious drugs that are habit forming and difficult to ween off of. Before you go running to your Doctor for a prescription take a look at some natural alternatives to staying mentally and physically healthy and feeling good.

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Ashwagandha is a plant which roots and berries are used for medicinal purposes. Ashwagandha in Sanskrit means horse smell, which got its name due to the smell of the root resembling the smell of a horse. Ashwagandha is also frequently called ‘Winter Cherry’ or in the Ayurvedic world ‘Indian Ginseng’. Ashwagandha can be taken in liquid form or in capsules and is said to help with many ailments such as arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, asthma, bronchitis, fibromyalgia, menstrual issues and chronic liver disease. It has also been responsible in helping increase sexual desire in both men and women and fertility in women. It ca also aid in concentration ability and lower cholesterol. Ashwagandha also contains chemicals that can calm the brain down, reduce inflammation in the body, lower blood pressure and alter the immune system. This is a great alternative to drugs like Xanax or sedatives, while also being a great replacement for high blood pressure meds. However, if you’re already on these medications you should discuss with your Doctor first and then stop taking them first. The Ashwagandha can interfere with many western prescription drugs.

More well known than Ashwagandha is St. John’s Wort. Often being used and advertised for depression this herb offers more than just that. St. John’s Wort is native to Europe but now farmed in Australia where 20% of the world’s supply comes from. St. Johns Wort is an herb that is found in forests and meadows. The flowers and leaves are what is used to make the actual medicine which can be made into an oil(for topical use), capsules or liquid drops. The main uses of this herb are for depression, ADHD, anxiety, OCD, moods associated with menopause and SAD. St. John’s Wort contains the phytochemical hyperforin and hypericin, both of which act on chemical messengers in the brain and nervous system to regulate mood. As mentioned St. Johns Wort can also be made into an oil and applied topically for issues such as bruises, inflammation, muscle pain, burns, bug bites and hemorrhoids. However, when using topically be sure to stay out of the sun as skin will be sensitive to light. This is also why the oil will come in a dark or amber colored jar.

Rhodiola, Golden root or Rose root is another terrific plant to add into your diet. Rhodiola plant grows at high altitudes which makes it very strong and powerful. This root is used for enhancing physical energy and performance.  Considered an Adaptogen, Rhodiola is different than a stimulant like caffeine or amphetamines, while still boosting mood and energy levels. Sometimes found in energy drinks, many professional athletes use this natural enhancer. Rhodiola helps to oxygenate the brain and muscles which makes them work better and quicker. This root is extremely beneficial for stamina, energy increase, athletic recovery, irregular heart beat and high cholesterol.

Always discuss the switch from western medicine to medicinal herbs with your doctor. Mother nature is the best medicine cabinet, so when choosing your medicine take a look at what your local health food store offers in the way of herbal supplements and vitamins as well as what you’re putting into your body for food. Stay happy + healthy!

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