May 22, 2007

 Athlone Voice Date: Tuesday, May 15, 2007 Page: 40 Author: Nicola Ryan

Headline: Natural Exam Survival Kit Natural Exam Survival Kit Following on from last weeks article regarding Rhodiola's ability to support the system during the exam period (and the contribution of Fish Oils, covered several weeks ago), this week we focus on several herbs and essential oils that can help with stress, physical energy, mental relaxation (and stimulation!), anxiety and sleep disturbances – all commonly encountered problems during exam time.

GINSENG helps the body adapt to stress by supporting healthy adrenal gland function; it allows the glands to function optimally when challenged by stress. Russian explorers, divers, sailors, and miners use it to prevent stress-related illness. Also, Ginseng's ability to increase physical energy, stamina and endurance led Soviet Olympic athletes to use it to enhance their training. Note that every four to six months, one month's break should be taken from Gin- seng. In addition, it cannot be taken by those on blood thinning medication, medication for heart conditions and blood pressure conditions, schizophrenia, diabetes, epilepsy and by those on hormone medication.

Valerian is a herb that is used to treat anxiety and worry. It is a natural sedative that, taken in lower doses during the day, is used to treat an overactive and anx- ious mind. Anxiety and stress also often result in broken sleep or the inability to sleep and Valerian does not cause drowsiness in a lower dose but given in a higher dose before sleeping, it helps promote a good nights sleep. The use of Valerian for insomnia and nervous conditions has been common for many centuries. Taken in higher doses l an hour before bedtime, Valerian generally makes sleep more restful as well as making the transition to sleep easier, but does not tend to increase the total time slept. Valerian is best taken as a liquid tincture for quicker and maximum absorption.

Passiflora (passion flower) is another herb used to help combat sleeplessness, particularly from anxiety due to overwork, worry or a 'racing mind'. It is particularly useful for those who wake up in the night. Do note that Passiflora and Valerian cannot be taken if you are already taking pharmaceutical tranquillizers or calming medication. Alternatively, Avena Sativa or Oats is a herb that can be especially helpful as it supports and nourishes the nervous system, helping to relax strained nerves. Take this throughout any stressful time.

Bach's Rescue Remedy or Australian Bush Flower's Emergency Essence are both flower remedies that are very successful in restoring internal calm in times of stress. They reduce help us cope with anxious situations like exams. Used as a liquid, 4 drops can be placed on your tongue or added to 1/2 a a cup of water. Repeat once an hour when in an anxious state. (Less conspicuous mouth sprays are also avail- able – they are usually mistaken for mouth fresheners 

Several Essential Oils can be used in oil burners to improve mental alertness. Rosemary and Basil would be excellent for studying and before exams. Rosemary clears the mind of confusion & promotes mental clarity. It increases creativity by lifting mental exhaustion and awakening the mental heart.

Basil is mentally clarifying, strengthening the memory, aiding concentration, sharpening intellect, relieving mental fatigue, promoting alertness and is a mild euphoric. To uplift the emotions at the end of a busy day, add a few drops of any of either Rosemary or Bergamot essential oils to a warm bath.

Rosemary is an awakening oil; it stimulates the brain and results in physical and mental rejuvenation. Bergamot essential oil is up-lifting and balancing, treating mild depression and settling the mind.

Adding Clary Sage essential oil to the bath is wonderful for any stress related disorder. Its euphoric quality is very good for treating nervous disorders and it is a forceful and powerful oil, with a deeply relaxing quality. It balances extreme emotions and is warming and calming. It is excellent as a 'knock out' bath oil after a long day, ensuring a long refreshing sleep. (Avoid using Clary Sage with alcohol and do not drive or operate machinery after use.) Add a total of up to 6 drops of essential oil into the filled water bowl of the burner. Always add essential oils to the bath after the bath is drawn – adding to very hot water at the start of running the bath may result in the oils being evaporated. Add a total of 4- 6 drops of oil to the bath, ensuring you agitate the water to mix the oils in well. Relax and inhale the essential oil vapours for 10 minutes.

Lemonbalm and Chamomile Tea are further de-stressing and calming aids. Lemon Balm calms overexcited nerves & enables a good nights rest. Chamomile has for centuries been recommended as a calming sedative for helping emotional distress and soothing stress related afflictions and readying the mind for sleep. A cup containing a teabag or teaspoonful of each can be taken half an hour before bedtime.