Herbal products are a largely unregulated segment of the health industry that provides a lot of money for manufacturers. In an article in the Globe and Mail, Adriana Barton recommends a walk instead of herbal remedies for stress relief.
There’s no shortage of products with catchy names that promise to calm the nerves. Whoever came up with Chill Pills – herbal and B-vitamin capsules produced by New Roots Herbal – deserves a gold medal in marketing. Then there’s Stress Shield, Relax-All, Ex-Stress and more than 2,000 other supplements for stress at Amazon.com.
One of the newest products, Profect, is a “shot” of fruit-flavoured protein (25 grams) that its maker, Protica, claims “can help relieve the side effects of stress.”
What all of these products have in common are product development and marketing plans that are not based on anything other than the desire of these companies for profit. There is no research that shows these are either effective or harmless. It is, of course, possible they could be either, neither, or both. We just don’t know. The companies themselves are under no incentive to provide answers. The rules are such that weasel words that skirt closely around explicit medical claims are enough to avoid the types of regulations that actual pharmaceutical companies must follow.
While there is some evidence that specific nutrients and botanicals may have a positive effect on stress, studies “haven’t necessarily shown that giving these to everybody will confer a benefit,” says Devon Christie, a doctor at Connect Health Centre for Integrative Medicine in Vancouver.
Herbs may interfere with prescription drugs or cause nasty side effects, she points out. Panax ginseng, one of several herbs believed to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, may cause hypertension, diarrhea and vaginal bleeding, she says.
Quality control is lacking in many of the factories that package these products, and dosages and even ingredients can vary considerably from what appears on the package label.
Drop the woo and talk a walk; it’s more effective and has fewer potential dangers.
Save cash on supplements and go for a brisk walk instead. Even with 10 minutes of exercise, “you’re releasing the hormones in your body that are associated with stress relief and those endorphins, the feel-good chemicals,” Dr. Christie says.
Medical doctors are trained in understanding the body’s response to stress and recognizing deficiencies in vitamins and minerals and the symptoms of other diseases. If you suspect something is wrong, and walking doesn’t help, don’t head to a herbalist, head to your doctor’s office.