Stress and performance and why herbs can assist - McDowell's Herbal Treatments

The Nervous System of all organisms is one of nature's most amazing of expressions. The heart and its nerve plexus are the first to form in the newly developing foetus, followed by the central nervous system and then the peripheral nervous system.
stock horsesheads SMLL
Interestingly, in humans, the nerves plexus correspond to the Ayuvedic Chakra system. The heart has such a complex nerve plexus that it is now found to have its own “brain” cells, brining a new meaning to the term 'Heart Intelligence'.
The Autonomic nervous system (categorised into the Parasympathetic and Sympathetic) is the highway for all kinds of information – keeping all systems synchronised and in harmony.
The brain’s neuro-plastic properties (an umbrella term that describes lasting change to the brain throughout an individual's life) has become a hot topic amongst medical researches and scientists as they discover that we are not hard wired, but that our nervous system responds and adapts to change as nature intended. The most interesting of this science is focused on our own consciousness influencing our own brain’s neuro-plasticity, and therefore influencing our own evolution.
When any animal experiences a change to their routine, they experience a cognitive dissonance. This simply means that this new information creates new neurological pathways, and a feeling of disharmony in the body can result as the para-sympathetic nervous system (our flight/fight system) gets triggered. This sets a cascade of neurological chemicals and feedback loops in motion that stimulates the endocrine system - in particular the Adrenal/Thyroid Axis via the Flight/Fight mechanisms. In short, the biochemistry of our horse becomes very different – so different that in many cases the feedback loops keep a repeating pattern of dissonance and hormone imbalance.
Mares and some stallions, can be particularly susceptible to this stress response. You will often see mares coming into season after a stressful event, or stallions becoming uncontrollable. Many stallions are often gelded as a result of a trauma unable to be rectified.
Some owners, desperate to help their horse or protect their investment, will resort to using sedation, hormone therapy and excessive supplements and at worst, inhumane and forceful management strategies.
Harmony (Cognitive Resonance) can only be restored in the system when the cause is removed, and the system has completed its survival response. If the animal (or person) continues to be on “alert” for danger, harmony can never be achieved.
A good way to understand how the nervous system can be damaged is to consider lightening going through the phone line - too much energy (resulting in an overproduction of neuro-chemicals) can “short out” or damage the neurons and axons – the highway of information which control all systems of an organism.
Good Fats and the CNS
Consider as well that the brain is made up of fat, and the insulation of nerve cells (the myelin sheath ) is nourished by fatty acids - primarily omega 3’s.
You can see then that good fats (from flax seed and evening primrose oil, for example) are essential for overall nervous system health, not to mention that certain essential fatty acids are critical for prostaglandin production - essential for endocrine balance.
Using Herbs for healing
My favourite restorative nervines would have to be St Johns wort, parsley, mugwort, valerian, hops and the humble chamomile flower. Each of these herbs have a very specific action and should be used with respect for the whole picture of symptoms.
Adaptogenic herbs are another class of herbs being well respected scientifically.
These herbs have the capacity to balance the nervous system bringing any “dissonance” into “resonance” as these herbs act to bring the whole organism into harmony.
The beautiful herb known as withania or ashwaganda is one of my favourites, as it really helps to restore the adrenal glands which are fatigued from trauma, and brings the feeling of heart strength back in those that feel defeated. Borage is another herb which has these properties.
Herbs that sedate are also useful. It’s critical that the system is able to rest and relax well between periods of stress. I often use the herb zyziphus with valerian, aiding muscular relaxation as well as mental relaxation.
Lavender is a gorgeous nervous system herb. It relaxes muscular tension and promoting a sense of peace and relaxation.

In order for the body to heal efficiently, we need to deal with the residual impact on the nervous system. When this system is healthy the whole body (human and horse) is able to work in harmony again. Herbs can play a part in assisting with trauma, healing and harmony. 

Have a question? Contact McDowell's Herbal Treatments

McDowell's staff Herbalists can not diagnose your disease or illness. What they can do is offer a herbal program to assist with healing, after you have had advice from your doctor or specialist. If you have unexplained pain or symptoms, seek medical advice.

EMAIL info@mcdowellsherbal.com  |  PHONE 02 6331 3937  |  INTERNATIONAL +61 2 6331 3937