Among the volumes of printed material and hours of televised programming commemorating 9-11 and how it has changed our country, one item that caught my attention was a recent report on the heightened stress levels now experienced by Americans, and most notably New Yorkers. One manifestation of the damaging effects of prolonged stress there is absenteeism from work, which has increased dramatically since 9-11.
Closer to home, recent developments in the stock market, widespread job layoffs and the Iraq War have devastated many families’ finances, resulting in tremendous stress as they struggle to save homes, retirements and their children’s educations.
In my practice, I see the results of stressful lifestyles and events in the form of symptoms including digestive disorders, neck and shoulder tension and pain, headaches, insomnia and depression. While some people may consider these complaints to be simply inconvenient and unpleasant, I wonder how many are aware of the long term problems associated with unrelenting stresses in our lives. It is estimated that 80% of all visits to physicians today are stress related. Many diseases including autoimmune disorders, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and other conditions such as acne, memory loss and learning disabilities are all brought on by stress.
The human stress response has evolved as the body’s reaction to dangerous or physically demanding situations. For example, imagine a caveman, armed with a rock and sharp stick, encountering a twelve foot long saber tooth tiger. His body immediately goes in to the ‘fight or flight’ mode, preferably flight in this particular situation. Adreneline, ACTH cortisol hormones rush into the bloodstream. Blood is directed to essential tissues and organs such as the heart and muscles, while stomach acid secretion and the digestive function cease. He leaps over a ravine, scampers up a cliff like a goat, and sprints to the safety of his cave. There he collapses, heart pounding, and sleeps for the remainder of the day, recovering from his ordeal. The next week he is ready to do the same thing again.
In out modern society, however, there is no opportunity for recovery. As stresses from sources including traffic, work (or lack of it), TV news, air pollution, electrical appliances and so on accumulate, hormone levels climb. Some of us get accustomed to these elevated levels, becoming ‘adrenaline addicts’ requiring highly stimulating activities such as bungie jumping or car racing to feel alive. Cortisol destroys brain cells in areas related to learning and memory. Poor digestion and assimilation lead to malnutrition, and further complications including immune and endocrine system depletion. We are, as the old saying goes, ‘burning the candle at both ends.’ The long term outlook is not a pretty one. Stress has become a big enough medical problem today that it was featured on both Time and Newsweek as the cover story.
In this time of heightened stress loads and the resultant negative impact health, I was very pleased some time ago to come across an intriguing herbal formula designed specifically to fight stress. I have lots of stress formulas to choose from, often B vitamin complex and a few relaxant herbs, but this product was unique. The story of its development is a most unusual and interesting one.
Early in the Cold War, the Soviet Academy of Sciences created a team of 1200 Soviet biologists and physicians who were assigned the task of developing a natural, plant based formula to combat the negative effects of stress. It was intended for use by the country’s most high performing people, including Olympic athletes, Bolshoi Ballet dancers, cosmonauts and the military, to give them a competitive advantage over other countries. Funded by a billion dollar budget, they produced over three thousand scientific papers spanning forty five years in what has been described as one of the most massive programs of human testing in scientific history. We did not hear about this research because it was kept secret until, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the final formula known as Prime One was brought to America by the project leader, Dr. Israel Breckman.
Among thousands of plant chemicals studied, a few were found to possess extraordinary stress relieving abilities. They were called adaptogens, as they help the human body adapt to the destructive effects of stress. Among the many benefits are the ability to increase energy, strength, stamina, endurance, recovery, mental work capacity, immunity, sexual function, growth rates in premature babies and life expectancy following exposure to harmful radiation; to improve sleep, to help us cope with anxiety, fear and worry; to protect human cells from chemical toxins; to suppress high levels of damaging hormones and prevent damage from oxygen free radicals. Thousands of studies found them to be safe, with no negative side effects.
The highly successful Russian Olympic team trained on this formula for years, and my patients are reporting benefits today. It was used by the police and firefighters cleaning up the ruins of the TradeTowers in New York City. I took it on a twenty six hour flight to South Africa last month and found people there to be using it as well. I recommend it to anyone seeking a better quality of life.
Jim Martin, L Ac, Dipl. Ac (NCCAOM)
herbs, adaptogens, stress, performance, athletes, Olympics, memory, endurance, strength,