Stress – A modern Canadian epidemic

Stress. It’s something that all of us experience, regardless of job, geographic location or family situation. Stress is the body’s response to environmental stimuli (stressors). It’s natural and healthy to a degree; stress can motivate us and move us forward in life. Too much stress and an inability to manage it, however, can have dramatic health consequences for an individual.

In Canada, statistics reveal the prevalence of stress in our modern society. Almost three-quarters of Canadian workers report being “stressed.” Of those stressed workers, more than one-third consider themselves “highly stressed.” Although there are numerous sources of stress, 60% of highly stressed individuals cite work as the primary cause.1

The cost of high stress levels to the Canadian economy is crippling. An estimated $20 billion per year is spent or lost in dealing with stress issues. An incredible 75% of short-term work disability is due to stress. 2

The health implications of stress
Stress triggers adrenaline production in the body allowing the individual to react to the stressful situation. Heart rate, body temperature, endocrine response and anxiety all increase. Productivity increases for a short time, but fatigue and exhaustion can follow and if the stress is prolonged, health issues can occur.

Chronic high levels of stress are associated with mental health issues. The Canadian Mental Health Commission reports that anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue as well as alcohol and drug abuse occur more frequently in those under extreme stress.3 These states can lead to memory loss, poor brain performance, anxiety disorders and accelerated aging. Further, with the mind-body connection in humans, stress issues can go beyond mental to physical disease. Heart disease, arthritis, joint conditions, diabetes, respiratory issues, migraine headaches, metabolic syndrome, obesity risk, poor sexual performance and weakened immunity all increase in the shadow of long-term stress.

Natural solutions to relieving stress
The pharmaceutical industry offers a wide selection of drugs to help individuals cope with stress. Some common prescriptions are anxiolytics (tranquilizers) (e.g. benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax), beta blockers for anxiety symptoms or sleeping pills to assist with sleeping. The downside of these medicines can be dependence, decreasing effectiveness with regular use, memory loss, cognitive decline and withdrawal symptoms. Dependence can occur in just two weeks with some medications.4

To avoid the potential risks of pharmaceutical medications when dealing with stress and anxiety, there are a number of lifestyle adjustments suggested by the Canadian Mental Health Association to help the mind and body cope:5
– Identifying the source of stress and establishing a plan for reduction
– Sufficient sleep (7 hours per day) to allow the mind and body to heal
– Regular vigorous exercise helps to release stress
– Yoga, deep breathing and massages help to calm the mind and body
– Eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, lean meat, protein
– Begin the day with a good breakfast and drink water throughout the day
– Adopt a positive attitude and optimistic view on life
– Surround yourself with supportive family and friends

Natural supplements can also assist the body and mind in coping with stress conditions. Supplement such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and magnesium have been shown to be helpful. Traditional remedies such as lemon balm, passionflower and maca root are plant-based medicinals that have shown promise in safely treating stress, anxiety and associated insomnia. Lemon balm, in particular, was shown to be the most effective plant for sedation, when compared against valerian and passion flower.6

In particular, a specific lemon balm extract branded as Cyracos® has shown clinical success in safely reducing anxiety symptoms and reducing insomnia incidence.

What is Cyracos® lemon balm?
The leaves of lemon balm have long been used in Europe as a traditional stress relief and sleep aid remedy. Known in Latin as Melissa officinalis L., lemon balm use goes back over 2,000 years to ancient Greece for its pleasant aroma. In the 15th century, lemon balm was used as a tea that was known for its calming properties. Lemon balm has also been used medicinally for migraine relief, memory enhancement, gastric issues, insomnia, depression, epilepsy and fevers. More recent studies have shown lemon balm to be a powerful antioxidant, antiviral and antimicrobial.7

Lemon balm is rich in many natural components that have potential health benefits: hydroxycinnamic acids such as rosmarinic acid, flavonoids, essential oils and tannins. The unique Cyracos® lemon balm extract contains standardized amounts of rosmarinic acid (between 7-15%) and total hydroxycinnamic acid (between 14 -25%).

Stress and the GABA connection
In body, there is an important neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) found throughout the nervous system and brain. It is believed this chemical messenger slows down neurons to assist in controlling stress and anxiety. Insufficient levels of GABA are linked to various neurological conditions – anxiety, depression and insomnia. Chronic stress seems to upset the GABAergic system in the nervous system resulting in increased anxiety and insomnia. During these stressful periods, an excess of gamma-aminobutyric acid transaminase (GABA-T) is produced which interferes with the availability of GABA to the brain.

The direct use of natural and synthetic GABA has shown anti-stress properties. The anti-anxiety class of drugs discussed earlier – benzodiazepines – work with GABA receptors to enhance the effect of GABA.8

It has been demonstrated that lemon balm extract can inhibit GABA-T, making GABA more available to the brain reducing anxiety and stress.

The science of Cyracos® – reducing anxiety, improving sleep
To put the traditional use of lemon balm to the test, a clinical study was designed to rate the effectiveness of Cyracos®, a unique extract of lemon balm extract.

In the 2010 clinical study conducted in France, patients with mild anxiety issues were given two 300 mg doses of Cyracos® for a two-week period. One dose was administered in the morning and one before bedtime. The results were promising (see also “Cyracos® Clinical Study” chart):9

Anxiety manifestations were reduced by 18%.
Anxiety symptoms were reduced by 15% (including eating problems, psychosomatic symptoms, intellectual disturbances, fatigue, emotional instability and speech problems).
Insomnia incidence was reduced by a significant 42%. Patients with sleep difficulties such as restless nights and moderate sleeping difficulties were able to have difficulty-free sleeps with full rest and a lowered rate of awakening.
The more impressive result was that Cyracos® lemon balm was effective for almost all patients in the study. Within the two week study, 70% of patients had full remission of anxiety symptoms and 85% had full remission of insomnia. In terms of overall improvement, 95% of patients had at least “much improved” anxiety symptoms and 100% had at least “much improved” insomnia symptoms. There were no adverse effects reported in the study, unlike many of the pharmaceutical options discussed earlier in this article.

This study backed up previous studies on lemon balm extract that had shown a reduction in stress effects and an increase in mathematical problem-solving.10

As discussed earlier, it is primarily the rosmarinic acids in Cyracos® that reduce GABA-T in the nervous system allowing GABA, our body’s stress-regulator, to more effectively do its job.

Further studies will be conducted, but it appears that Cyracos® lemon balm extract is a safe and effective option for reducing anxiety and insomnia for those with mild-to-moderate stress conditions.

Health First® Stress Relief Supreme:
– Two-per-day formula
– Contains clinically-studied, patented Cyracos® lemon balm extract
– Results shown within two weeks
– Vegetarian suitable

  1. Crompton, Susan. “What’s stressing the stressed? Main sources of stress among workers.” Statistics Canada. April 2014.
  2. ibid.
  3. ibid.
  4. “Balance your life with Cyracos®” 2011. Page 26.
  5. Canadian Mental Health Association. “Stress”.
  6. “Balance your life with Cyracos®” 2011. Page 55.
  7. ibid.
  8. Cases, Julien. “Pilot trial of Melissa officinalis L. leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances.”
  9. Murray, Michael, N.D. “The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine.” Third Edition. Atria. p. 214.
  10. “Balance your life with Cyracos®” 2011. Page 112.
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