Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Cortisol Imbalance

     Living in a modern world, in a society that demands more and more out of us, we can often find ourselves becoming overly stressed, easily exhausted, having a hard time sleeping, and finding it almost impossible to loose weight. These are all symptoms of cortisol imbalance.

     Cortisol is a stress hormone. In fact, it's often considered the primary stress hormone. It's one of the main hormones released when our bodies are kicked into “fight or flight” mode. The “fight or flight” response (also called the acute stress response) is a response that helped our ancestors evolve. When we feel terrified, mentally or physically, our bodies release certain hormones that help us deal with the situation by either running or fighting. These hormones trigger a rapid response from our bodies that results in an increase in our heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. This pumps oxygen to our muscles much faster, allowing us to be stronger and faster for a short time. Afterward, it takes 20-60 minutes for our bodies to go back to normal. 

     Cortisol is a necessary hormone for life, helping us to stay motivated or keep us awake and responsive to our environment. However, being constantly exposed to tense situations, such as traffic or fast-paced work environments, can cause a buildup of Cortisol. Over time your adrenal glands will not be able to keep up the levels of production required by your constant state of stress. This will cause adrenal fatigue, and combined with high levels of Cortisol, this can cause some seriously adverse effects.

Symptoms of Cortisol Imbalance

1. Chronic pain and headaches

     Excessive amounts of stress can put a major strain on your adrenal glands, which can increase your sensitivity to pain. You may start noticing an increase in backaches, headaches, and/or other body aches. If you tend to hold back your tears you should consider having a “good cry” because a number of hormones that cause this sensitivity can be released with those tears.

2. Weight gain, especially around the belly

     Excessive Cortisol levels tend to cause weight gain. It stimulates appetite and most of the weight gained will end up gravitating to your mid-section. You may also develop a round face, or fat neck. This can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

3. Weakened immunity

     When your Cortisol levels are high, your immune system is not able to function as well. This leads to you catching every little germ that you are exposed to. Or so it may seem.

4. In ability to sleep and fatigue

     Cortisol directly helps to regulate your waking and sleeping cycles. Imbalanced Cortisol levels can cause problems sleeping and symptoms of chronic fatigue. The occasional bout insomnia is usually nothing to worry about, but if you find yourself experiencing chronic sleep problems and/or excessive fatigue, you may be experiencing a Cortisol imbalance.

5. Mood changes, panic attacks, and/or depression
     When your Cortisol levels are high, your feel-good hormones (such as serotonin) are low. This can leave you feeling quite depressed, anxious, and irritable. Making you prone to some crazy mood swings, and panic attacks.

6. Infertility and/or no sex drive

     Fighting or running for you life doesn’t really put most people “in the mood.” So it's no surprise that high levels of Cortisol may reduce you sex drive, and in some cases remove it all together. On top of that, it can lead to problems such as impotence and irregular menstrual cycles which can cause fertility problems.

Tips to help balance your cortisol levels

1. Whole foods diet

     Our bodies actually use Cortisol to balance out our blood sugar when it gets too low. With this in mind, we can use healthy carbohydrates as an excellent tool to help us balance our Cortisol in turn. Also, by switching to a predominantly whole foods diet, we reduce our exposure to foods that increase inflammation, and thus increase our Cortisol. Combining these two strategies in a way to fits your life may be one of the best ways to reduce and balance your Cortisol levels.

2. Stress management

     Cortisol is released in times of stress. So reducing your stress helps to reduce the amount of Cortisol your body releases, and helps provide more time to help your body fully recover from the stress. Using strategies that include meditation, deep breathing, spending time outdoors, healthy exercise, and acupuncture may be a great way to help balance out your Cortisol levels.

3. A matter of lighting

     This may sound ridiculous, but lighting can seriously effect your Cortisol levels. Cortisol issues aren't just from high amounts of Cortisol, it can also be an issue when Cortisol is released at the wrong time. When we are exposed to blue light (such as from a TV or computer screen) at night, our bodies release Cortisol and reduce melatonin. Reducing our ability to get a good night's sleep. Also, when we spend a lot of time indoors and don't get much natural sunlight during the day, our bodies can get confused as to the time and release these hormones at inappropriate times. Try going outside for 30 minutes within an hour of waking up, and using blue light filters on your devices at night. This can seriously help balance out the timing of your body's release of Cortisol and help balance out your Cortisol levels.

4. Essential Oils

     It's no secret that smells evoke feelings in us. You smell a certain scent and you remember a pleasant moment, maybe it's the smell of fresh baked apple pie. You smell that and remember your grandmother making one for you when you were little. Or maybe you smell coffee and feel instantly alert, just from the smell. Whatever the reason, smells can be strongly effective. Certain essential oils can actually reduce your Cortisol levels by scent alone. Try diffusing essential oils that help aid relaxation. Lavender, myrrh, frankincense, bergamont, clary sage, sandalwood, and thyme are just a few. You can also dilute essential oils into a carrier oil and make your own massage oil to use when you are feeling especially stressed.

5. Adaptogen Herbs

     Adaptogens are a classification of herbs that help you body recover from and adapt better to stress. They naturally balance hormones (including Cortisol), reduce inflammation, lower fatigue, reduce inflammation, and help control blood sugar and blood pressure levels. A number of them have been tested and proven to actually reduce Cortisol levels. Here are just a few to look into adding into your daily routine.
         Tulsi (or Holy Basil)
         Licorice Root
         Medicinal Mushrooms such as Reishi or Shiitake

     I hope this helps you be more mindful of your stress levels and gives you a good idea of what to do when the stress gets to be to much. If you have any questions of comments, please leave them below.


6 Ways to Lower Your Cortisol Levels: Dr. Axe:

8 Signs You're Suffering From A Cortisol Imbalance: Atlas Drug & Nutrition:

Cortisol/Adrenal Fatigue (Men): Genemetics Health Institute:

Cortisol/Adrenal Fatigue (Women): Genemetics Health Institute:

Cortisol Imbalance Symptoms: Livestrong:

How I Reduced My Cortisol Levels Naturally With Food & Light: Wellness Mama:

Symptoms of Cortisol Imbalance in Women: Tranquility Labs:

Friday, June 14, 2019

Stress Free Spice Blends

     I am a major proponent of the philosophy held by Hippocrates, “Let thy food be thy medicine.” Food is what nourishes us, provides us with the things our body needs in order to work properly. So if we don't take care to eat well, our health is sure to decline in some way. Keeping that in mind, I have a few things I do when I cook at home. One of them is that I try to “hide” herbs in all my food. Since I just introduced you to one of my favorite herbs to do this with, Ashwagandh, I figured I'd let you in one one of these secrets. I like to use adaptogenic herbs in my home made spice blends. 

1. Now if you look at the ingredients present in a number of spice blends, you'll find that most of these already are packed full of healthy herbs. So I like to add a few other herbs to enhance their effects. But first, here is my basic, every day spice blend. I use this in all the savory recipes I make.

Every Day Stress-Free

¼ cup dried Nettle leaf
3 tablespoons Garlic Powder
2 tablespoons ground Ashwagandha
1 tablespoon ground Shiitake Mushroom
1 tablespoon Ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Salt

Use a mortar and pestle, food processor, or coffee/spice grinder to lightly grind any of the whole herbs. You want them to be coarse and not finely ground. Combine all the herbs in a bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container away from heat and light.

2. My husband and I really enjoy ranch seasoning. So I started making my own blend to make it a bit healthier, then I added adaptogenic herbs. We use this on just about everything. One of my favorites is sprinkling this on baked potatoes. Yum! If you want to make ranch dressing, simply add 1 tablespoon of this spice blend with 1/3 cup of your favorite mayonnaise, sour cream, or dairy free yogurt.

 Relaxing Ranch

¼ cup dried Parsley leaf
1 tablespoons Dill Leaf
1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon ground Ashwagandha 
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
½ tablespoon Tulsi
½ teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
½ teaspoon Salt

Use a mortar and pestle, food processor, or coffee/spice grinder to lightly grind any of the whole herbs. You want them to be coarse and not finely ground. Combine all the herbs in a bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container away from heat and light.

3. This blend works well as a blackening seasoning, or just a generic Cajun blend. I love making blackened chicken or tofu with this seasoning rub. You can also add this to a bit of lemon juice and olive oil to make a great salad dressing.

Crazy Cajun

5 tablespoons Paprika
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon ground Eluthero
4 teaspoons Salt
4 teaspoons ground Black Pepper
1 ½ teaspoon ground Cayenne Pepper (or less if you don’t want it too spicy)
1 tablespoon Tulsi
1 teaspoon Thyme
½ teaspoon Oregano

Use a mortar and pestle, food processor, or coffee/spice grinder to lightly grind any of the whole herbs. You want them to be coarse and not finely ground. Combine all the herbs in a bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container away from heat and light.

4. I can't like normal things, it's just not possible. So instead of just a plain Lemon Pepper blend, I have to spice it up, adding more adaptogens in the process.

Zesty Lemon and Herbs

Zest from 4-6 Organic Lemons
6 tablespoons ground Black Pepper
5 tablespoons Salt
2 tablespoons Tulsi
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
½ tablespoon Oregano
½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper or Paprika *optional
½ teaspoon ground Eluthero

Zest the lemons and spread them out on a cookie sheet. Place in the oven on the lowest setting and leave until completely dry, around 70-80 minutes. 

Use a mortar and pestle, food processor, or coffee/spice grinder to lightly grind any of the whole herbs. You want them to be coarse and not finely ground. Combine all the herbs in a bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container away from heat and light.

5. Everyone likes Everything Bagels. But not everyone knows how delicious the seasonings are on other things such as avocado toast, salads, and veggies.

Simply Everything

1 tablespoon Sesame Seeds
1 tablespoon Poppy Seeds
1 tablespoon Flax Seeds
1 tablespoon Chia Seeds
1 tablespoon dried Minced Onion
1 tablespoon dried Minced Garlic
1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
½ tablespoon ground Shiitake Mushroom
½ tablespoon ground Ashwagandha
1 teaspoon Salt

Combine all the herbs in a bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container away from heat and light.

     In any of these recipes, feel free to change the ingredients around.  Try using other adaptogens such as Reishi, Licorice, or Astragalus. Have fun, play around, and let me know what you think below!

Friday, June 7, 2019


     Stress. We all experience it. Some of us deal with it much better than others. There are some herbs that have been known to help with stress in one way or another. One of my favorites is Ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera. This Indian herb, used for centuries in Ayurvedic Medicine, is most well known for it's ability to help our bodies adapt to stress and to flush out the stress hormones a lot faster. However, it's also a great herb to call upon in a number of other situations.

     Native to India, and a member of the Solanaceae (Nightshade) family, Ashwagandha is one of Ayurveda's most important herbs. It has become so popular that it is now cultivated in western Asia, Yemen, and China. Some farmers are also trying to establish this herb, and other important Ayurvedic herbs, in America as well.

     The name “Ashwagandha” actually comes from Sanskrit, and it translates to “the smell of a horse.” This comes from a few places, the first is that the fresh root smells like horse urine (eeew), the second is that it has a reputation as a great herb to help one attain the “stamina of a horse” in certain bedroom activities (yep, we all know what I'm talking about here).

Medicinal Uses:

Scientific Name- Withania somnifera

Common Names- Ashwagandha, Winter Cherry, Indian Ginseng, Poison Gooseberry

Parts Used- The roots and leaves are used traditionally, but most Western herbalists only use the roots.

Summary of Actions- Adaptogen, Alterative, Analgesic, Cardioprotective, Antispasmodic, Anti-inflammatory, Slight Sedative, Nerve Tonic, Diuretic, Nutritive Tonic, Thyroid Stimulant, and Aphrodisiac.

Ayurveda- Ashwagandha is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine, so much so that it is considered one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda. Ashwagandha is used to help balance vata and kapha in excess. It can also unbalance pitta due to it's heating and building nature. However it's mostly used to balance vata, helping to strengthen and nourish healthy muscles and reproductive systems.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Known as Nan Fei Zui Jia in TCM, Ashwagandha works on the Lung, Heart, and Spleen meridians. It tonifies Qi, building immunity, strength, and aiding in recovery. It tonifies Lung Qi, helping to clear coughs, recover from illness, and lightens any “heaviness” in the chest. It tonifies the Spleen, helping to increase appetite, reduce diarrhea, improve memory, and reduce mental confusion. It also tonifies Jing, increasing male fertility and preventing impotence. But it's most well known for calming Shen, which reduces anxiety and other stress disorders, and helps improve sleep.

Stress, Anxiety, and Depression- Ashwagandha is considered to be one of the best adaptogens by many herbalists. It helps the body to adapt to stressful situations, reducing anxiety and helping to relieve some of the symptoms associated with depression. It does this, largely, by reducing the cortisol levels in your system. This helps to relieve adrenal fatigue as well, which helps to boost energy naturally, improve sleep, and improve mood.

Joint, Back, and Arthritic Pain- Ashwagandha is a great anti-inflammatory with some analgesic properties. This means that it helps reduce swelling and can also help reduce the feeling of pain in certain areas. Traditionally it has been used to treat joint and back pain, especially when associated with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal- Because of the amazing ability of Ashwagandha to help reduce stress, and help the body to recover from stress, it can be used to greatly reduce the impact of withdrawal from drugs and/or alcohol.

Regulates Blood Sugar Levels- Ayurvedic medicine has been using Ashwagandha as a treatment for diabetes for a very long time. Recent studies have shown that it has potential in this area as it has been proven to lower blood glucose levels in diabetic rats.

Circulatory System- Not only is Ashwagandha a great anti-inflammatory, but it also helps to strengthen the heart muscles and control cholesterol. It's also been shown to have some hematopoietic properties, helping to increase the production of new blood cells. This makes for an excellent combination to help strengthen and protect the entire circulatory system.

Thyroid Function- Ashwagandha has been known to help increase the production of the thyroid, which can increase libido, reduce joint pain, and help improve skin conditions that are a result of hypothyroidism.

Memory and Brain Function- Ashwagandha is currently being studied for it's possible use in treating cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer's. It's also a traditional treatment for senility, memory loss, and seizures.

Contraindications and Warnings- Large doses can cause abdominal discomfort and/or diarrhea. Pregnant women should use caution with this herb as large doses could cause early delivery. Ashwagandha does interact with certain types of medication, so check with your doctor before adding this herb to your routine.

     I only included a basic introduction to this amazing and beautiful little herb. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.


7 Amazing Benefits of Ashwagandha Root for Women: Global Healing Center:

11 Ashwagandha Benefits for the Brain, Thyroid, and Even Muscles: Dr. Axe:

12 Proven Health Benefits of Ashwagandha: Healthline:

15 Proven Benefits of Ashwagandha: Organic Facts:

As Overview on Ashwagadha: African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines:

Ashwagandha: Banyan Botanicals:

Ashwagandha AKA Winter Cherry: White Rabbit Institute of Healing:

Ayurveda Medicinal Herb – Ashwagandha: Ayurveda for You:

Benefits of Ashwagandha: Medical News Today:

What is Ashwagandha?: The Chopra Center:

Why You Should Take Ashwagandha With Milk?: The Ayurveda Experience:


Greetings from the Bat Lady!

     Welcome to Bat Lady Herbals.  I have been fascinated by herbs and various herbal uses for quite a few years now.  Plants are amazing t...