Research - Stress
Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Improves Multiple Physiological Markers of Health
Donna Bach, ND, Gary Groesbeck, BCIA, Peta Stapleton, PhD
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is an evidence-based self-help therapeutic method and over 100 studies demonstrate its efficacy. However, information about the physiological effects of EFT is limited. The current study sought to elucidate EFTs mechanisms of action across the central nervous system (CNS) by measuring heart rate variability (HRV) and heart coherence (HC); the circulatory system using resting heart rate (RHR) and blood pressure (BP); the endocrine system using cortisol, and the immune system using salivary immunoglobulin A (SigA). The second aim was to measure psychological symptoms. Participants (N = 203) were enrolled in a 4-day training workshop held in different locations. At one workshop (n = 31), participants also received comprehensive physiological testing. Posttest, significant declines were found in anxiety (−40%), depression (−35%), posttraumatic stress disorder (−32%), pain (−57%), and cravings (−74%), all P < .000. Happiness increased (+31%, P = .000) as did SigA (+113%, P = .017). Significant improvements were found in RHR (−8%, P = .001), cortisol (−37%, P < .000), systolic BP (−6%, P = .001), and diastolic BP (−8%, P < .000). Positive trends were observed for HRV and HC and gains were maintained on follow-up, indicating EFT results in positive health effects as well as increased mental well-being
Source : Journal of Evidence Based Integrative Medicine
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An Observational Preliminary Study on the Safety of Long-Term Consumption of Micronutrients for the Treatment of Psychiatric Symptoms
Julia J. Rucklidge, Matthew J. F. Eggleston, Breanne Ealam, Ben Beaglehole, and Roger T. Mulder
Objectives: There is an increasing body of literature documenting the efficacy of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) interventions for the treatment of psychiatric problems in the short term; however, long-term safety is largely unexplored. The goal of this observational study was to investigate the safety of two commercially available broad-spectrum micronutrient formulas (EMPowerplus and Daily Essential Nutrients) given at doses above the Recommended Dietary Allowances for the long-term treatment of individuals with psychiatric symptoms.
Design: Participants on long-term treatment with micronutrients (medication-free) for psychiatric problems (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD, n = 21], anxiety/depression [n = 13]) were identified from ongoing research studies and the community through purchasing records. Seventeen children and 17 adults had blood tests to assess their full blood count, coagulation profile, liver and kidney function, fasting glucose, iron studies, key nutrients, and prolactin. Questionnaires assessed psychological/psychiatric functioning. Seventeen of the participants had completed the same measures pretreatment.
Results: The average length of consuming micronutrients was 2.66 years (standard deviation = 2.86). Excluding B12 (which was elevated for almost all participants), 94.6% of all blood test results were within the test reference ranges. One participant was diagnosed with hemochromatosis based on iron studies. No other clinically relevant adverse changes in blood results were identified pre- and post-treatment. No clinically significant adverse effects were reported. Post-treatment psychometrics identified that 85% of the participants were in nonclinical ranges for measures of ADHD, depression, anxiety, and stress.
Conclusions: We report preliminary evidence for the safety of long-term commercially available micronutrients, although questions remain. Overall, the substantial psychiatric benefits observed appear to outweigh the minimal observed risks in these participants. Screening for potential medical problems is recommended before initiating treatment. Long-term pharmacovigilance monitoring is required to ascertain any rare but significant adverse events.
Source : journal Alternative and Complementary Medicine
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Effects of therapeutic horseback riding on post-traumatic stress disorder in military veterans
Rebecca A. Johnson, David L. Albright,James R. Marzolf,Jessica L. Bibbo,Hayley D. Yaglom,Sandra M. Crowder,Gretchen
K. Carlisle,Amy Willard,Cynthia L. Russell,Karen Grindler,Steven Osterlind,Marita Wassman and Nathan Harms
Large numbers of post-deployment U.S. veterans are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or traumatic brain injury (TBI), leading to an urgent need for effective interventions to reduce symptoms and increase veterans’ coping. PTSD includes anxiety, flashbacks, and emotional numbing. The symptoms increase health care costs for stress-related illnesses and can make veterans’ civilian life difficult.
We used a randomized wait-list controlled design with repeated measures of U.S. military veterans to address our specific aim to test the efficacy of a 6-week therapeutic horseback riding (THR) program for decreasing PTSD symptoms and increasing coping self-efficacy, emotion regulation, social and emotional loneliness.
Fifty-seven participants were recruited and 29 enrolled in the randomized trial. They were randomly assigned to either the horse riding group (n = 15) or a wait-list control group (n = 14). The wait-list control group experienced a 6-week waiting period, while the horse riding group began THR. The wait-list control group began riding after 6 weeks of participating in the control group.
Demographic and health history information was obtained from all the participants. PTSD symptoms were measured using the standardized PTSD Checklist-Military Version (PCL-M).
The PCL-M as well as other instruments including, The Coping Self Efficacy Scale (CSES), The Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) and The Social and Emotional Loneliness Scale for Adults-short version (SELSA) were used to access different aspects of individual well-being and the PTSD symptoms.
Participants had a statistically significant decrease in PTSD scores after 3 weeks of THR (P ≤ 0.01) as well as a statistically and clinically significant decrease after 6 weeks of THR (P ≤ 0.01). Logistic regression showed that participants had a 66.7% likelihood of having lower PTSD scores at 3 weeks and 87.5% likelihood at 6 weeks. Under the generalized linear model(GLM), our ANOVA findings for the coping self-efficacy, emotion regulation, and social and emotional loneliness did not reach statistical significance. The results for coping self-efficacy and emotion regulation trended in the predicted direction. Results for emotional loneliness were opposite the predicted direction. Logistic regression provided validation that outcome effects were caused by riding longer.
The findings suggest that THR may be a clinically effective intervention for alleviating PTSD symptoms in military veterans.
Source : Journal Military Medical Research
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Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series
Lucas Elms, Scott Shannon, Shannon Hughes, and Nicole Lewis
Objectives: Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychotomimetic cannabinoid compound that is found in plants of the genus Cannabis. Preclinical research has suggested that CBD may have a beneficial effect in rodent models of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This effect is believed to be due to the action of CBD on the endocannabinoid system. CBD has seen a recent surge in research regarding its potential value in a number of neuro-psychiatric conditions. This is the first study to date examining the clinical benefit of CBD for patients with PTSD.
Methods: This retrospective case series examines the effect of oral CBD administration on symptoms of PTSD in a series of 11 adult patients at an outpatient psychiatry clinic. CBD was given on an open-label, flexible dosing regimen to patients diagnosed with PTSD by a mental health professional. Patients also received routine psychiatric care, including concurrent treatment with psychiatric medications and psychotherapy. The length of the study was 8 weeks. PTSD symptom severity was assessed every 4 weeks by patient-completed PTSD Checklist for the DSM-5 (PCL-5) questionnaires.
Results: From the total sample of 11 patients, 91% (n = 10) experienced a decrease in PTSD symptom severity, as evidenced by a lower PCL-5 score at 8 weeks than at their initial baseline. The mean total PCL-5 score decreased 28%, from a mean baseline score of 51.82 down to 37.14, after eight consecutive weeks of treatment with CBD. CBD was generally well tolerated, and no patients discontinued treatment due to side effects.
Conclusions: Administration of oral CBD in addition to routine psychiatric care was associated with PTSD symptom reduction in adults with PTSD. CBD also appeared to offer relief in a subset of patients who reported frequent nightmares as a symptom of their PTSD. Additional clinical investigation, including double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, would be necessary to further substantiate the response to CBD that was observed in this study.
Source : Journal Alternative and Complementary Medicine
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Reduced Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Irritable Bowel Syndrome Following Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Among Veterans
Kaitlin Harding, , Tracy Simpson, , and David J. Kearney
Objectives: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are highly comorbid conditions associated with reduced health-related quality of life. Comorbid prevalence is especially high among veterans, ranging from 23% to 51%, but there is limited research on integrative treatments.
Design: To improve treatment of comorbid PTSD and IBS, this study examined the impact of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on symptom reduction and mindfulness skill building among veterans with this comorbidity. We hypothesized that veterans would report reduced trauma-related, gastrointestinal (GI) symptom-specific anxiety (GSA), and depression symptoms and greater mindfulness skills post-treatment. We also hypothesized that veterans who reported lower trauma-related GSA and depression symptoms, and reported greater mindfulness skills and MBSR session attendance would report lower irritable bowel symptoms post-treatment.
Settings/Location: VA (Veterans Administration) Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, Washington.
Subjects: Participants were 55 veterans with PTSD and IBS.
Interventions: Veterans participated in an 8-week open trial of MBSR group.
Outcome measures: This study measured the impact of MBSR on PTSD, IBS, GSA, and depression symptoms as well as mindfulness skills.
Results: Veterans reported reduced trauma-related, irritable bowel, GSA, and depression symptoms and greater mindfulness skills immediately post-treatment. Trauma-related and depression symptom reduction were maintained 4 months post-treatment, but irritable bowel and GSA symptoms were nonsignificant. Lower baseline GSA predicted lower irritable bowel symptoms immediately post-treatment. At 4 months post-treatment, 77.50% met PTSD criteria and 40.38% met IBS criteria compared with 100% veteran comorbidity pretreatment.
Conclusions: MBSR holds promise as a transdiagnostic intervention for individuals with comorbid trauma-related, depression, GSA, and irritable bowel symptoms, with maintenance of trauma-related and depression symptom improvement 4 months post-treatment.
Source : Journal Alternative and Complementary Medicine
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Dog Ownership and Training Reduces Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms and Increases Self-Compassion Among Veterans: Results of a Longitudinal Control Study
Dessa Bergen-Cico, Yvonne Smith, Karen Wolford, Collin Gooley, Kathleen Hannon, Ryan Woodruff, Melissa Spicer, and
Objectives: The aims of this study were to measure the potential impact of a therapeutic dog ownership and training program for Veterans with symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
Design: The study used a quasi-experimental design with two cohorts of Veterans—a dog owner-trainer intervention and a wait list control group. Participants completed baseline and 12-month follow-up assessments.
Setting: Clear Path for Veterans, a nonclinical, open recreation facility whose mission is to support Veterans and their families in the reintegration process after military service.
Subjects: Participants (n = 48) were either enrolled in the veterans therapeutic dog owner-trainer program (Dogs2Vets) or were placed in the wait list control group.
Intervention: Veterans were enrolled in the Dogs2Vets program, a 12-month structured dog owner-trainer program that engages veterans in the training and care of a dog that they ultimately adopt. The Dogs2Vets Program focuses on the healing aspects of the human-animal bond.
Outcome measures: PTSD Checklist, Military Version (PCL-M), perceived stress scale, self-compassion scale (SCS) composite, and SCS subscales for isolation and self-judgment.
Results: Veterans participating in the Dogs2Vets owner-trainer program experienced significant reductions in symptoms of post-traumatic stress, perceived stress, isolation, and self-judgment accompanied by significant increases in self-compassion. In contrast there were no significant improvements in these measures among veterans in the wait list control group. Qualitative data reinforced the statistical findings with themes of decreased isolation, unconditional acceptance and companionship, and a renewed sense of safety and purpose from their relationships with their dogs.
Conclusion: Veterans benefit significantly from dog ownership in combination with a structured dog training program. Not only do they experience significant decreases in stress and post-traumatic stress symptoms but also they experience less isolation and self-judgment while also experiencing significant improvements in self-compassion.
Source : Journal Alternative and Complementary Medicine
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Multicenter, open-label, exploratory clinical trial with Rhodiola rosea extract in patients suffering from burnout symptoms4
Purpose: This study is the first clinical trial aiming to explore the clinical outcomes in burnout patients treated with Rhodiola rosea. The reported capacity of R. rosea to strengthen the organism against stress and its good tolerability offer a promising approach in the treatment of stress-related burnout. The aim of the treatment was to increase stress resistance, thus addressing the source rather than the symptoms of the syndrome and preventing subsequent diseases associated with a history of burnout. The objective of the trial was to provide the exploratory data required for planning future randomized trials in burnout patients in order to investigate the clinical outcomes of treatment with R. rosea dry extract in this target group.
Methods: The study was planned as an exploratory, open-label, multicenter, single-arm trial. A wide range of rating scales were assessed and evaluated in an exploratory data analysis to generate hypotheses regarding clinical courses and to provide a basis for the planning of subsequent studies. A total of 118 outpatients were enrolled. A daily dose of 400 mg R. rosea extract (WS® 1375, Rosalin) was administered over 12 weeks. Clinical outcomes were assessed by the German version of the Maslach Burnout Inventory, Burnout Screening Scales I and II, Sheehan Disability Scale, Perceived Stress Questionnaire, Number Connection Test, Multidimensional Mood State Questionnaire, Numerical Analogue Scales for different stress symptoms and impairment of sexual life, Patient Sexual Function Questionnaire, and the Clinical Global Impression Scales.
Results: The majority of the outcome measures showed clear improvement over time. Several parameters had already improved after 1 week of treatment and continued to improve further up to the end of the study. The incidence of adverse events was low with 0.015 events per observation day. Discussion: The trial reported here was the first to investigate clinical outcomes in patients suffering from burnout symptoms when treated with R. rosea. During administration of the study drug over the course of 12 weeks, a wide range of outcome measures associated with the syndrome clearly improved.
Conclusion: The results presented provide an encouraging basis for clinical trials further investigating the clinical outcomes of R. rosea extract in patients with the burnout syndrome.
Source : Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
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A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults
K. Chandrasekhar, Jyoti Kapoor, and Sridhar Anishetty1
Context :Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension, which can lead to underperformance and adverse clinical conditions. Adaptogens are herbs that help in combating stress. Ayurvedic classical texts, animal studies and clinical studies describe Ashwagandha as a safe and effective adaptogen.
Aims:The aim of the study was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract ofAshwagandha roots in reducing stress and anxiety and in improving the general well-being of adults who were under stress.
Settings and Design:Single center, prospective, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
Materials and Methods:A total of 64 subjects with a history of chronic stress were enrolled into the study after performing relevant clinical examinations and laboratory tests. These included a measurement of serum cortisol, and assessing their scores on standard stress-assessment questionnaires. They were randomized to either the placebo control group or the study drug treatment group, and were asked to take one capsule twice a day for a period of 60 days. In the study drug treatment group, each capsule contained 300 mg of high-concentration full-spectrum extract from the root of the Ashwagandha plant. During the treatment period (on Day 15, Day 30 and Day 45), a follow-up telephone call was made to all subjects to check for treatment compliance and to note any adverse reactions. Final safety and efficacy assessments were done on Day 60.
Statistical Analysis:t-test, Mann-Whitney test.
Results:The treatment group that was given the high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract exhibited a significant reduction (P<0.0001) in scores on all the stress-assessment scales on Day 60, relative to the placebo group. The serum cortisol levels were substantially reduced (P=0.0006) in the Ashwagandha group, relative to the placebo group. The adverse effects were mild in nature and were comparable in both the groups. No serious adverse events were reported.
Conclusion:The findings of this study suggest that a high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual's resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.
Source : Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine
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Yoga for Adult Women with Chronic PTSD: A Long-Term Follow-Up Study
Introduction: Yoga—the integrative practice of physical postures and movement, breath exercises, and mindfulness—may serve as a useful adjunctive component of trauma-focused treatment to build skills in tolerating and modulating physiologic and affective states that have become dysregulated by trauma exposure. A previous randomized controlled study was carried out among 60 women with chronic, treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and associated mental health problems stemming from prolonged or multiple trauma exposures. After 10 sessions of yoga, participants exhibited statistically significant decreases in PTSD symptom severity and greater likelihood of loss of PTSD diagnosis, significant decreases in engagement in negative tension reduction activities (e.g., self-injury), and greater reductions in dissociative and depressive symptoms when compared with the control (a seminar in women's health). The current study is a long-term follow-up assessment of participants who completed this randomized controlled trial.
Methods: Participants from the randomized controlled trial were invited to participate in long-term follow-up assessments approximately 1.5 years after study completion to assess whether the initial intervention and/or yoga practice after treatment was associated with additional changes. Forty-nine women completed the long-term follow-up interviews. Hierarchical regression analysis was used to examine whether treatment group status in the original study and frequency of yoga practice after the study predicted greater changes in symptoms and PTSD diagnosis.
Results: Group assignment in the original randomized study was not a significant predictor of longer-term outcomes. However, frequency of continuing yoga practice significantly predicted greater decreases in PTSD symptom severity and depression symptom severity, as well as a greater likelihood of a loss of PTSD diagnosis.
Conclusions: Yoga appears to be a useful treatment modality; the greatest long-term benefits are derived from more frequent yoga practice.
Source : The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
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Principle Study of Head Meridian Acupoint Massage to Stress Release via Grey Data Model Analysis
Ya-Ting Lee *
This paper presents the scientific study of the effectiveness and action principle of head meridian acupoint massage by applying the grey data model analysis approach. First, the head massage procedure for massaging the important head meridian acupuncture points including Taiyang, Fengfu, Tianzhu, Fengqi, and Jianjing is formulated in a standard manner. Second, the status of the autonomic nervous system of each subject is evaluated by using the heart rate variability analyzer before and after the head massage following four weeks. Afterward, the physiological factors of autonomic nerves are quantitatively analyzed by using the grey data modeling theory. The grey data analysis can point out that the status of autonomic nervous system is greatly improved after the massage. The order change of the grey relationship weighting of physiological factors shows the action principle of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves when performing head massage. In other words, the grey data model is able to distinguish the detailed interaction of the autonomic nervous system and the head meridian acupoint massage. Thus, the stress relaxing effect of massaging head meridian acupoints is proved, which is lacked in literature. The results can be a reference principle for massage health care in practice.
Source Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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Ameliorating effects of gypenosides on chronic stress-induced anxiety disorders in mice
Ting Ting Zhao1 , Keon Sung Shin1 , Hyun Sook Choi2 and Myung Koo Lee1*
Background: Ethanol extract from Gynostemma pentaphyllum (GP) shows anti-stress and anxiolytic functions in mice, and also protects dopamine neurons in 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rat model of Parkinson’s disease. In addition, gypenosides (the gypenoside-enriched components of GP, GPS) have a protective effect on 1-methyl-4-phenyl- 1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine-induced mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. In this study, the ameliorating effects of GPS on chronic stress-induced anxiety disorders in mice were investigated.
Methods: Mice were orally treated with GPS (100 and 200 mg/kg) once a day for 10 days, followed by exposure to electric footshock (EF) stress (0.6 mA, 1 s every 5 s, 3 min). After the final administration of either GPS, water extract of GP (GP-WX) or ethanol extract of GP (GP-EX, positive control), the behavioral tests such as elevated plus-maze, marble burying and locomotor activity tests, and the biochemical parameters including dopamine, serotonin and corticosterone levels, and c-Fos expression were examined.
Results: Treatment with GPS (100 and 200 mg/kg) increased the number of open arm entries and the time spent on open arms in elevated plus-maze which were reduced by chronic EF stress. GPS (100 and 200 mg/kg) reduced the number of marbles buried which increased by chronic EF stress. In these states, the brain levels of dopamine and serotonin decreased by chronic EF stress and they were recovered by GPS. The serum levels of corticosterone increased by chronic EF stress were also reduced by GPS (100 and 200 mg/kg). Finally, chronic EF stress-induced c-Fos expression was markedly reduced by GPS (100 and 200 mg/kg) in the brain. GPS (100 and 200 mg/kg) also showed an equivalent efficacy on anxiolytic functions, as compared with GP-EX (50 mg/kg). However, GP-WX (50 mg/kg) showed a less effect on anxiety disorders than GP-EX (50 mg/kg) and GPS (100 and 200 mg/kg).
Conclusion: These results suggest that GPS (100 and 200 mg/kg) has anxiolytic effects on chronic EF stress-induced anxiety disorders by modulating dopamine and serotonin neuronal activities, c-Fos expression and corticosterone levels. GPS may serve as a phytonutrient in chronic stress-induced anxiety disorders.
Source : BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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A Yoga Intervention for Posttraumatic Stress: A Preliminary Randomized Control Trial
Farah Jindani,1 Nigel Turner,1 and Sat Bir S. Khalsa2
1Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 33 Russell Street, Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 2S1
2Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 900 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA
Yoga may be effective in the reduction of PTSD symptomology. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of a Kundalini Yoga (KY) treatment on PTSD symptoms and overall wellbeing. To supplement the current field of inquiry, a pilot randomized control trial (RCT) was conducted comparing an 8-session KY intervention with a waitlist control group. 80 individuals with current PTSD symptoms participated. Both groups demonstrated changes in PTSD symptomology but yoga participants showed greater changes in measures of sleep, positive affect, perceived stress, anxiety, stress, and resilience. Between-groups effect sizes were small to moderate (0.09–0.25). KY may be an adjunctive or alternative intervention for PTSD. Findings indicate the need for further yoga research to better understand the mechanism of yoga in relation to mental and physical health, gender and ethnic comparisons, and short- and long-term yoga practice for psychiatric conditions.
Source : eCAM
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Effects of Chaiyuwendan decoction on endocannabinoids levels in adipose tissue of rats with chronic stress-induced depression
Shaodong Chen, Manting Lin, Xiao Zhao, Fan Lu, Yujie Wang, Shulei Li, Bin Yan, Haihong Zhou aa Shaodong Chen, Manting Lin, Xiao Zhao, Fan Lu, Yujie Wang, Shulei Li, Bin Yan, Haihong Zhou,
Traditional Chinese Medicine Department, Medical College of Xiamen University, Xiamen 361005, China
OBJECTIVE: To investigate how Chaiyuwendan decoction (CWD) affects endocannabinoid levels in the adipose tissue of depressed rats.
METHODS: Twenty-four male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into four groups with six rats in each. One group was randomly selected as the control group. The remaining three groups were subjected to chronic stress to induce depression. Groups were randomly assigned as a model group, CWD group, and amitriptyline group. CWD was given to the CWD group once a day from the second day of modeling. The amitriptyline group was administered amitriptyline intragastrically (10 mg/kg) once a day. After treatment for 21 days, body weight and fat weight were measured and the levels of N-arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA), 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), and N-palmitoylethanolamine (PEA) in adipose tissue were determined with liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.
RESULTS: Compared with the control group, body weight, fat weight, AEA, and PEA were significantly lower, and 2-AG was higher, in the model group (P< 0.05, P<0.01). Compared with the model group, body weight, fat weight, the AEA, and PEA levels were significantly higher, and 2-AG level was significantly lower in the CWD group (P<0.05). However, the levels did not differ significantly between the CWD group and the amitriptyline group.
CONCLUSION: CWD could regulate the levels of AEA, 2-AG, and PEA in rats with depression induced by chronic stress.
Source : Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine
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Eight weeks to a better brain - Meditation study shows changes associated with awareness, stress
Participating in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress. In a study that will appear in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Harvard-affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reported the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s gray matter. “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”
Previous studies from Lazar’s group and others found structural differences between the brains of experienced meditation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation, observing thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration. But those investigations could not document that those differences were actually produced by meditation.
For the current study, magnetic resonance (MR) images were taken of the brain structure of 16 study participants two weeks before and after they took part in the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. In addition to weekly meetings that included practice of mindfulness meditation — which focuses on nonjudgmental awareness of sensations, feelings, and state of mind — participants received audio recordings for guided meditation practice and were asked to keep track of how much time they practiced each day. A set of MR brain images was also taken of a control group of nonmeditators over a similar time interval.
Meditation group participants reported spending an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises, and their responses to a mindfulness questionnaire indicated significant improvements compared with pre-participation responses. The analysis of MR images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.
Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. Although no change was seen in a self-awareness-associated structure called the insula, which had been identified in earlier studies, the authors suggest that longer-term meditation practice might be needed to produce changes in that area. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.
“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life,” says Britta Hölzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany. “Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.”
Amishi Jha, a University of Miami neuroscientist who investigates mindfulness-training’s effects on individuals in high-stress situations, says, “These results shed light on the mechanisms of action of mindfulness-based training. They demonstrate that the first-person experience of stress can not only be reduced with an eight-week mindfulness training program but that this experiential change corresponds with structural changes in the amygdala, a finding that opens doors to many possibilities for further research on MBSR’s potential to protect against stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.” Jha was not one of the study investigators.
James Carmody of the Center for Mindfulness at University of Massachusetts Medical School is one of the co-authors of the study, which was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the British Broadcasting Company, and the Mind and Life Institute. For more information on the work of Lazar’s team.
Source : Harvard Edu
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Psychological, immunological and physiological effects of a Laughing Qigong Program (LQP) on adolescents
ObjectivesOne objective of this study was to assess the effects of laughter on the psychological, immunological and physiological systems of the body. Another objective was to introduce the Laughing Qigong Program (LQP), as a method of standardization for simulated laughter interventions.
A randomized, prospective, experimental study of the LQP was conducted in a group of adolescents (n = 67) in Taiwan. During study-hall sessions, experimental subjects (n = 34) attended the LQP for eight-weeks. Simultaneously, control subjects (n = 33) read or did their homework. All subjects were tested before and after the intervention on the following: Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale (RSE), Chinese Humor Scale (CHS) and Face Scale (FS) as psychological markers; saliva cortisol (CS) as an immunological marker; blood pressure (BP), heart rate (HR), and heart rate variability (HRV) as physiological markers of the body's response to stress. Mood states (FS) were measured before/after each LQP session.
Mood states (p = .00) and humor (p = .004; p = .003) improved in the experimental group; no significant changes were found in the controls (p = 69; p = 60). The immunological marker of stress, cortisol levels, decreased significantly for those who participated in the LQP (p = .001), suggesting lower levels of stress after completion of the program.
The LQP is a non-pharmacological and cost-effective means to help adolescents mitigate stresses in their everyday life.
Source : Complementary Therapies in Medicine
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Modulatory effects of aromatherapy massage intervention on electroencephalogram, psychological assessments, salivary cortisol and plasma brain-derived neurotrophic factor
- Jin-Ji Wua,
- Yanji Cuia,
- Yoon-Sil Yanga,
- Moon-Seok Kanga,
- Sung-Cherl Junga,
- Hyeung Keun Parkb,
- Hye-Young Yeunc,
- Won Jung Jangd,
- Sunjoo Leee,
- Young Sook Kwakf,
- Su-Yong Euna
Aromatherapy massage is commonly used for the stress management of healthy individuals, and also has been often employed as a therapeutic use for pain control and alleviating psychological distress, such as anxiety and depression, in oncological palliative care patients. However, the exact biological basis of aromatherapy massage is poorly understood. Therefore, we evaluated here the effects of aromatherapy massage interventions on multiple neurobiological indices such as quantitative psychological assessments, electroencephalogram (EEG) power spectrum pattern, salivary cortisol and plasma brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels.
A control group without treatment (n = 12) and aromatherapy massage group (n = 13) were randomly recruited. They were all females whose children were diagnosed as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and followed up in the Department of Psychiatry, Jeju National University Hospital. Participants were treated with aromatherapy massage for 40 min twice per week for 4 weeks (8 interventions).
A 4-week-aromatherapy massage program significantly improved all psychological assessment scores in the Stat-Trait Anxiety Index, Beck Depression Inventory and Short Form of Psychosocial Well-being Index. Interestingly, plasma BDNF levels were significantly increased after a 4 week-aromatherapy massage program. Alpha-brain wave activities were significantly enhanced and delta wave activities were markedly reduced following the one-time aromatherapy massage treatment, as shown in the meditation and neurofeedback training. In addition, salivary cortisol levels were significantly reduced following the one-time aromatherapy massage treatment.
These results suggest that aromatherapy massage could exert significant influences on multiple neurobiological indices such as EEG pattern, salivary cortisol and plasma BDNF levels as well as psychological assessments.
Source : Complementary Therapies in Medicine
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Brief mindfulness meditation training alters psychological and neuroendocrine responses to social evaluative stress
Objective To test whether a brief mindfulness meditation training intervention buffers self-reported psychological and neuroendocrine responses to the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) in young adult volunteers. A second objective evaluates whether pre-existing levels of dispositional mindfulness moderate the effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on stress reactivity.
Methods Sixty-six (N = 66) participants were randomly assigned to either a brief 3-day (25-min per day) mindfulness meditation training or an analytic cognitive training control program. All participants completed a standardized laboratory social-evaluative stress challenge task (the TSST) following the third mindfulness meditation or cognitive training session. Measures of psychological (stress perceptions) and biological (salivary cortisol, blood pressure) stress reactivity were collected during the social evaluative stress-challenge session.
Results Brief mindfulness meditation training reduced self-reported psychological stress reactivity but increased salivary cortisol reactivity to the TSST, relative to the cognitive training comparison program. Participants who were low in pre-existing levels of dispositional mindfulness and then received mindfulness meditation training had the greatest cortisol reactivity to the TSST. No significant main or interactive effects were observed for systolic or diastolic blood pressure reactivity to the TSST.
Conclusions The present study provides an initial indication that brief mindfulness meditation training buffers self-reported psychological stress reactivity, but also increases cortisol reactivity to social evaluative stress. This pattern may indicate that initially brief mindfulness meditation training fosters greater active coping efforts, resulting in reduced psychological stress appraisals and greater cortisol reactivity during social evaluative stressors.
Source : Psychoneuroendocrinology
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Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Review published: 2014.
Bibliographic details: Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EM, Gould NF, Rowland-Seymour A, Sharma R, Berger Z, Sleicher D, Maron DD, Shihab HM, Ranasinghe PD, Linn S, Saha S, Bass EB, Haythornthwaite JA.
IMPORTANCE: Many people meditate to reduce psychological stress and stress-related health problems. To counsel people appropriately, clinicians need to know what the evidence says about the health benefits of meditation.
OBJECTIVE: To determine the efficacy of meditation programs in improving stress-related outcomes (anxiety, depression, stress/distress, positive mood, mental health-related quality of life, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, pain, and weight) in diverse adult clinical populations.
EVIDENCE REVIEW: We identified randomized clinical trials with active controls for placebo effects through November 2012 from MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, PsycArticles, Scopus, CINAHL, AMED, the Cochrane Library, and hand searches. Two independent reviewers screened citations and extracted data. We graded the strength of evidence using 4 domains (risk of bias, precision, directness, and consistency) and determined the magnitude and direction of effect by calculating the relative difference between groups in change from baseline. When possible, we conducted meta-analyses using standardized mean differences to obtain aggregate estimates of effect size with 95% confidence intervals.
FINDINGS: After reviewing 18 753 citations, we included 47 trials with 3515 participants. Mindfulness meditation programs had moderate evidence of improved anxiety (effect size, 0.38 [95% CI, 0.12-0.64] at 8 weeks and 0.22 [0.02-0.43] at 3-6 months), depression (0.30 [0.00-0.59] at 8 weeks and 0.23 [0.05-0.42] at 3-6 months), and pain (0.33 [0.03- 0.62]) and low evidence of improved stress/distress and mental health-related quality of life. We found low evidence of no effect or insufficient evidence of any effect of meditation programs on positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, and weight. We found no evidence that meditation programs were better than any active treatment (ie, drugs, exercise, and other behavioral therapies).
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Clinicians should be aware that meditation programs can result in small to moderate reductions of multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress. Thus, clinicians should be prepared to talk with their patients about the role that a meditation program could have in addressing psychological stress. Stronger study designs are needed to determine the effects of meditation programs in improving the positive dimensions of mental health and stress-related behavior.
Source : Jama Internal Medicine
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The Effect of a Yoga Intervention on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Risk in Veteran and Civilian Women
with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Shivani Reddy, MD,1,2 Alexandra M. Dick, MA, 3 Megan R. Gerber, MD, MPH, 1,2
and Karen Mitchell, PhD 4,5
Individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often exhibit high-risk substance use behaviors.
Complementary and alternative therapies are increasingly used for mental health disorders, although
evidence is sparse.
Investigate the effect of a yoga intervention on alcohol and drug abuse behaviors in women with
PTSD. Secondary outcomes include changes in PTSD symptom perception and management and initiation of
Materials and Methods:
The current investigation analyzed data from a pilot randomized controlled trial comparing a 12-session
yoga intervention with an assessment control for women age 18 to 65 years with PTSD.
The Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) and Drug Use Disorder Identification Test (DUDIT)
were administered at baseline, after the intervention, and a 1-month follow-up. Linear mixed models were used
to test the significance of the change in AUDIT and DUDIT scores over time. Treatment-seeking questions were
compared by using Fisher exact tests.
The mean AUDIT and DUDIT scores decreased in the yoga group; in the control group, mean AUDIT
score increased while mean DUDIT score remained stable. In the linear mixed models, the change in AUDIT
and DUDIT scores over time did not differ significantly by group. Most yoga group participants reported a
reduction in symptoms and improved symptom management. All participants expressed interest in psycho-
therapy for PTSD, although only two participants, both in the yoga group, initiated therapy.
Results from this pilot study suggest that a specialized yoga therapy may play a role in attenuating
the symptoms of PTSD, reducing risk of alcohol and drug use, and promoting interest in evidence-based
psychotherapy. Further research is needed to confirm and evaluate the strength of these effects.
Source : Journal Alternative and Complementary Medicine
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Protective Effect of Curcuma Longa Rhizomes against Physical Stress-induced Perturbations in Rats
M. Bhanumathy, H. N. Shivaprasad, L. V. G. Nargund
Curcuma longa (Turmeric) is a bright yellow ancient spice native to Asian countries. It has been used as traditional remedy dating back to 600 BC. Turmeric is well known for its applications as a cosmetic, condiment and flavoring agent. The present study was an attempt to explore the protective effect of Curcuma longa rhizomes against physical stress-induced perturbations in rats. Animals were pre-treated with extracts of C. longa rhizomes (crystallized ethylacetate extract; and byproduct-oleoresin) at doses of 200 and 400 mg/kg for 21 days. The effect on swimming endurance followed by post-swimming muscle co-ordination and spontaneous motor activity was evaluated. Estimation of brain monoamine levels in rats and HPLC analysis were carried out. Pre-treated rats with C. longa extracts showed dose dependant significant enhancement in swimming endurance time, increased the duration (sec) of stay on rota-rod apparatus and increased the count (actophotometer score) in spontaneous motor activity. In addition, the pre-treated rats were found to possess normalizing activity against physical stress induced changes in norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. Curcuminoids was identified by HPLC analysis and it was one of the active principles responsible for the adaptogenic activity. Extracts of C. longa rhizomes exhibited adaptogenic activity against physical stress model followed by post-swimming muscle co-ordination and spontaneous motor activity, which could be due to the presence of curcuminoids content. In conclusion, the results of the present investigation emphasized the protective effect of C. longa rhizomes against physical stress-induced perturbations in rats.
Source : Journal of Natural Remedies
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Antioxidants prevent memory deficits provoked by chronic variable stress in rats.
Tagliari B1, Scherer EB, Machado FR, Ferreira AG, Dalmaz C, Wyse AT.Author information
Learning and memory deficits occur in depression and other stress related disorders. Although the pathogenesis of cognitive impairment after stress has not been fully elucidated, factors such as oxidative stress and neurotrophins are thought to play possible roles. Here we investigated the effect of treatment with vitamin E (40 mg/kg) and vitamin C (100 mg/kg) on the effects elicited by chronic variable stress on rat performance in Morris water maze. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) immunocontent was also evaluated in hippocampus of rats. Sixty-day old Wistar rats were submitted to different stressors for 40 days (stressed group). Half of stressed group received administration of vitamins once a day, during the period of stress. Chronically stressed rats presented a marked decrease in reference memory in the water maze task as well as a reduced efficiency to find the platform in the working memory task. Rats treated with vitamins E and C had part of the above effects prevented, suggesting the participation of oxidative stress in such effects. The BDNF levels were not altered in hippocampus of stressed group when compared to controls. Our findings lend support to a novel therapeutic strategy, associated with these vitamins, to the cognitive dysfunction observed in depression and other stress related diseases.
Source : Neurochem Res
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Want a Better Work-Life Balance? Exercise, Study Finds
Researchers have found that exercise plays a role in how individuals feel they can manage their work-life balance.
"Individuals who exercised regularly were more confident they could handle the interaction of their work and home life and were less likely to be stressed at work," said Russell Clayton, assistant professor of management at Saint Leo University and lead author on the paper.
Conflict between work and home can be categorized in two ways. Work interference with family describes typical job-based pressures that can lead to interference (either time or psychologically) of family time. Family interference with work is when personal issues find a way into the workday and compete with "work time." Researchers wanted to find if exercise helped both.
Previous studies have shown that exercise helps to reduce stress. A previous study examined Tai Chi exercise programs over 12 weeks. Another study looked at high-intensity aerobic exercise. Both showed reductions of self-reported stress. What researchers didn't know is if the reduction of stress actually helped empower individuals to feel they had better work-life balance.
"The idea sounds counterintuitive. How is it that adding something else to our work day helps to alleviate stress and empower us to deal with work-family issues? We think exercise is a way to psychologically detach from work -- you're not there physically and you're not thinking about it either -- and, furthermore, it can help us feel good about ourselves."
Researchers examined responses of 476 working adults to survey questions. Respondents were asked on a four-point scale (1 never -- 4 always) questions about exercise behavior. For example, "I exercise more than three days a week." Respondents were then asked a number of questions on a 7-point scale (strongly disagree -- strongly agree) about their confidence in handling work-family conflicts.
"Our findings suggest that employers can help employees with work-life balance by encouraging them to exercise."
Source : Newswise
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Investigating short and long term transfer effects of a Taiji beginner course in participants ’ daily life
Agnes Maria Schitter, Brigitte Ausfeld-Hafter, Marko Nedeljkovic
University of Bern, Institute of Complementary Medicine KIKOM, 3010 Bern, Switzerland
In recent years research investigating various health benefits of Taiji practice
has markedly increased. Despite this growing scientific interest, essential questions such as to
what extent a Taiji course may exert noticeable effects in participants’ everyday life, what these
effects are, and how and where potential transfer effects occur, have hardly been considered.
The aim of our study was to explore transfer effects from a Taiji course into participants’ daily
We conducted a longitudinal observational study in 45 healthy participants at the
end of their three-month Taiji beginner course (tp1) and at two months (tp2) as well as one year
after course completion (tp3). Participants were asked to report their Taiji practice behavior at all
time points, as well as to rate and describe perceived transfer effects of Taiji course contents on
their daily life at tp1 and tp3.
Transfer effects were reported by 91.1% of all respondents after course completion
(tp1) and persisted in 73.3% at the one-year follow-up assessment (tp3), counting “increase
of self-efficacy”, “improvement of stress management”, and “increase of body awareness” as
the most frequently mentioned effects. Transfer effects predominantly occurred in participants’
work and social environments, as well as during everyday activities in public areas. While self-
reliant Taiji practice frequency significantly decreased from 82.2% at tp1 to 55.6% at tp3 (
P<0.001), the magnitude of self-reported transfer effects did not (P= 0.35). As explorative analyses
revealed, regular Taiji course attendance was highly correlated with stronger transfer effects
at tp1 (r= 0.51; P< 0.001) and tp3 (r= 0.35;P= 0.020). Participants reporting high self-reliant
Taiji practice frequency at tp2 were likely to maintain a regular practice routine at tp3 (r= 0.42;
P < 0.004), whereas self-reliant practice frequency and transfer effects at tp1 were positively
correlated with self-reliant practice frequency at tp3 on a trend level (r< 0.27; P> 0.08).
Our data underline the importance of regular course participation for
pronounced and long lasting transfer effects into participants’ everyday life. We discuss that
several context and process-related aspects of a Taiji intervention are potentially relevant factors
for enhancement of transfer effect
Source : JCIM
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Effects of a Brief Qigong-based Stress Reduction Program (BQSRP) in a distressed Korean population: a randomized trial
Eun-Young Hwang1†, Sun-Yong Chung1†, Jae-Heung Cho2, Mi-Yeon Song2, Sehyun Kim3 and Jong-Woo Kim1*
1 Departments of Korean Neuropsychiatry, College of Korean Medicine and Institute of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, 1 Hoegi-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul 130-701, Republic of Korea
2 Department of Korean Rehabilitation, College of Korean Medicine and Institute of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, 1 Hoegi-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul 130-701, Republic of Korea
3 Graduate School of Dankook University Jukjeon Campus, 152 Jukjeon-ro, Suji-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do 448-701, Republic of Korea
Background Distressed individuals in Korea may benefit from the practice of mind–body exercises such as Qigong. However, the effectiveness of such techniques needs to be investigated.
Methods Fifty participants who were eligible to this study were randomized into a group receiving a 4-week intervention of a brief Qigong-based stress reduction program (BQSRP) or a wait-list control group. Before and after the intervention period, saliva samples were collected and questionnaires were completed on perceived stress, anxiety, “Hwa-Byung” (anger syndrome), and quality of life. Salivary cortisol has emerged in mind-body therapy research as an easy-to-collect, relatively inexpensive, biologic marker of stress. Salivary corisol were collected to evaluate physiological effect of BQSRP. Between-group comparisons of change from baseline to study completion were analyzed by analysis of covariance for the Perceived Stress Scale and independent two sample t-tests for other measures.
Results Compared with the control group, the BQSRP intervention group displayed significantly larger decreases in Perceived Stress Scale scores (p = 0.0006), State Anxiety scores (p = 0.0028), Trait Anxiety scores (p < 0.0001), personality subscale scores of the Hwa-Byung Scale (p = 0.0321), symptoms scores of the Hwa-Byung Scale (p = 0.0196), and a significantly larger increase in World Health Organization Quality of Life Abbreviated version scores (ps < .05). Salivary cortisol levels were not changed.
Conclusions The BQSRP appears to be effective in reducing stress perception, anxiety, anger, and improving quality of life
Source : BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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Effects of a Homeopathic Combination Remedy on the Acute Stress Response, Well-Being, and Sleep: A Double-Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial
Juliane Hellhammer, MSc, and Melanie Schubert, PhD
DAaCRO – Diagnostic Research and Clinical Research Organization, Science Park of Trier, Trier, Germany.
Objectives: Stress impacts on health, causing stress-related illness. The aim of this study was to investigate stress dampening effects of the homeopathic combination remedy dysto-loges® S on physiological and psychological measures during acute stress. Additionally, effects of the substance on sleep and life quality were investigated.
Design: This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled single center study had a total duration of 15 days for each participant.
Setting/location: The study was performed by Daacro, Trier, Germany.
Subjects: We included 40 women aged 30–50 years that regularly experienced impaired well-being when feeling stressed.
Intervention: Participants took three tablets daily for 14 days. On the final study day, participants took three pills in the morning and upon arrival at the study site. Thereafter, the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) was performed.
Outcome measures: Primary endpoints were saliva cortisol responses to the stress test. Secondary biological endpoints were plasma cortisol, adrenocorticotrophic hormone, epinephrine, and norepinephrine (NE) and heart rates. Psychological secondary endpoints were well-being, anxiety, stress, and insecurity during the stress test as well as sleep and quality of life.
Results: Stress-induced cortisol levels did not differ between groups, but verum-treated participants were characterized by lower NE levels. Two weeks of treatment with the homeopathic substance resulted in a better sleep quality. Sleep improvement was associated with a higher hormonal response to the TSST in both groups. In addition, individuals with impaired sleep in the placebo group had higher unstimulated NE levels.
Conclusions: This study provides preliminary evidence for beneficial effects of dysto-loges S on sleep quality. Improvement of sleep quality was positively associated with a normalized neuroendocrine stress response during acute stress, whereas an altered hormonal response was observed in participants with impaired sleep. We hypothesize that the test product may possibly reduce NE release.
Source : The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
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Series of studies first to examine acupuncture's mechanisms of action
While acupuncture is used widely to treat chronic stress, the mechanism of action leading to reported health benefits are not understood. In a series of studies at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC), researchers are demonstrating how acupuncture can significantly reduce the stress hormone response in an animal model of chronic stress.
The latest study was published today in the April issue of Journal of Endocrinology.
"Many practitioners of acupuncture have observed that this ancient practice can reduce stress in their patients, but there is a lack of biological proof of how or why this happens," says the study's lead author, Ladan Eshkevari, PhD, an associate professor of nursing at Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies, a part of GUMC. "We're starting to understand what's going on at the molecular level that helps explain acupuncture's benefit."
Eshkevari, a physiologist, nurse anesthetist and certified acupuncturist, designed a series of studies in rats to test the effect of electronic acupuncture on levels of proteins and hormones secreted by biologic pathways involved in stress response.
Eshkevari used rats because these animals are often used to research the biological determinants of stress. They mount a stress response when exposed to winter-like temperatures for an hour a day.
"I used electroacupuncture because I could make sure that each animal was getting the same treatment dose," she explains.
The spot used for the acupuncture needle is called "Zusanli," which is reported to help relieve a variety of conditions including stress. As with rats, that acupuncture point for humans is on the leg below the knee.
The study utilized four groups of rats for a 10-day experiment: a control group that was not stressed and received no acupuncture; a group that was stressed for an hour a day and did not receive acupuncture; a group that was stressed and received "sham" acupuncture near the tail; and the experimental group that were stressed and received acupuncture to the Zusanli spot on the leg.
The researchers then measured blood hormone levels secreted by the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, which includes the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland. The interactions among these organs control reactions to stress and regulate digestion, the immune system, mood and emotions, sexuality and energy storage and expenditure.
They also measured levels of NPY, a peptide secreted by the sympathetic nervous system in rodents and humans. This system is involved in the "flight or fight" response to acute stress, resulting in constriction of blood flow to all parts of the body except the heart, lungs and brain (the organs most needed to react to danger). Chronic stress, however, can cause elevated blood pressure and cardiac disease.
"We found that electronic acupuncture blocks the chronic, stress-induced elevations of the HPA axis hormones and the sympathetic NPY pathway," Eshkevari says. She adds that the rats receiving the sham electronic acupuncture had elevation of the hormones similar to that of the stress-only animals.
Eshkevari says this research complements her earlier reported work that focused only on NPY. In that study, Eshkevari and her team found that NPY levels were reduced in the experimental group almost to the level of the control group, while the rats that were stressed and not treated with Zusanli acupuncture had high levels of NPY (Experimental Biology and Medicine Dec. 2011).
"Our growing body of evidence points to acupuncture's protective effect against the stress response," she continues. Eshkevari says additional research is needed to examine if acupuncture would be effective in reducing hormone levels after the animals are exposed to the stress of cold temperatures, and whether a similar observation can be made in humans.
Source : Science Daily via L. Eshkevari, E. Permaul, S. E. Mulroney. Acupuncture Blocks Cold Stress-Induced Increase in Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Rat. Journal of Endocrinology, 2013; DOI: 10.1530/JOE-12-0404
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Black Cohosh Reduces Physiological and Psychological Stress Responses
Nadaoka I, Yasue M, Sami M, Kitagawa Y, Koga Y. Oral administration of Cimicifuga racemosa extract attenuates psychological and physiological stress responses. Biomed Res. June 2012;33(3):145-152.
Black cohosh (BC; Actaea racemosa syn. Cimicifuga racemosa) dietary supplements are most commonly used to reduce negative menopausal symptoms. In Native American traditional medicine, BC was used as a tonic, analgesic, and fatigue treatment, in addition to its prevalent usage in childbirth and the treatment of menstrual problems. Pharmacological studies have confirmed that BC exerts dopaminergic and serotonergic effects, rather than estrogen-like activities. In vitro, BC is an agonist of serotonin receptors, a competitive ligand and partial agonist of opiate receptors, and a positive modulator of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. In vivo, BC has also been shown to attenuate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) stress response by decreasing corticosterone levels and modulating the sympathetic adrenomedullary (SAM) system stress-induced changes in dopamine (DA), serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]), and norepinephrine (NE) metabolism. However, the anxiolytic effects of BC have not been evaluated in humans. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial investigated the effects of BC on stress via the measurement of chromogranin-A (CgA; a protein used as a stress marker), cortisol, perceived stress intensity, and brainwave patterns.
This study consisted of 2 experiments with healthy adults. Twenty men (n=20) were enrolled in experiment 1, while both men (n=6) and women (n=5) were enrolled in experiment 2 (n=11). All subjects were free from a history of or current mental illness and drug use. They were instructed to continue normal sleep and other general routines, and to refrain from heavy physical exercise, tobacco use, and stimulant consumption (e.g., alcohol, caffeine, etc.) the day prior to each test. Subjects were randomized to receive either 200 mg/day of encapsulated BC extract (supplied by Nippon Funmatsu Yakuhin; Osaka, Japan) or identical placebo capsules containing 200 mg of lactose. [Note: No information on the extract preparation, concentration, or standardization was given.] Statistical significance was designated at P-values <0.05.
The first experiment consisted of 2 test sessions conducted a week apart. On the test day, baseline psychological measurements and saliva samples were collected before the subjects took the study medication. One hour following ingestion, the Uchida-Kraepelin (U-K) test, a math-related questionnaire testing for speed and accuracy, was administered in such a way as to impede subjects' successful completion. At the end of the U-K test (time 0) and 60 minutes later, saliva and psychological parameters were again assessed. The procedure was repeated 1 week later with the subjects taking the alternate medication.
The psychological measures were a visual analog scale (VAS) of perceived stress intensity and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). With the BC treatment, the mean VAS score was significantly lower at time 0 compared to placebo (P<0.01). No significant differences in the STAI scores were observed.
The saliva samples were analyzed to determine the concentration of the physiological stress markers CgA and cortisol. CgA is an indicator of the stress response mediated by the SAM system, while cortisol is an indicator of the response mediated by the HPA axis.
The BC treatment attenuated the SAM system-mediated stress response, significantly lowering CgA concentrations midway through the U-K test (P=0.05), at time 0 (P=0.01), and 60 minutes after completing the test (P<0.05). No significant differences were seen in cortisol concentrations.
In experiment 2, a modified U-K test requiring oral answers was conducted 60 minutes after ingestion of the study medication. Electroencephalography (EEG) was used to measure alpha waveband brain activity prior to the U-K test (baseline), mid-test, at time 0 (end of test), and 60 minutes after the test. The test was repeated 7 days later with subjects taking the alternate treatment.
The left and right occipital EEG data was analyzed for temporal variations in the alpha waveband. A recovery trend was observed from time 0 to 60 minutes after the test but the differences were not statistically significant (P=0.06 and P=0.07, respectively).
In summary, BC significantly reduced the VAS measure of psychological stress but not the STAI. It significantly reduced the concentration of the SAM system stress response indicator, CgA, but did not affect the concentration of the HPA axis stress response indicator, cortisol. In light of the in vitro and in vivo data and the limitations of this study, the authors maintain that BC affects both the HPA axis and SAM system stress responses and they suggest that BC may be suitable for the prevention and treatment of stress-related disorders.
This study suffers from a few major problems. The results cannot be generalized to other BC extracts nor can other researchers repeat the experiments because no information regarding the BC extract preparation, concentration, or standardization is provided. Inclusion criteria are not described and exclusion criteria are limited. The testing was done in the morning, when cortisol levels are high – a flaw in the study design. In this case, the salivary CgA would have been a better indicator of psychological stress. It reflects psychological stress more rapidly and is considered more sensitive than cortisol. The sample size was also very small. Nonetheless, the balance of the evidence indicates that further studies of BC's anxiolytic mechanism of action and clinical efficacy are warranted.
by Amy C. Keller, PhD
Source : American Botanical Council
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Immediate and Long-term Effects of Meditationon Acute Stress Reactivity, Cognitive Functions,and Intelligence
Yogesh Singh, MD ; Ratna Sharma, PhD ; Anjana alwar, MD
With the current globalization of the world’seconomy and demands for enhanced performance, stress is present universally. Life’s stressful events and daily stresses cause both deleterious and cumulative effects on the human body. The practice of meditation might offer away to relieve that stress.
The research team intended to study the effects of meditation on stress-induced changes in physi-ological parameters, cognitive functions, intelligence, and emotional quotients.
The research team conducted the study in two phases, with a month between them. Each participant served as his own control, and the frst phase served as thecontrol for the second phase. In phase 1, the research team studied the effects of a stressor (10 minutes playing a computer game) on participants’ stress levels. In phase 2, the research team examined the effects of meditation on stress levels.
The research team conducted the study in a labsetting at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, India.
The participants were 34 healthy, male volunteers who were students.
To study the effects of long-term meditation on stress levels , intelligence, emotional quotients,and cognitive functions participants meditated daily for 1month, between phases 1 and 2. to study the immediate effects of meditation on stress levels, participants meditated for 15 minutes after playing a computer game to induce stress.
The research team measured galvanic skin response (GSR), heart rate (HR), and salivary cortisol and administered tests for the intelligence and emotional quotients (IQ and EQ), acute and perceived stress (AS and PS), and cognitive functions (ie, the Sternberg memory test [short-term memory] and the Stroop test [cognitive flexibility]). Using a pre–post study design, the team performed this testing (1) prior to the start of the study (baseline); (2) in phase 1, after induced stress; (3) in part 1 of phase 2, after 1 month of daily meditation, and (4) in part 2 of phase 2, after induced stress, both before and after 15 minutes of meditation.
Induced stress from the computer game resultedin a signifcant increase in physiological markers of stress such as GSR and HR. In the short term, meditation was associated with a physiological relaxation response (significant decrease in GSR) and an improvement in scores on the Stroop test of reaction times. In the long term,meditation brought signifcant improvements in IQ and scores for cognitive functions, whereas participants’ stresslevels (GSR and AS) decreased. EQ, salivary cortisol, and HR showed no significant changes.
The practice of meditation reduced psychological stress responses and improved cognitive functions, and the effects were pronounced with practice of meditation for a longer duration (1 month).
Source : Altern Ther Health Med
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Yoga Reduces Stress; Now It’s Known Why
Six months ago, researchers at UCLA published a study that showed using a specific type of yoga to engage in a brief, simple daily meditation reduced the stress levels of people who care for those stricken by Alzheimer’s and dementia. Now they know why. As previously reported, practicing a certain form of chanting yogic meditation for just 12 minutes daily for eight weeks led to a reduction in the biological mechanisms responsible for an increase in the immune system’s inflammation response. Inflammation, if constantly activated, can contribute to a multitude of chronic health problems.
Reporting in the current online edition of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, Dr. Helen Lavretsky, senior author and a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, and colleagues found in their work with 45 family dementia caregivers that 68 of their genes responded differently after Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM), resulting in reduced inflammation.
Caregivers are the unsung heroes for their yeoman’s work in taking care of loved ones that have been stricken with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, said Lavretsky, who also directs UCLA’s Late-Life Depression, Stress and Wellness Research Program. But caring for a frail or demented family member can be a significant life stressor. Older adult caregivers report higher levels of stress and depression and lower levels of satisfaction, vigor and life in general. Moreover, caregivers show higher levels of the biological markers of inflammation. Family members in particular are often considered to be at risk of stress-related disease and general health decline.
As the U.S. population continues to age over the next two decades, Lavretsky noted, the prevalence of dementia and the number of family caregivers who provide support to these loved ones will increase dramatically. Currently, at least five million Americans provide care for someone with dementia.
"We know that chronic stress places caregivers at a higher risk for developing depression," she said "On average, the incidence and prevalence of clinical depression in family dementia caregivers approaches 50 percent. Caregivers are also twice as likely to report high levels of emotional distress." What's more, many caregivers tend to be older themselves, leading to what Lavretsky calls an "impaired resilience" to stress and an increased rate of cardiovascular disease and mortality.
Research has suggested for some time that psychosocial interventions like meditation reduce the adverse effects of caregiver stress on physical and mental health. However, the pathways by which such psychosocial interventions impact biological processes are poorly understood.
In the study, the participants were randomized into two groups. The meditation group was taught the 12-minute yogic practice that included Kirtan Kriya, which was performed every day at the same time for eight weeks. The other group was asked to relax in a quiet place with their eyes closed while listening to instrumental music on a relaxation CD, also for 12 minutes daily for eight weeks. Blood samples were taken at the beginning of the study and again at the end of the eight weeks.
"The goal of the study was to determine if meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral proteins that shape immune cell gene expression," said Lavretsky. "Our analysis showed a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation.
"This is encouraging news. Caregivers often don’t have the time, energy, or contacts that could bring them a little relief from the stress of taking care of a loved one with dementia, so practicing a brief form of yogic meditation, which is easy to learn, is a useful too."
Source : Newswise
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Mental Stress May Be Harder on Women’s Hearts
Findings could help explain why women are more likely than men to have coronary symptoms after emotional upsets
Coronary artery disease continues to be a major cause of death in the U.S., killing hundreds of thousands of people per year. However, this disease burden isn’t evenly divided between the sexes; significantly more men than women are diagnosed with coronary artery disease each year. The reasons behind this difference aren’t well defined. Though some studies have shown that men’s hearts become more constricted than women’s during exercise, letting less blood flow through, women are more likely than men to have symptoms of heart trouble after emotional upsets.Searching for the reasons behind these disparities, Charity L. Sauder, Alison E. Thompson, Terrell Myers, and Chester A. Ray, all of Penn State College of Medicine, investigated the effects of mental stress on blood flow through the heart. Their findings show that coronary blood flow actually increases in men during mental stress, but shows no change in women. These results may explain why women could be more susceptible to adverse cardiac events when under stress.
An abstract of their study entitled, “Effect of Mental Stress on Coronary Blood Flow in Humans,” will be discussed at the meeting Experimental Biology 2012, being held April 21-25 at the San Diego Convention Center. The abstract is sponsored by the American Physiological Society (APS), one of six scientific societies sponsoring the conference which last year attracted some 14,000 attendees.
Stressing the Sexes
The researchers recruited 17 healthy adults, a near equal mix of men and women. Each volunteer had his or her heart rate and blood pressure measured at rest, as well as coronary vascular conductance, a Doppler ultrasound measure of blood flow through the coronary blood vessels of the heart.
These volunteers then underwent the same tests while participating in three minutes of mental arithmetic, in which the researchers had them sequentially subtract 7 starting with a random number. To increase the stress load, researchers lightly badgered the volunteers during the task, urging them to hurry up or telling them they were wrong even when they gave the correct number. At the end of the task, they underwent the same three heart function tests again.
Results showed that at rest, men and women showed little differences between the three tests. During the mental arithmetic task, all the volunteers showed an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, regardless of sex. However, while the men showed an increase in coronary vascular conductance under stress, the women showed no change.
Taking Differences to Heart
This differing characteristic could potentially predispose women to heart problems while under stress, says study leader Chester Ray. He adds that the results came as a surprise, since previous studies men have significantly less blood flow than women during the physical stress of exercise, and could explain why women tend to have more heart troubles after stressful events, such as losing a spouse. The findings also reemphasize the importance of mental stress in affecting health.
“Stress reduction is important for anyone, regardless of gender,” he explains, “but this study shines a light on how stress differently affects the hearts of women, potentially putting them at greater risk of a coronary event.”
Further research, he says, could discern the mechanism behind this difference, leading to more targeted treatments and prevention efforts for women at risk of coronary artery disease.
Source : Newswise
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‘Pseudo-epilepsy’ is actually stress
Increasing numbers of patients admitted to an epilepsy unit with intractable seizures suffer from stress rather than a true seizure disorder, mental health providers say.
Physicians and psychologists say that more than one-third of patients admitted to the Johns Hopkins Hospital inpatient epilepsy monitoring unit have what they are calling “psychogenic non-epileptic seizures,” or PNES. In recent months, the number has been as many as half.
The patients’ display of uncontrollable movements, far-off stares, or convulsions are not the result of the abnormal electrical discharges in the brain that characterize epilepsy, but appear to be stress-related behaviors that mimic the neurological disorder and are misdiagnosed.
“These patients behave as if they have an organic brain disease, but they don’t,” says Jason Brandt, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“And it turns out that their life stresses weren’t all that high, but they’re very sensitive to stress and they don’t deal with it well.”
The team’s study suggests that people with PNES don’t necessarily experience more frequent or severe stressful events than people with epilepsy or neurologically healthy people. They seem, however, to lack effective coping mechanisms.
One clue that epilepsy is not involved in what turn out to be PNES seizures is that anti-seizure medications fail to stop the symptoms, says Brandt, senior author of the study published online in the journal Seizure.
That, he says, suggests that nothing is wrong with electrical activity in the patients’ brains. PNES diagnoses appear to be rising, based on what researchers have seen in recent months.
In the news
In the past, behaviors like PNES were called “hysteria.” Now they are often considered by psychiatrists as part of a “conversion” disorder, in which the patient unconsciously converts emotional dysfunction into physical symptoms.
People at risk for pseudo-seizures are typically highly suggestible, which is why physicians often have tried not to draw attention to the condition.
In recent months, headlines out of western New York have described a group of more than a dozen female high school students who experienced uncontrollable tics and other movements. Many experts now believe these were manifestations of a “contagious” psychiatric, rather than neurological, disorder.
The researchers undertook their study to learn why “psychogenic” symptoms so closely simulate a physical disorder and why some people are more susceptible than others. Clearly, not every overwhelmed person develops seizure symptoms, they note, nor is it known how many people experience pseudo-seizures.
They evaluated 40 patients with PNES, 20 people with epilepsy and 40 healthy control volunteers; all were asked to report the frequency of various stressful life events (positive and negative) over the previous five years.
Participants then appraised the distress these events induced. Each group reported roughly the same number of stressful events, but the PNES group reported much higher distress levels than the other two and were less likely to plan a course of action to counter stressful life events.
Those who used denial—the failure to acknowledge stressors—experienced greater distress than those who did not, illustrating the ineffectiveness of denial as a way of warding off anxiety, Brandt says.
Along with seizures, patients with PNES often have other problem behaviors and unstable relationships. Many remain occupationally disabled and have high health care expenditures, even years after the non-epileptic nature of their events is identified, the authors report.
The costs of believing you have epilepsy when you don’t are high, Brandt notes. There are the psychological and social costs of disabling seizures. There are also the costs of doctor visits, medication that doesn’t work, and hospitalizations in specialty units.
Gregory L. Krauss, a professor of neurology and a study co-author, says he is surprised by how many more patients are being referred to his epilepsy unit without having epilepsy at all.
“There’s a lot of stress out there in our modern society, and this research highlights that many people don’t have the skills to cope with that.
Source : Futurity
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How stress influences disease: Research reveals inflammation as the culprit
Stress wreaks havoc on the mind and body. For example, psychological stress is associated with greater risk for depression, heart disease and infectious diseases. But, until now, it has not been clear exactly how stress influences disease and health.
A research team led by Carnegie Mellon University's Sheldon Cohen has found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research shows for the first time that the effects of psychological stress on the body's ability to regulate inflammation can promote the development and progression of disease.
"Inflammation is partly regulated by the hormone cortisol and when cortisol is not allowed to serve this function, inflammation can get out of control," said Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty Professor of Psychology within CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Cohen argued that prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate the inflammatory response because it decreases tissue sensitivity to the hormone. Specifically, immune cells become insensitive to cortisol's regulatory effect. In turn, runaway inflammation is thought to promote the development and progression of many diseases.
Cohen, whose groundbreaking early work showed that people suffering from psychological stress are more susceptible to developing common colds, used the common cold as the model for testing his theory. With the common cold, symptoms are not caused by the virus — they are instead a "side effect" of the inflammatory response that is triggered as part of the body's effort to fight infection. The greater the body's inflammatory response to the virus, the greater is the likelihood of experiencing the symptoms of a cold.
In Cohen's first study, after completing an intensive stress interview, 276 healthy adults were exposed to a virus that causes the common cold and monitored in quarantine for five days for signs of infection and illness. Here, Cohen found that experiencing a prolonged stressful event was associated with the inability of immune cells to respond to hormonal signals that normally regulate inflammation. In turn, those with the inability to regulate the inflammatory response were more likely to develop colds when exposed to the virus.
In the second study, 79 healthy participants were assessed for their ability to regulate the inflammatory response and then exposed to a cold virus and monitored for the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, the chemical messengers that trigger inflammation. He found that those who were less able to regulate the inflammatory response as assessed before being exposed to the virus produced more of these inflammation-inducing chemical messengers when they were infected.
"The immune system's ability to regulate inflammation predicts who will develop a cold, but more importantly it provides an explanation of how stress can promote disease," Cohen said. "When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease. Because inflammation plays a role in many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders, this model suggests why stress impacts them as well."
He added, "Knowing this is important for identifying which diseases may be influenced by stress and for preventing disease in chronically stressed people."
More information: “Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk,” by Sheldon Cohen et al. PNAS, 2012.
Source : MedicalXpress
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(-)-Epigallocatechin gallate attenuates acute stress responses through GABAergic system in the brain
Andrew Steptoe1 , E. Leigh Gibson1, Raisa Vounonvirta1, Emily D. Williams1, Mark Hamer1, Jane A. Rycroft2, Jorge D. Erusalimsky3 and Jane Wardle1
Abstract Rationale Tea has anecdotally been associated with stress relief, but this has seldom been tested scientifically. Objectives To investigate the effects of 6 weeks of black tea consumption, compared with matched placebo, on subjective, cardiovascular, cortisol and platelet responses to acute stress, in a parallel group double-blind randomised design. Materials and methods Seventy-five healthy nonsmoking men were withdrawn from tea, coffee and caffeinated beverages for a 4-week wash-out phase during which they drank four cups per day of a caffeinated placebo. A pretreatment laboratory test session was carried out, followed by either placebo (n = 38) or active tea treatment (n = 37) for 6 weeks, then, a final test session. Cardiovascular measures were obtained before, during and after two challenging behavioural tasks, while cortisol, platelet and subjective measures were assessed before and after tasks. Results The tasks induced substantial increases in blood pressure, heart rate and subjective stress ratings, but responses did not differ between tea and placebo treatments. Platelet activation (assessed using flow cytometry) was lower following tea than placebo treatment in both baseline and post-stress samples (P < 0.005). The active tea group also showed lower post-task cortisol levels compared with placebo (P = 0.032), and a relative increase in subjective relaxation during the post-task recovery period (P = 0.036). Conclusions Compared with placebo, 6 weeks of tea consumption leads to lower post-stress cortisol and greater subjective relaxation, together with reduced platelet activation. Black tea may have health benefits in part by aiding stress recovery.
Source : Psychopharmacology
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