Tip: Try the Ultimate Chill Pill

This natural adaptogen has been shown to reduce excess cortisol caused by mental stress and hard training. Take a look.

Restore Calmness

If you're tired of living with mental (or physical) stress and elevated levels of cortisol, give Rhodiola, the superstar adaptogen, a try.

Stress, anxiety, nervousness, whatever you want to call it, just plain sucks. Few of us have been spared the shaking hands, the pounding pulse, and the persistent edginess caused by fearful anticipation of the future.

Your hormones kick into overdrive. Cortisol increases, as does epinephrine, both of which chemically set up your body to run – to get the hell away from whatever's stressing you. The trouble is, you can't run away from mental stress that isn't caused by a lion, a bear, a mugger with a gun, or anything else tangible; it's often with you all the time.

Since you can't escape, the body keeps producing these chemicals. It's like continually plucking the strings of a guitar so hard that, eventually, it starts to go out of tune, but instead of just striking a few discordant notes, your body starts to poison itself until every system in the body is affected.

What we need is something to restore calmness, to restore balance, something a Russian scientist in the 60's coined an "adaptogen."

Adaptogens increase the body's ability to – as the name implies – adapt to stress. Chief among them is Rhodiola rosea, an herb that grows in several cold regions of the world. Rather than increase the levels of one chemical or another, the active ingredients in this herb (salidroside and the collective rosavins) have a controlled, system-wide effect in the body. What they do is re-tune the instrument – the body – so that it once again plays harmonious chords.

Rhodiola is the ultimate chill pill. It works by reducing the negative effects of cortisol, which in addition to contributing to many of the immediate physical manifestations of stress, also has long-term negative effects such as inflammation, increased fat around the waist, and an inability to gain muscle.

In addition to fighting cortisol, Rhodiola interacts with hormones and neurotransmitters like serotonin while counteracting the catecholamines that are responsible for the heart-pounding fight or flight instinct. In general, stress itself starts to run away.

Rhodiola has even been shown to elevate beta-endorphins, giving it a mild opiate-like effect. It's also a favorite of athletes who use it to counter the physical stress caused by extreme training, which often manifests itself in many of the same ways as mental or psychological stress.

If you're tired of living with stress and don't have time for stress-reduction techniques, give Rhodiola a try. Make sure it has been standardized to contain at least one percent salidroside and ten percent rosavins. Otherwise, you could just be taking capsulated grass clippings.