Beyond SSRIs: How Phytochemicals Can Help With Stress

Stress is an unfortunate byproduct of an industrialized and digitized life. While the modern world has significantly improved our living standards, it has also worsened our mental health. According to a review, dependence on digital screens has increased stress and anxiety in children and adults alike.

The standard treatment for depression and stress is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, commonly known as antidepressants. People can also look toward different plants’ anti-stress properties and their phytochemicals as organic anti-stress therapies. Some common anti-stress phytochemicals include:

1. L-Theanine

If you work in a high-stress environment, green tea can help with stress and anxiety due to the amino acid, L-theanine, in the tea plant Camellia sinensis. Tea also has several other benefits: it helps with weight loss. A cup of green tea can freshen you up and help you manage your stress. Experiments on mice suggest that theanine can reverse the high levels of stress hormones like corticosterones.

Theanine works by blocking the nerve cells’ reuptake of glutamate and glutamine. Glutamate and glutamine are brain chemicals that have a calming effect and reduce stress. When their cellular reuptake is blocked, their concentration in the brain increases, leading to decreased pressure. You can take theanine in green tea or get theanine supplements.

2. Cannabidiol

Cannabis contains chemicals like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which help with stress and anxiety. But while THC is a psychoactive compound that can make you ‘high,’ CBD alone does not produce such effects. THC can also aggravate stress and anxiety when taken in larger doses, so you should use controlled amounts of CBD for stress relief.

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CBD can help with stress in different ways. Research shows that CBD improves sleep, which can help with stress management. CBD is also well tolerated and is safe, without significant side effects. CBD oral drops can be a good option for stress management.

However, remember that CBD is not an FDA-approved treatment, and research into its anti-stress properties is ongoing. You should also avoid buying THC products for stress management, as THC’s psychoactive properties cause you to hallucinate and alter your perception.

3. Bacosides

Bacosides are bioactive compounds from Bacopa monnieri, a herb used in Ayurvedic medicine for cognitive improvement and stress management. Bacopa monnieri, known as Brahmi booti to the indigenous people, has shown anti-stress properties in preclinical studies.

Bacosides help with stress due to their antioxidant properties which help against nerve cell damage. They can also reduce stress hormones like cortisol, and research indicates their anti-stress effect is at least as potent as Lorazepam, a standard anxiety treatment. However, note that research into bacosides is still ongoing and not conclusive.


Stress has significantly increased in an average human’s life. However, most people are cautious of the long-term use of antidepressants as it has several side effects. Organic ingredients like phytochemicals are generally safer, and extensive research is happening on the impact of plant extracts on stress and anxiety.

Several plants and their compounds are being investigated for anti-stress effects, including tea, cannabis, and traditional ayurvedic plants like Bacopa. However, research is still ongoing, and so far FDA has not approved any such compound as medicine for stress and anxiety. Remember to talk to your doctor before using any alternative medicine.

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