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Updated: Jan 16


Deep breathing is the conscious act of taking slow, deep breaths. Inhaling air through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.


In very simplistic terms, as we inhale, air molecules move into the lungs where oxygen is picked up by our blood cells, these cells then move through our bodies to supply the tissues for a metabolic reaction which results in the creation of carbon dioxide, which is then transported back to the lungs, and released when we exhale.


When we feel stressed or anxious, our breathing pattern changes, due to a stimulation of our sympathetic nervous system, causing us to take shorter and shallower breaths.  During this pattern of breathing our oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange is disturbed resulting in an increase in heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure.


Consequently, if we can trigger our parasympathetic nervous system, we can return the body to a relaxed state.  Deep breathing is well known to have this effect.


There have been many scientific studies and much long-standing knowledge, such as in Buddhist traditions and Ayurvedic medicine including yoga practices, which support breathing and meditation techniques to aid in relaxation.  Mindfulness is a relatively new technique which has lots of scientific backing.

Psychologists have found that mindfulness meditation changes our brain and biology in positive ways, improving both mental and physical health.  A simple way to think about meditation is training your attention to achieve a calm mental state with heightened concentration and positive emotions.

There are some fabulous breathing exercises to aid in stress relief and anxiety.  Techniques include the square or box breathing (https//, pranayama and alternate nostril breathing (, information and videos can be easily found.  Even the NHS advocate breathing exercises and meditation to aid in stress relief and anxiety ( 




Herbs for stress and anxiety

We must remember it is normal to feel anxious or worried in certain situations.  It’s when our feelings and emotions become beyond what we can control with relative ease that we can consider ourselves to be struggling with a stress related disorder or anxiety.


Herbal medicine has long been used for the natural relief of stress and anxiety.   Herbs work with the body to aid in gentle relaxation, calming the nervous system and act as a sleep aid.  They achieve this in many ways as they work on the body to balance the systems.


Everybody experiences and displays stress in different ways, so if you are a person who reacts to stress with an upset stomach/digestive system, or a person that sweats, or a person that has a skin reaction/break-out, or a person that has an outward emotional reaction, or a person that has disturbed sleep patterns, there are herbs that can help.


Some of the herbs used very effectively include:

Melissa officinalis  Lemon balm is a lemon-scented herb that comes from the same family as mint. Lemon balm has traditionally been used to improve mood and cognitive function, but the potential benefits don’t stop there. It is particularly useful in digestive issues hence may be one of the herbs of choice in someone suffering stress related digestive disturbance.

Valerian is a herb native to Europe and parts of Asia.  The root has particular pharmacological compounds that act like a sedative in the brain and nervous system.  There are records as far back as Greek and Roman times documenting its traditional uses.  People commonly use valerian for sleep disorders, anxiety and stress.



Hypericum perforatum is a traditional European medicine used as far back as the ancient Greeks. Historically, St. John’s wort has been used for a variety of conditions, including kidney and lung ailments, insomnia, and depression, and to aid wound healing.  Currently, it has use in other disorders including menopause and depression.


Be aware that, just like medicines, herbs can also cause side-effects and interactions so getting the correct advice, ideally from a medical herbalist, is crucial.


Contact details: for more information and advice:      

Registered Osteopath and Medical Herbalist, With acupuncture training and rehabilitation pilates instructor training

At George Morris Physiotherapy Clinics in Hindley and Ashton

Direct line: 07828261152; 

Herbal Osteopathic Life




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