June 22, 2012

Protect Your DNA: New Anti-Aging Discovery.

Photo: Steven2358

Science has now begun to make profound advances in health and longevity by working on the most subtle levels of the body—the chromosomes, which are threadlike linear strands of DNA and proteins.

Ayurveda acknowledges that the more precise a therapy is on the subtle level, the more powerful the effect is on the gross and physical levels of the body.

A new study has linked “chronic depressive stress” to the shortening of the protective caps of the chromosomes, called telomeres. (1) Damage to, or shortening of, the telomeres is directly associated with accelerated aging and chronic disease. (3)

Scientists have discovered three Ayurvedic herbs with unique stress-fighting properties that provide support for the body from chronic and depressive stress. (2)

Keep reading to learn how you can reap the anti-aging benefits of keeping stress at bay.

Stress and Your DNA

At the end of each chromosome is a protective cap called a telomere. It’s like the plastic cap on the end of a shoe lace. When the cap gets damaged, the telomere becomes non-functional, shortens, ceases to divide and dies.

Luckily, there’s an enzyme in the body that replenishes the telomeres, called telomerase reverse transcriptase. However, scientists have found multiple biochemical pathways of chronic stress that deplete this enzyme. Without it, the telomeres will shorten. Shortened telomeres are directly linked to aging. (3)

In other words, chronic stress –> shortened telomeres –> promotes rapid aging

In fact, stress has become such a major threat that one study reported that 75 to 90 percent of visits to primary care doctors were related to the effects of stress. (4)

The body’s natural defense to cope with stress is called homeostasis, an inherent function that makes instantaneous physiological adjustments when we are under stress, thereby maintaining a harmonious equilibrium in our bodies.

Overwhelmed: The Chemistry of Stress

Within seconds of a stressful event, the stress hormone, cortisol, is released, triggering a “fight or flight” response. This creates a particular chemistry in the body which turns off the digestion, stores fat, raises blood sugar and blood pressure and causes the heart to race.

Within minutes, and lasting for days or weeks, stress responses occur that are more deadly, such as inflammation, free radical damage, decreased memory and cognition, decreased sexual function, high blood sugar levels, the release of degenerative stress hormones and the depletion of the good, mood-stabilizing hormones.

When the homeostasis pathways are overwhelmed by stress, the resultant degenerative chemistry can linger for hours, days, weeks or longer. When the stress response is chronic, the homeostatic pathways break down and more and more telomeres become damaged and shortened.

Protect Your DNA Naturally

These degenerative stress pathways are so diverse that researchers have found not one, but a combination of herbs that may be needed to protect all of the body’s natural homeostasis pathways when under chronic stress.

Three Ayurvedic herbs were found to support the full range of homeostatic pathways:

  • >> Ashwaganda
  • >> Bacopa
  • >> Tulsi

Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera)

Ashwaganda may be the world’s most powerful and well-documented adaptogen. An adaptogen is an herb or supplement that supports the homeostatic pathways to cope with the degenerative impact of stress. Ashwaganda supports the following homeostatic pathways:

  • >> Supports mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters (2)
  • >> Protects against lipid peroxidation (2)
  • >> Supports the natural anti-inflammatory response (2)
  • >> Promotes antioxidant activity (2)
  • >> Helps regulate balanced blood sugar (2)
  • >> Supports balanced cortisol levels (2)

In one study, 98 chronically stressed men were given 500mg of ashwaganda for 60 days. The results supported healthy moods, cardiovascular health, healthy blood sugar levels, healthy stress hormone levels and a healthy inflammation response. (5)

Bacopa (Bacopa monniera)

Bacopa, also known as water hyssop, has been found to support homeostatic pathways in the following ways:

  • >> Promotes mental clarity (2)
  • >> Supports cognition (2)
  • >> Supports memory (2)
  • >> Supports stable mood (2)
  • >> Helps regulate normal cortisol levels (2)
  • >> Is a natural antioxidant (2)
  • >> Supports neurotransmitters for mental health (2)
  • >> Promotes healthy cell membranes (2)
  • >> Promotes healthy protein structures in the body, which play a key role in healthy neurological function (2)

In an unpublished but well executed double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, 20 men between the ages of 60 and 75 were given 300mg of bacopa extract a day (roughly equivalent to 1000mg of whole herb bacopa per day).

After four months, the participants experienced a 23 percent support in focus and attention, a 24 percent support for learning and memory, a 15 percent support in overall intelligence, and a 30 percent support for mental health. (6)

Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)

Tulsi, also called Holy Basil, has been used successfully for thousands of years like bacopa and ashwaganda. Tulsi has been found to support stress-related homeostatic imbalances in the following areas:

  • >> Promotes healthy cell membranes (2)
  • >> Supports the natural anti-inflammatory response (2)
  • >> Stimulates antioxidant activity (2)
  • >> Helps regulate healthy blood sugar (2)
  • >> Supports healthy cholesterol levels (2)

In a double blind, placebo-controlled study, 79 individuals took 1200mg of Tulsi a day for six weeks, while 71 individuals took a placebo. Both groups were tested for stress-related issues including cognitive function, energy, forgetfulness, sleep and sexual health. Tulsi was shown to support stress-related issues by 39 percent over the placebo. (7)


Scientists have found that a combination of herbs may be needed to mitigate the degenerative effects of stress due to the complex nature of the chemistry of stress, the numerous homeostatic pathways that the body employs to protect against stress and the consequent shortening of telomeres.


  1. Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Feb. 15;71(4):294-300
  2. Downey, New Reasons to Avoid Stress, Life Extension Mag. 2012 June. 71-79
  3. Mol Ecol. 2012 Mar;21(6):1307-10
  4. www.stress.org/americas.htm
  5. JANA. 2008;11(1):50-6
  6. University of Montana – unpublished (data provided by vender)
  7. Evid Based Complement Altern Med. 2012:894509. Epub 2011Oct 3

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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