While writing this month’s column, I couldn’t get the 1980s-era Frankie Goes to Hollywood song “Relax” out of my head. And I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to mention this in the article. Maybe the band was on to something. Flash forward almost 30 years from when this song debuted, and we see that today’s society does indeed need to relax, slow down, and de-stress.
“Due to the alarming rate of individuals currently affected by insomnia and stress, consumer demand for products that promote relaxation is growing, especially in the beverage industry,” says Randal Kreienbrink, Director of Marketing, BI Nutraceuticals, Long Beach, Calif., (www.binutraceuticals.com). “This increase in relaxation beverages can primarily be attributed to energy drinks; their popularity has and will continue to have a spillover effect on other functional beverages including its opposite, the relaxation beverage.”
Popular relaxation ingredients like botanicals, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), L-theanine, and 5-hydroxytryptophan can be found in relaxation supplements such as miniCHILL®, a non-drowsy, stress-relief shot from Stevenson Products LLC, Flushing, N.Y. (www.minichill.com). GABA is a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain and is believed to have a calming, relaxing effect on the nervous system. Another ingredient, 5-hydroxytryptophan increases the synthesis of serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood and sleep. Here is a look at some other relaxation botanicals and L-theanine.
Some of the top botanicals that are currently used in products to promote relaxation or reduce stress include chamomile, passionflower, and valerian, says Kreienbrink. BI offers these botanicals as well as some that are less well known such as ashwagandha and gotu kola.
“In general, I think botanicals will make more of a presence in relaxation products because they inherently contain calming effects,” notes Kreienbrink. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, minimizing the effects of stress on the immune system. Chamomile is a mild sedative and muscle relaxant. Gotu kola enhances cognitive function including memory and alertness, and it reduces mood disorders. Passionflower is a sedative. Valerian is an adaptogen and muscle relaxant, explains Kreienbrink. “In the relaxation market, products fortified with melatonin, L-theanine, etc., are dominating, but with consumers realizing the benefits of whole foods, they are not just seeking fortified products anymore. Consumers are now looking for foods and beverages that incorporate ingredients
that inherently have health benefits,” he adds.
A plant extract derived from lemon balm leaves of the species Melissa officinalis L., Cyracos® from Naturex, South Hackensack, N.J. (www.naturex.com), acts simultaneously on stress and its associated symptoms, like sleep disorders, thanks to its specific composition. According to the company, the anti-stress activity of Cyracos has been demonstrated after 15 days of supplementation with 300 mg of the ingredient taken twice a day. The manufacturing process of Cyracos was thoroughly studied to guarantee an extract preserving all the active components of the lemon balm aerial parts. Cyracos has a constant content of hydroxycinnamic acids guaranteeing its quality. Several different compounds in the ingredient have been shown to have specific properties. An in vitro test showed that rosmarinic acid lowered the activity of an enzyme and increased the content of GABA in the central nervous system, which has been linked to positive effects on mood. Other compounds present in Cyracos such as ursolic acid and oleanolic acid have the same effect.