Herbal Adaptogens: Answers For A Stressful World


You may think that Ambien, Prozac and many other drugs are the only way to cope with stress, but herbal options can give you results that are more than amazing. Here are some natural ideas that may make your medicine chest obsolete. Adaptogens are an herbal group that people don’t seem to mention, nor are they the focus of herbal studies. But they are the solution to an increasingly stressful existence and may be the answer for each of us as we age. These amazing herbs increase resistance of the body to the debilitating effects of stress, stimulate immunity and give us a general sense of well-being even when things may not be so full of well-being.

We all suffer from stress, even more so because of the volume of information that we are forced to process each day. We have all become victims of ADD simply because we are texting while we are driving, talking on the phone while we are eating, doing business while we are grocery shopping and doing e-mails while we are cooking.

Adaptogens have been the focus of serious clinical research in other countries for years. Back in the 1960’s the Russians took it so seriously that they dedicated a field of biomedical research to it. Later on in Japan and Germany, more research verified the results of the more than 1,500 studies done in Russia. The results of some of these studies showed that adaptogens will: * Increase physical and mental energy and performance. * Protect the body against the effects of radiation. * Reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. * Reduce the incidence of infection. * Increase resistance to chemical carcinogens.

Hans Selye was the first one to identify stress as a physiological phenomenon. He stated that the body’s ability to cope with stress is not infinite, but is a resource that has a limit beyond which the body will become debilitated resulting in disease. By using adaptogens, the normally exhausting effects of stress can be minimized with many patients even saying it feels as though everything just "rolls off my back".

The most important herbs with well-established adaptogenic activity are Korean Ginseng (Panax), Astragalus, Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthero) and Ashwaganada (Withania). Each of these also has specific secondary effects that may make it the perfect choice for your individual stress. Astragalus is perfect for cardiac problems because it reduces blood pressure and tonifies the heart. It also has an effect in liver and kidney disease. Ashwaganda is more sedative than stimulating, so it might be more appropriate for Type A individuals who can’t relax and slow down. It is also ideal for children who are picky eaters, look pale and withdrawn and get every infection that goes around their school. Combined with Echinacea Purpurea, it’s a great treatment for children.

Korean Ginseng or Panax is quite stimulating and warming and so for long-term use, it’s definitely a better choice for older people. It shouldn’t be used if there is anxiety or irritability and it also has the potential to increase blood pressure. Often the stimulating aspect can be tempered by combining it with Ashwaganda. But it is great for increasing energy and giving you the boost you need. Panax, Eleuthero and Astragalus are also contraindicated in cases of acute infection.

Often stress will reduce the immune system allowing chronic low-level infections to rear their ugly heads, especially herpes strains. Adding St. John’s Wort which is a potent antiviral and nervine tonic can really help to ease the breakouts and reduce the stressful feelings. It also supports the nervous system to allow it to maintain balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic modes.

Another great herbal choice is Zizyphus which is an excellent nervine with sedative, hypnotic and some adaptogenic activity. It also lowers body temperature which can be very helpful in menopausal women. Oat Seed is another great nervine tonic and has a demulcent effect on the gut so for someone that manifests their stress in digestive distress, this can be a great choice.

Often the mental piece is crucial because the patient has to be able to function in daily life and at their place of work. Schisandra is a great choice here because it is an excellent cognition enhancer while also working with the adrenals and the liver. Bacopa is perfect if you are trying to learn something new, while Ginkgo is great for general memory.

With herbal options, turning to damaging and dangerous medications may not be necessary, and the results achieved with herbal combinations can far exceed what is possible with pharmaceutical medications. Try natural first before reaching for the medicine chest.