What is an adaptogen?

Reversing the signs of aging is a most discussed topic these days in the United States. Aging however is a natural process, depending on balance of metabolic actions in the body. Anabolic processes tend toward “building up” organs and tissues, so increasing anabolic functions is key to effectively start re-building strength and stamina and to delay the signs of aging.

American Ginseng

American Ginseng

An adaptogen is a metabolic regulator which increases our ability to adapt to environmental factors, and to avoid damage from stress. Adaptogens are known for their wide spectrum tonic properties, that are not specific to any of the organ systems. They help our body to deal with daily stress on all levels: be it physical, emotional and psychical. Adaptogenic herbs exert a normalizing influence on the body, neither over-stimulating nor inhibiting normal body function, but rather enforcing a generalized tonifying effect. Adaptogens help to protect our energy sources from depletion, thus working as tonics in times of fatigue and stress.

So adaptogens in general are non-toxic substances used to build up strength after a long illness, during recovery from a chronic disease or as a long term measure to supplement and nourish a stress-sensitive individual.

Health benefits of adaptogens

Adaptogens are tonics for the body and can be taken for every day for overall health and energy. Adaptogens can increase the effectiveness of antibiotics, anxiolytics (anxiety relief), antidepressants and blood sugar lowering agents. Most of them have a long, recorded history in traditional chinese and ayurvedic medicine.

Things to consider when using adaptogenic herbs

One of the greatest problems in the modern use of adaptogens is how they help us push beyond normal stress capacity and they become yet another way to speed us towards burnout. This is a suppressive method and it’s not recommended. Get plenty of sleep and try to find some time for yourself to unwind and help your body to restore itself.

10 important adaptogenic herbs

American ginseng – Mild CNS stimulant and nourishing for the nervous system
Ashwagandha – Antioxidant, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory
Asian Ginseng – Stimulating adaptogen for adrenal exhaustion
Astagalus – Immune and heart tonic
Cordyceps – Lung and kindey tonic, immune amphoteric
Eleuthero – Immune tonic, adrenal tonic, antifatigue and performance enhancer
He shou wu – Supports male reproductive function
Holy Basil – Supports normal cortisol and blood sugar levels
Reishi – Immune amphoteric, calms the mind
Shatavari – Female reproductive tonic, immune and lung tonic

In my next post I will discuss adaptogens specific for anxiety and depression in more detail.

REFERENCES:
David Winston: Adaptogens, Herbs for strength, stamina and stress relief
Bear Medicine Herbals: Terms of the Trade: Adaptogen