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Adaptogens - Bringing our Bodies Back into Balance

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

Yes, it is finally Spring (at least we hope so!) We have just come through a long, hard winter and despite the arrival of March and the hope of a beautiful Spring, our bodies are still struggling to catch up energy wise. Moving forward into Spring for most people means an increase in activities and if you are already struggling this can put you at a deficit health wise. This is where a class of herbs known as adaptogens can be a true gift to our health.

The word adaptogen is used by herbalists to refer to an herb that increases the body’s resistance to stresses such as trauma, anxiety and bodily fatigue. The reason for naming these herbs “adaptogens” resulted from the scientific discovery, which proved their effectiveness in helping the human body to “adapt” or to “adjust” to strains and changes of daily living.

Many herbs can help nourish, tone and strengthen our body, so what makes adaptogens different; why are some herbs adaptogens and others are not? The key to understanding why some herbs are adaptogens is how they act on the body. They are used to help restore homeostasis or a state of balance to the body and they achieve this by impacting the hormonal production of both the endocrine and nervous systems. They normalize the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) and as defined, adaptogens constitute a new class of natural metabolic regulators.

Adaptogens are a unique nutrient. They work at the cellular level to help normalize the body’s various functions and stimulate the recovery processes needed to adapt to all types of stress in our lives. Adaptogens are just starting to be widely used in Western herbalism but have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Adaptogens were classified by the ancient Chinese as the most effective plants to increase physical and mental capacity, reduce fatigue, improve resistance to diseases, and extend lifespan. In China, adaptogens were used by soldiers right before battle. In Siberia, the same plants were used by hunters before long, dangerous journeys. The Tibetan monks were said to be able to survive without food and warmth high in the mountains for many days by using these plants. Adaptogen herbs have also long been used in China and Russia to enhance athletic performance in their Olympic athletes.

Panax/American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)

There has been extensive research on many herbs in this grouping and they have been found to contain chemical constituents such as polysaccharides which are known to stimulate immune function; flavonoids which are antioxidant, triterpenoid saponins which are anti-inflammatory; phytosterols that are hormone balancing and lignans which support immune response and help protect against cell mutation.

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) Maca (Lepidium meyenii)

There are many herbs that fall into the category of adaptogens and some of the most well known are: Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis), Dang Shen (Codonopsis pilosula), Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), Eleuthero/Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum), Panax/American Ginseng (Panax ginseng), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Maca (Lepidium meyenii), Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis), and Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus).

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Adaptogen herbs work slowly and effectively to help restore the body back into balance and many can be taken for extended periods of time to decrease fatigue, hormonal irregularities and improve overall well being.

Stop by Tilia and ask our medical herbalists if an adaptogen might help you to put the spring back in your step!

All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care.

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