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Adaptogens for Physical and Emotional Health
What are adaptogens? They are herbs and similar products of nature that help the body adapt to stress while maintaining a constant and balanced state of well-being on all levels. These substances also help to boost youthfulness and longevity while improving memory, cognition, productivity and motivation. Of course not all adaptogens provide the same benefits, because each and every one of them are quite unique. Except for a few favorite herbs I tend to enjoy in larger amounts such as ashwaganda, maca, oatstraw, shatavari and turmeric, I believe most of these herbs are best taken in small amounts mixed together into a formula to work synergistically rather than in large amounts alone.
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Why Would One Need to Include Adaptogens in One's Diet?
Countless Studies Report Amazing Benefits of Adaptogenic Herbs
New research is continually being published about their health benefits but they have been written about by physicians, health publishers and researchers for decades since they were first discovered by western scientists and researchers during World War II. These incredibly powerful herbs have been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Of course a surprising number of them can also be found in western folk medicine going back for centuries long before conventional medicine took over with very potent but dangerous pharmaceutical drugs.
Adaptogens Can Benefit Your Body and Boost Your Health
The word, "adaptogen" was first created in 1947 by the Soviet Ministry of Health to include a class of herbs and mushrooms that have significant support or protection from all manner of mental and physical ailments. They work with the body's specific needs to not only help the patient recover from a health crisis or nervous breakdown, but also promote long-term health and well-being.
Adaptogens often work by stabilizing the body's cortisol levels. Cortisol (also known as an aging hormone) is a stress hormone that while it helps protect the body in short-term emergencies as in a "fight or flight" survival mode, it can on the long run can start to damage our bodies in various ways and replace other more beneficial and essential hormones such as testosterone. Every physiological system in the body can be affected by cortisol including the digestive system, blood pressure, the thyroid and adrenal glands.
Adaptogens help to minimize the deleterious effects of cortisol by providing much healthier ways for the body to respond to stress and at same time reducing cortisol levels. Most adaptogens reduce fatigue, increase focus and endurance when feeling exhausted, help boost immunity, protect against illness, increase energy and physical stamina, balance emotions, sustain cognitive abilities and mental focus, relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, and restore homeostasis.
To be defined as an adaptogen, the herb must have many functions, be non-toxic, and have a balancing or normalizing action on the entire physical body system. Ginseng is a well-known example of an adaptogen. It was one of the first adaptogenic herbs I ever learned about.
Adaptogens Can be Sorted into Different Categories
Herbalists classify adaptogens in various types or categories. Asian ginseng, eleuthero, maca, and rhodiola rosea, for example are used mainly to energize the body and boost brain cognition and performance while increasing physical endurance. Ashwaganda, holy basil, and reishi, for example, help one to relax while supporting the adrenals when they are under stress.
Because of the various ways its constituents help boost the immune system, astragalus is also known as an adaptogen and has become increasingly well-known for its use. Yet turmeric, even though it has a few adaptogenic properties, and contains major anti-inflammatory properties, is not considered a "certified" adpatogen. However I still include it along with all my other adaptogens because it's considered an extremely important and essential part of my herbal health regimen and seems to do what all my other adaptogens do: releve stress, anxiety and depression.
Asian or panax ginseng is perhaps the most popular and widely known adaptogen. It provides beneficial antioxidants and other forms of nourishment for the physical body, improves memory, and reduces stress and anxiety.
Blood work on patients receiving panax ginseng have revealed very interesting results such as reduced serum corticosterone (a stress hormone), creatine kinase (an enzyme associated with damage to the circulatory system), triglycerides, blood glucose, and adrenal gland size which is also associated with stress.
This ageless plant is proven by researchers beyond a shadow of a doubt to help stop stress inducing ACTH activity in the adrenal gland and includes the required anti-stress properties needed to properly treat stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Tulsi or Holy Basil
Tulsi or holy basil is an Ayurvedic medicinal herb used for over three millennium and considered to be one of India's strongest, most effective healing herbs.
Tulsi is also being used as a delicious culinary herb often found in some Thai sauces to spice up one's food. It is considered to be a powerful antioxidant with antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. It is also being used as a medicinal herb to improve cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and help calm down seizure activity. It supports and enhances healthy immune system activity while relieving pain, destroying viruses and certain kinds of fungi, while fighting off bacteria and preserving liver function.
As if all of the above were not amazing enough, tulsi also has been used to help victims recover from head injuries, restore cognition and memory abilities, treat nervous system problems, and aleviate depression.
This amazing tonic can also be used to help those suffering from bronchitis, nausea and vomiting, and its immune-stimulating properties can help one to cope with environmental allergens.
Examples of Some of the Most Well-Known Adaptogens
A wide variety of herbs can be considered to have adaptogenic properties because they are being used to protect the body from various ailments and disorders while also helping to heal the body.
Some of the best examples of adaptogens are American ginseng, ashwagandha, eleutherococcus, maca, and rhodiola rosea. These are some of the more widely used (favorite) adaptogens.
American ginseng root is considered to be similar to Asian ginseng and just as beneficial. American ginseng may provide an efficient way to fight colds, improve immune function, reduce blood sugar and blood pressure, and combat fatigue.
One of my favorite anti-aging adaptogens is ashwagandha which is a powerful Ayurvedic herb used by numerous people to reduce pain, alleviate menstral problems, balance hormones, fight off fatigue, and help eliminate anxiety. It is excellent for fighting off stress because of the numerous ways it can support the adrenal system and adrenal function.
Eleutherococcus or Siberian ginseng is accepted as being useful in fighting off colds because it can boost one's immunity against viruses. People also use this herb to increase their energy levels. It might be best to get this herb as an extract or in extremely finely ground form, otherwise it tends to be like sawdust.
A most popular herb is maca which is a plant often grown in Peru but widely available in most health food stores. It is considered a great libido enhancer, great for sexual dysfunction, memory, and even sunburn protection.
A great stress-buster with anti-inflammatory properties is rhodiola rosea or the Arctic root, golden root, or the King's crown. It is one of my favorite herbs for helping to boost energy and improve memory while alleviating stress.
Adaptogens of Great Value and Worth Considering
Here is another list of adaptogens even though less well-known than the previous adaptogens, they nevertheless most definitely should be considered for use because they provide some of the most powerful health benefits often greater than many of the previously mentioned herbs.
Astragalus is another adaptogenic herb worth mentioning and it is most often associated with supporting kidney and liver functioning.
Chaga mushroom is a dark colored fungus that usually grows in the shade inside the fissures, knobs and notches of dead or dying birch trees where there is constant moisture or dampness. It is best known for its abiiltiy to provide enhanced cognitive function, mental clarity and more energy. A perfect replacement for coffee might be chaga mushroom powder which can also provide all the benefits of caffeine without its effects of nervous tension, headaches and indigestion. Compared to coffee which is acidic, chaga mushroom has an alkaline effect. Chaga has been used to help dissolve growths or tumors in the body, reduce blood sugar levels, and provide support for the liver and kidneys.
Goji berries contain great antioxidant activity needed by the body. They are also considered as a great way to help protect the body from various neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Native to China, schisandra berries are used to protect the liver and help slow aging while promoting health well into old age. Ancient Chinese medicine has included it in its healing arsenal for centuries.
Spirulina, which contains many essential and beneficial amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is an adaptogenic blue-green algae thought to help with allergies by retarding the release of histamine while supporting the functioning of the immune system.
Chlorella, which is another algae, is said to help remove toxic and/or heavy metals from the body and increase the "good" bacteria in the body helping to prevent ulcers, colitis, Crohn's disease, and diverticulosis. It also provides many essential and beneficial amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Best Ways to Include these Herbs in Your Diet Regimen
There are various ways to consume adaptogens depending on the forms they come in such as tinctures that can be added to water and other drinks, powders that need to be mixed in and taken with juices, in the form of vitamin tablets, and, usually much less available unless you grow your own: raw adaptogens freshly picked or harvested from the ground.
The most convenient way to take adaptogens is in its tincture, extract or capsule form. I often take adaptogens in their finely ground powdered form because they can be purchased in bulk and are often much less expensive per pound than the capsule, tablet or liquid extract varieties.
I've noticed really good effects of taking adaptogens right away, but it depends which ones taken, personal health issues, etc. However researchers say they need several weeks to really work or improve one's health, mental and emotional well-being but agree on the fact that they are indeed quite powerful and beneficial for the physical body.
Maca in its powdered form, for example, can be enjoyed with various kinds of health food desserts, smoothies, and fresh fruit juices. It is in its self a food that can be added to many recipes.
Health experts suggest you cycle your adaptogens by not taking them one day a week, and take a few days off from consuming them once per month. This practice somehow increases the effectiveness of the adaptogen while giving the body a short break from it to help balance out the amounts that have already been absorbed into the system.
Adaptogenic Herbs: Life Is Incomplete Without Them
Regarding my own experience with adaptogenic herbs, and related plants and mushrooms, they have been essential for enhancing the quality of my life, health and well-being. I've made sure to build up my diet and lifestyle to revolve around these truly amazing herbs that help me to not only cope with life but even help me thrive in many different ways.
I've also found these herbs to be quite spiritual in their benefits: being most beneficial for my yoga practices, transmutation techniques, exercise regimen, meditation experiences and dreams. They've also helped me to greatly reduce anxiety, dramatically improve libido, feel more comfortable around others, and fight off fatigue and depression to the point of being my very best friends, perhaps the best friends I'll ever have!
I cannot be more thankful for these wonderful herbs that Mother Nature has provided for our happiness, nutritional healing and well-being. Frankly, I would not know how to live without them. It is very sad that so many people would still consider using pharmaceutical drugs with all their horrible side-effects rather than learn about and benefit from all the wonderful healing properties of 100% natural adaptogens with hardly any side-effects except great health well into old age!
More about how I apply these adaptogenic herbs to my diet can be found here: HOLY GRAIL - MY LATEST REGIMEN FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH
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