The right stuff
If you’re like most people, your daily to-do list seems, to constantly grow while your energy levels dip.
Sound familiar? If so, it may be time to try adaptogen herbs. Derived from plants and plant parts, these herbs reduce stress and correct imbalances, and with the right regimen, they may even help you sail through winter in good health.
“Adaptogenic herbs increase your body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional and environmental stressors,” says David Winston, R.H. (AHG), a founding member of the American Herbalists Guild and co-author of Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief (Healing Arts Press).
All adaptogens help regulate the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis and the sympathoadrenal system, meaning they can adjust imbalances related to immunity, hormones and stress, ultimately giving you more energy.
Each one also offers unique benefits. One herb might calm your mind, while another gives you energy or increases your endurance. “Adaptogens help fight inflammation by switching on areas of our genes known as antioxidant responsive elements,” says Winston. “They may also build stamina, ease anxiety or enhance cognitive function.”
Here are the adaptogen herbs that can help you feel great this season. Follow label instructions or refer to Winston’s dosage recommendations included with each herb mentioned here, and talk to your doctor before taking herbs if you’re nursing, pregnant or planning to become pregnant. You’ll also want to plan in advance: Start taking adaptogens two weeks before holiday stress is likely to kick in, says Winston.
For fatigue and insomnia
The roots of this nightshade plant, also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, have been used in parts of Asia and Africa to treat various ailments, including lower back and muscle pain, arthritis, sexual dysfunction and anemia.
A review of scientific studies published in Alternative Medicine Review concluded that the herb combats stress and has a positive effect on the central nervous system.
Ashwagandha fights anxiety, fatigue, stress-induced insomnia and exhaustion, says Winston.
How to take: Tincture (1:5): 40 to 60 drops three times a day. Capsules: one 400 to 500 mg capsule twice a day.
For emotional balance
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners use this herb to calm the mind and restore emotional balance. A study in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2005 found eight weeks of treatment with Reishi reduced exhaustion and improved well-being in 123 Chinese patients diagnosed with fatigue. The mushroom variety contains polysaccharides, phytochemicals that boost the immune system.
How to take: Tincture (1:5): 80 to 100 drops four to six times a day. Capsules (mycelial extracts): three 500 to 1,000 mg capsules three times a day.
For mental and physical ability
These berries are unusual in that they help people to feel alert, focused and calm. TCM practitioners use the fruit to remedy diarrhea and boost lung and liver health. Schisandra also can be used to enhance physical and mental abilities. A study in Phytomedicine showed
that athletes who took Schisandra before training had improved exercise performance and enhanced recovery when compared with athletes not given the herb.
How to take: Tincture (1:5): 40 to 80 drops three to four times a day. Capsules: one to two 400 to 500 mg capsules two to three times a day.
One of the more stimulating adaptogens, Asian ginseng root (Chinese or Korean) improves cognitive function and strengthens the body. In TCM, it’s used to restore energy, boost a depleted immune system and improve vitality. Panax ginseng is used for people who have chronic fatigue syndrome and frequently feel cold. A Journal of Nutrition review says ginseng’s anti-inflammatory properties may thwart damage to DNA.
How to take: Tincture (1:5): 20 to 40 drops up to three times a day. Capsules: two 400 to 500 mg capsules of the powdered herb two to three times a day; one 400 to 500 mg capsule of the powdered extract twice a day.
Formerly known as Siberian ginseng (though it doesn’t belong to the same genus as true ginsengs), Eleuthero was developed as a remedy in the former Soviet Union.
Evidence shows Eleuthero improves endurance and strengthens the immune system, reducing the incidence of colds and other common infections. In an Italian study of 20 elderly adults reported in Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, those treated with Eleuthero experienced
improved mental health and social functioning after four weeks, without negative side effects, while a study reported in Psychological Medicine showed Eleuthero reduced the severity and duration of chronic fatigue in 86 individuals with the condition at the two-month follow-up mark. Eleuthero can also be given to people who are stressed and too busy to eat well or get enough sleep.
How to take: Tincture (1:4): 60 to 100 drops three to four times a day. Fluid extract (1:1): 20 to 40 drops three times a day.
AllFitness ___ by Nora Isaacs___ The right stuff