Adaptogens are herbs that give us strength, stamina and stress relief. They have so many benefits for our modern lifestyles, and have been used traditionally for thousands of years. We are fortunate to have such access to so many of them nowadays.
Adaptogens include such classic herbs as all the different Asian Ginsengs, Astragalus and Licorice, Indian”rasayana” herbs such as Tulsi and Shatavari, and mushrooms such as Reishi.
This amazing class of herbs has wide ranging benefits such as for:
anxiety and depression,
enhancing athletic performance,
improved brain function,
regulating blood sugar,
promoting strong immunity and recovery from illness,
mind-body- spirit connection,
sex hormone regulation,
and much more.
Did you know that there are several types of herbs called "ginseng"?
Panax/ Asian/ Korean Ginseng
The most well known, and well researched, is Korean or Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng). This ginseng alone has almost 4000 scientific publications on it- it is a very well studied herbal medicine. Asian countries have cultivated it extensively. The Korean people have used it for thousands of years, for calming and strengthening the mind and soul, opening the heart, and prolonging life.
We tend to use Asian ginseng for restoring vitality, especially when there is adrenal fatigue, and building the immune system. It has been found useful in cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune diseases. Herbalists have used it to delay progression of Alzheimers, often combining it with other herbs such as gingko, bacopa and tulsi. It has a long traditional use as a male sexual tonic.
I recommend this wonderful and safe medicine for many people as it has so much evidence and long term traditonal use, and is so appropriate for our modern times. Long term use is traditional. It is the most “hot” and stimulating of the ginsengs, which may be an issue for those with very exhausted adrenals, but when balanced with other herbs can be very effective for adrenal fatigue. I often add it in small amounts to herbal mixes for anything related with fatigue. I take this herb myself.
One of many popular ways to take Panax Ginseng in western countries.
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
This ginseng has a long history of use by Native American peoples, and some cultural groups have considered it their chief medicine plant. It has been used for general debility, recovery from illness, as a tonic for the immune system. As with Asian Ginseng, it has been seen as a spiritual medicine, a gift from the gods to give protection, for love, and to enhance the power of other herbs. This ginseng is also used for depletion of the adrenals and chronic fatigue. It is only mildly stimulating, and is fact is considered cooling . It is quite expensive and has been overharvested in the wild, but is now being cultivated more widely.
Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticocus)
This is a milder adaptogen and is not really a ginseng but has similar properties. It builds immunity and has been very useful for cancer patients in their recovery. This herb increases endurance and speeds recovery after exercise and has been used by athletes and shift workers. It is useful for stressed Type A type people who don't really look after themselves properly, and it is also very good for adrenal fatigue and ADHD. It is equally useful for men and women. It is an inexpensive herb.
Indian Ginseng / Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
This is also not a ginseng, but has been used in India historically for similar purposes. Its name refers to its horse-sweat like smell and the story goes that this herb gives the strength of a stallion. It is used, like the previous three herbs, for general debility, adrenal fatigue, as an aphrodisiac, It is a particularly calming rather than stimulating adaptogen, and this quality lends itself to a wide range of uses in modern times. It is a well studied herb that is rich in iron, and it is being used by many women for this reason. I use this for autoimmune conditions such as Hashimotos Thyroiditis. It is a herb that I put in my regular morning smoothies, often by the heaped teaspoon- fortunately it is fairly inexpensive. It is often used with milk and other herbs as a tonic in Ayurvedic medicine, and is good for insomnia.
I would love to share more about the wonderful world of adaptogens in future newsletters…I consider many of them my regular herbal allies, and I encourage you to also eplore using one or more to enhance your health and wellbeing, whether you have chronic health issues, or are just getting older and wish to preserve your health as long as possible.
Book: Adaptogens, Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, by David Winston and Steven Maimes
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