In the Pure Natura product line we have some herbs and plants that fall within the definition of being called an adaptogen. The best known is Rhodiola Rosea but garlic and maybe even chervil and rosmarin can also be classified as one and can be found in our products. In the following blog we use parts from an article written by Rosemary Gladster on these amazing herbst. There you´ll learn what they are and why they are so popular. The full article with even more interesting information can be found on the link at the end. Enjoy.
The Amazing Adaptogens & Tonic Herbs
By Rosemary Gladstar
Adaptogens… this word is the new buzz word in herbalism and herbs classified as adaptogens are the new super stars of the herbal world. And for good reason. Adaptogenic herbs boost energy, restore vitality, and help raise the body’s ability to deal with the stresses of modern life ~ and, as an added bonus, they have no harmful side effects. They are also the prime herbs used for increasing life force and one’s quality of life as one ages (or sageing, as I prefer calling the aging process). Broadly speaking an Adaptogen can be any substance or lifestyle change that helps one adjust or adapt to our modern day environment (such as heating or air conditioning), but the term is most often used to describe a group of herbs that have a long history of promoting longevity and increasing the overall strength and resiliency of our bodies.
The term adaptogen is fairly new and won’t be found in any of the older herb books ~ those written before 1990 ~ and you won’t find the word in a dictionary, either. Yet it’s a common term amongst herbalists and holistic practitioners and is used to describe a highly regarded and well-known group of herbs. The term was coined by a Russian scientist, Dr. Lazarev, in the late 1940’s, and was used to describe any substance that:
(a) had a normalizing and balancing effect;
(b) was non-toxic and didn’t create any harmful side effects; and
(c) worked by a ‘non-specific’ or more generalized action to increase resistance to illness through a wide range of physical and biochemical factors.
Dr. Lazarev’s protégé, Dr. Brekhman, was a holistically minded scientist with an interest in herbalism. Thankfully for us, he expanded Lazarev’s work by centering his research on herbs that have a history of ‘adaptogenic’ like qualities. Dr. Brekhman studied hundreds of herbs to see if they had adaptogenic properties but ended up focusing most of his research on Electheroccoccus senticosus (Siberian Ginseng), Rhodiola, and Panax and Asian varieties of ginseng. He conducted literally hundreds of studies on thousands of people (factory workers, truck drivers and athletes, primarily) that proved there were herbs with the unique ability to help the body adapt to the stresses of modern life, improve energy and stamina, and increase one’s adaptability to their environment.
Adaptogen Herbs are identified by their non-specific, broad health benefits. They increase the body’s inherent life force, increase stamina and endurance and improve the overall quality of physical well being. By definition, adaptogens are non-toxic and have no side effects (other than the side effect of good health) even when used over a long period of time.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), herbs with these adaptogenic-like qualities were termed “Superior Medicine” and were among the most widely used of the Chinese herbs. Superior Herbal Medicines, like adaptogens, were safe and non-toxic, raised immune function, increased resistance to illness, and were used to promote health and well being. Though the term adaptogen may be new, the knowledge of herbs with adaptogenic qualities have been around for generations. The terminology used to describe this group of herbs may be different in different parts of the world, but they were always among the most valued of herbs in every culture.
In Ayurvedic Medicine, an herbal system originating in India and considered one of the most respected and renowned systems of healing in the world, herbs that were rejuvenating, restorative and had the ability to sustain and nourish life were called Rasayana herbs, which meant, literally, path of essence. An entire system of practice developed around this special group of Rasayana, or restorative herbs.
In Western or American Herbalism, herbs that were restorative, tonifying, and rebuilding to the system were classified as Herbal Tonics and were used to treat a wide range of imbalances as well as to restore and maintain good health. Though tonics are not as appreciated as they once were, western herbal tonic therapy was at one time the foundation of many herbal treatments in North America ~ the adage was treatment from the foundation up by tonifying, supporting and building life force and most illnesses would improve or disappear.
No matter what they’re called, Superior Medicines, Herbal Tonics, Rasayanas, or Adaptogenics, world wide these are among our most well known and beloved herbs, perhaps because they are rejuvenating and restorative and help us adapt to many of the stresses of modern-day life! Traditionally, these herbs were often incorporated into one’s meals, cooked into soups, sprinkled into food, or made into syrups, tonic drinks, and delicious spreads that were enticing to eat. Of course, one can take them as capsules and tinctures as well ~ there are many fine adaptogenic and energy building formulas available in capsules and as tinctures ~ but most herbalists prefer to use these particular herbs as food rather than ‘medicine’.
To be considered an Adaptogenic, herbs must meet three criteria:
1. Non Toxic: They must be non toxic and cause minimal negative disturbances in the physiological functions of the body
2. Generalized Action: They are non-specific in action and have a more generalized action in the body. In other words, these herbs are not generally indicated for one specific condition or illness but rather tonify and build the entire system.
3. Normalizing and Balancing: They must have a normalizing effect on the body, helping to restore balance and homeostasis. Can be used for either/or situations such as high or low blood sugar, or high or low blood pressure.
Adaptogens help the body:
Increase immune response
Improve brain and memory function
Balance and normalize overall body energy and health
How do these herbs work in the body?
In truth, in spite of numerous scientific studies, no one’s quite sure exactly how these herbs work in the body. But here’s a few of the theories of how they are able to restore health and vitality to our amazing human bodies:
They enhance the ability of enzymes to transform glucose into energy
They activate the synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids
They build and support immune health through numerous immuno-enhancing mechanisms
They are antioxidant rich and thus limit the number of free radicals in the system. Excess free radicals roaming in our systems are one of the key factors in age related disease.
They work by supporting endocrine gland function and have a positive influence on the secretion of hormones and other chemicals produced by the pituitary, hypothalamus, and adrenal glands
*Perhaps it’s too complex to fully understand the ‘how’s’ of how plants work, but we do know they work through countless centuries of human interaction with plants; what we plant people refer to as ‘empirical evidence.’