ADAPTOGENS By: Donna Easto, C.H., H.C., M.H, H.Ed.
This article highlights a few members of one of my favourite group of herbs: Adaptogens. Adaptogens specifically support the body from the toxic effects of stress, which is anything that taxes the body, from illness to overwork to working out. To be classified an adaptogen a herb must:
• Be non-toxic in therapeutic doses
• Produce a non-specific state of resistance in the body to physical, emotional or environmental stress
• Have a normalizing effect on the body, helping to restore normal physiologic function that has been impaired by chronic stress.
Ashwagandha: My personal favourite, primarily known for stress relief and enhanced relaxation, but it also supports cognitive function and your body’s energy levels. Ashwagandha is your “go-to” adaptogen if you’re feeling stressed fatigued and burnt out.
Astragalus: Quality sleep, exercise, a wholesome diet, and ensuring your level of vitamin D3 is optimal are the best ways to strengthen your immune system. And, nourishing and warming Adaptogens, like Astragalus, can also help with immune system support. Astragalus has proven protective benefits against frequent colds and the flu.. Like all true Adaptogens, it helps build and restore overall health to the body. During the winter months, take advantage of Astragalus’ sweet nature by including 20-30g of the root to your usual chai. Here’s a slow cooker recipe from alchemy of herbs by Rosalee de la Foret: Place 20-30g of Astragalus root, 1 1 tbsp dried orange peel, 2 tsp minced fresh or dried ginger, ½ tbsp cinnamon bark or chips, ½ tsp whole peppercorns, 1-2 cardamom pods, two whole clove and 2 ½ cups of water in slow cooker. Let it simmer overnight covered at low heat, adding water if needed. Strain, add milk and honey as desired. Drink within 36 hours. Cautions: do not use Astragalus during acute illnesses, or combine with immunosuppressive drugs.
Maca: Often called the “mother” of hormone balancing herbs, this nourishing plant hails from Peru, where it’s been cultivated as a vegetable crop for at least 3000 years. It is said to work on female hormone balancing properties, male infertility and sex drive, as well as supporting overall healthy energy levels and stamina. Generally safe, but check with your health care provider if you have thyroid issues.
Schisandra: In Chinese medicine, Schizandra is considered an elite tonic. It’s used to improve mental focus and is calming, especially for anxiety. It’s one of the primary herbs to protect the liver and appears to boost both detoxification and clearance of toxins, including environmental hormone disrupters. This multi-tasking berry is also used to enhance athletic performance and endurance. It’s a good choice if you tire easily with physical activity.