Stress Wasn't Always a Four Letter Word
In our hunter-gatherer past, stress was a crucial part of our survival. “Fight or Flight” wasn’t just a cute description of our stress hormone cascade. But when that mountain lion retreated and padded its way off into the woods, it was back to the fire for us, with “Feed and Breed“ and “Rest and Digest” back in full swing. Ah, the good life.
But now it's the 21st century and while that lion is still sometimes a lion, more often it’s your overflowing work email, the traffic on your way home from yoga, and even your relaxing weekends full of “mustgettothemountains to adventure becauseIworkhardplayhard!” The lion takes many forms. And it never retreats.
When stress goes from a temporary event to a prolonged and chronic state, many negative changes start happening in our body, including suppressed digestion and immune function. If the stress continues for too long, our internal homeostasis is seriously compromised and exhaustion sets in.
Enough sleep, a great diet, and fulfilling relationships will go a long way in de-stressing and re-energizing, but sometimes that’s just not possible, or enough. Welcome to Adaptogens.
To Be an Adaptogen
While we in the West have only recently heard of adaptogens, the idea is an ancient one. Many of the Rasayanas of India’s Ayurvedic Medicine and the Qi Tonics of Tradition Chinese Medicine, all used for thousands of years, are now also included in our modern term: Adaptogens. The term was first coined in 1947 by Soviet scientist Dr. Nikolai Lazarev during his quest for the ideal way to boost health and performance on a sustainable long-term basis.
So what does it take to be included in this special class of herbs? First, the herb must be non-toxic and completely safe for long-term use. Second, it must produce a nonspecific action that increases resistance to all types of stress, including mental, physical and environmental. Third, the botanical must have a normalizing effect on the body, helping the body move towards homeostasis from either direction.
Out of the thousands of herbs used around the world, only a few are graced with the title of Adaptogen. These herbs have both traditional use and modern research backing their claims. Donald Yance, in his book Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism, lists only seven primary adaptogens: American and Asian Ginseng, Ashwaganda, Eleuthero, Spikenard, Rhodiola, and Schisandra.
There are tremendous amounts of research discovering and documenting the wonders of these herbs. Due to FDA regulations, we do not publish scientific literature on our site. Please see the resources page for reading recommendations and sources of reputable research.