In this modern time, where it’s rush here, hurry there, just to stay afloat, wouldn’t it be nice to have an aid in all the duress? Something not pharmaceutical with all its potential serious side effects, and certainly not illegal?
Enter the world of adaptogenic herbs.
What are adaptogens, you might ask? Essentially, adaptogens have an active role in balancing out your hormones and adapting your body to the stress of life itself.
I’ll be touching base on just a few of them. Favorites of mine, that I have been using for quite some time now (and to great effect), to battle anxiety and defeat depression, boost energy, sleep better, and have a noticably improved quality of life. A few years ago my health was in the shambles, and I would have benefited from the knowledge and use of these herbs to ease the blow of stress upon life.
Adaptogens usually have a building/cumulative effect (meaning that it can take a moment upon first use to actually feel the benefits, usually a few days). The names might sound funny to you, and you might also wonder how helpful they can actually be since you’ve likely never heard of them. Herbs such as Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Ginseng, and He Shou Wu.
“He show who?” I’ll tell you.
As a note of transparency, I don’t know all the minute scientific specifics (say that fast three times), or basically jargon, of what makes these herbs function in the way that they do. They each contain active chemical components within that make them each uniquely effective as healing plants. In order to keep this article focused on the easy to remember stuff and not take up your whole day, I won’t be writing much about that.
I mainly know what these herbs have done for me, and what benefits others might reap from them as well. I’m hoping these herbs do the same for you as what they have expressed through my personal life, and more.
Let’s start with Rhodiola:
It grows primarily in high altitudes throughout Europe and Asia. It is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, and Tibetan monks revered it as a sacred healing herb and one of spiritual significance. Rhodiola has been used for centuries to treat depression, anxiety, impotence, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, infections, high altitude sickness, and nervous system disorders. It also aids in exercise recovery, and is an ingredient in many fitness supplements.
Russia is rather fond of it, and they actually experimented with it extensively in studies for helping soldiers cope with fatigue and extreme cold, in the Cold War era. In some online forums, Rhodiola is suggested as an alternative to SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors); a drug made for major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. If that’s not legit, I don’t know what is.
Most notably for myself, Rhodiola has gone a long way towards alleviating anxiety, depression, and fatigue. I feel the effects within minutes of consumption, as it brings my whole world back into alignment, and everything is okay again. Rhodiola has changed my life. I use it in tincture form, non-alcohol extracted version (as a taste preference), from the brand Herb Pharm, at less than $14 for a 1 oz. bottle.
Herb Pharm is a well-trusted, established brand of effective supplements. Careful as a little Rhodiola goes a long way, and it can actually make anxiety worse if you take too much. But it’s easy to find that ‘sweet spot’ in which you can just reap the benefits. Other side effects can include: dizziness, dry mouth, sleep problems, and jittery-ness. In my personal experience, all of those can be negated by taking Rhodiola in small doses with a light snack, and not taking it too late in the day. A couple of small drops in my water does the trick for me, though you can moderate your dosage upon need or tolerance.
(also known as “Indian Ginseng, though chemically different from Ginseng in various ways); is one of the staples of ayurveyda, the ancient Indian system of medicine. Its scientific name ‘Withania Somnifera’ literally means “stink of the horse”, due to its pungent properties. Don’t let that deter you from experiencing its various benefits, however.
The root of this herb is used to help those with anxiety, anemia, to provide antioxidants, fight inflammation, improve memory, boost lean muscle mass, provide aphrodisiacal qualities, and even support thyroid health. However, those with thyroid issues would be advised to consult their physician before using it, as it could exacerbate those issues, even though it’s generally one of the safest herbs and one of the healthiest things you could possibly consume.
Namely for me, it helps the most with anxiety, especially of the social nature. It gives what I can only describe as a ‘social lubrication’ (get your mind out of the gutter), helping my words flow better when talking and without hesitation.
As I mentioned previously, many of these herbs’ effects are more noticeable when taken over time. Ashwagandha is definitely this way in my experience, more so even than the other three herbs I’m discussing here. Of the greatest benefit, for some, will likely be its ability to help you sleep better. I’ve only so far tried the ashwagandha from Herb Pharm in 1oz. tincture, alcohol-extract form, usually less than $14. As with the Rhodiola from the same brand, a couple drops mixed with water is usually effective enough for myself.
this is probably the herb that most might be somewhat familiar with, but aren’t aware of its full potential, or don’t really know what it’s for. It is often an ingredient found on the back of an energy drink can in small dosages. It has energy-enhancing effects, but it goes so much deeper than that.
One of the most popular and highly valued adaptogens, ginseng promotes lean muscle mass, healthy sexual function in men and women (it is androgenic, meaning that it boosts testosterone to some degree, often being a featured ingredient in testosterone supplements), increases focus (great for ADD, I should know), aid in physical endurance and weight loss, and and is even somewhat calming.
There are different types of ginseng with some variance in benefit, namely Panax and then American ginseng. They both share some similar traits, but also differ mainly in the fact that Panax ginseng can has a more aggressive driving force compared to a somewhat calmer energy one might receive from American ginseng. Panax Ginseng is often referred to as “the king of herbs” in Chinese herbalism, due to the breadth of useful restorative properties it is imbued with, and has been a staple of TCM for over 2,000 years. American Ginseng is not as well documented, though it was of great value to Native Americans who used it as medicine, and eventually was known to European settlers.
Side effects for ginseng are more numerous than the other herbs here, though the saying “in moderation” applies as with anything else. Generally speaking, the higher quality the ginseng, the less side effects you are likely to experience. It lowers blood sugar, which can of course be of some benefit to diabetics. If you’re hypoglycemic (prone to low blood sugar), like myself- you can still take it, but at lower dosages or with plenty of food. I don’t have any issues with ginseng if I take it in small amount with a meal or in conjunction with a sugary snack.
The benefits are amazing, and worth it. Also, ginseng doesn’t lower blood glucose as drastically as cinnamon, so don’t worry too much. Of the few ginseng supplements that I’ve tried, Puritan’s Pride Ginseng Complex takes the cake for me. I feel phenomenal when I use it, and I only use half of the recommended serving (so just one capsule). Very economical, being that this product is less than $9 on Amazon including shipping costs.
He Shou Wu (pronounced Ho Shou Wu)
is likely the most interesting herb on this list, whether you attribute that to the name, its supposed origin of use, or its pristine value as an anti-aging tonic. You have nothing to lose by giving it a whirl, and everything to gain.
For one, it detoxifies and nourishes the liver and kidneys, which are of course two of the most vital organs we possess, thereby restoring natural hair color and reversing graying hair. He Shou Wu is also used by many for fortifying libido, and it’s great for bodybuilding as it does increase testosterone, though it’s not an aggressive herb by any means.
Women need not worry as He Shou Wu is a very balanced, Yin-state herb that will work with their bodies just as well. Don’t believe me? There are numerous testimonies on the internet about this herb in regards to the numerous benefits.
Let’s talk briefly about the history of this magnificent, underexposed herbal miracle.
Ancient Daoist texts report that, in 812 A.D., a weak, sterile old man by the name of He Tianer, discovered the herb when he awoke from a drunken slumber in the woods outside of his village. Not knowing what it was, he saw no harm in using traditional Chinese methods of herbal preparation for its experimental consumption. After decades of frailty and impotence, He began to feel his vitality return within a week and he was able to father a child a few months later. Not only that, but his hair color shifted from an elderly gray to a rich black. He was reported to be 160 years old at the time of his death, having fathered five more children.
The herb was named after him- “He Shou Wu” meaning He’s Black Hair. It should be noted that He Shou Wu is also called Fo Ti. However, that is actually the name of He Shou Wu in its raw form. Don’t be mistaken in thinking that raw means better. Fo Ti must go through a process in which mature roots are boiled with black beans in order to remove the toxins. Raw Fo Ti is edible, but in more than the smallest of amounts can actually be toxic to the liver, so it’s best to go with prepared He Shou Wu. For those knowledgeable about black beans being estrogenic; the beans are boiled to an extent where their hormonal effects are negated during this preparation, while the nutritional properties of Fo Ti are intact with the toxins removed. Herbal supplement manufacturers will usually tell you about their extraction/preparation method if you contact them about it.
The reason for these herbs sharing some similar benefits lies in their very nature as adaptogens, but they are each unique enough to stand out in their own right, and are each useful enough for a variety of benefactors. Not all herbs do the same thing for everyone, but more often than not you will have a positive experience. With this knowledge now, will you settle for things as they are, or will you adapt? The choice is up to you. Thanks for reading this article, and I hope it was edifying and informative. All the best to your health.