Want a magic wand when it comes to stress relief?

Adaptogenic herbs are the closest thing to magic!

Adaptogenic herbs, aka adaptogens, help you to adapt to life’s stressors.

They have been used for thousands of years by various cultures, herbalists and naturopathic doctors.

Lately I’ve seen them showing up in seltzer waters and various drinks at the natural food stores.

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I was quoted in a recent article on adaptogen drinks published in the online magazine, Sheknows, on this very subject – check it out HERE.

In a few of the drinks I’ve tried I can’t say the effect rivals that of drinking a tea, taking a tincture (herb in liquid form), powder or capsule. 

But I’m open to the concept. 

If you’ve tried an adaptogen drink and it delivered on the marketed effect, please let me know!

Adaptogens work by regulating the Hypothalamic Pituitary Axis…

…the messaging between the brain centers that receive a stress alert and subsequently release hormones and neuro-chemicals to respond to the stimulus.

They have the potential to work in the moment to decrease feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, jitters and can improve focus when the mind is racing or scattered.

Adaptogens are effective for prolonged stress as they have the ability to increase antioxidant concentration and decrease inflammation.

There are even adaptogens that can increase your energy and stimulate hormone production.

Whether you’re feeling amped up, thoughts are looping and you can’t sleep or if you’re feeling fatigued, decreased motivation with a depressed mood, adaptogenic herbs can help.

Over the years I’ve found a few adaptogens that I tend to use over and over again.

Ashwagandha is one of my favorites and a perfect example of an adaptogen as it works in cases of excess or deficiency of neuro-chemicals and hormones. 

It has the ability to reduce cortisol and DHEA…

…two major factors in anxiety & insomnia.

Yet, it can also increase DHEA, cortisol and testosterone production if someone needs that effect.

How does it know which you need?

That’s the beauty of an adaptogenic herb – it adjusts to what you body needs!

I know that sounds woo woo but that’s the best way to describe it in a concise manner!

Ashwagandha does have the potential to interact with a few medications, like many herbs.

This is why it’s key to consult with a naturopathic doctor, practitioner who’s well versed in herbal medicine or herbalist.

Online searches will leave you confused and often fearful of using herbs. 

Seek advice from someone who’s been trained and has been in the trenches using herbs and pharmaceuticals side by side for years.

I recommend taking Ashwagandha 4-8 hours away from thyroid medications and caution in taking Ashwagandha with sleep aids or sedative medications. 

If you’re feeling adventurous and would like to start experimenting with herbs try adding adaptogens to your spice mixes. 

Ashwagandha has a leathery earthy flavor, it pairs well with savory items such as, eggs, Tamari or coconut aminos with a little garlic.

It mixes well into hot breakfast cereals and smoothies with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves or allspice to mask the herb flavor. 

Besides Schisandra Berry, most adaptogens are easily mixed into hot cereal and smoothies.

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Speaking of an easy herb to add in, Holy Basil is one of my favorites!

Holy Basil can calm a racing mind or put you in chill mode to wind down from a busy day. 

I use it to wean clients off nightly wine because of it’s relaxing effect.

It’s easy to find Holy Basil tea in grocery stores, look for Tulsi Tea brand.

If you’re more inclined to add herbs to smoothies for the chill effect all day, check out Erbology or Mountain Rose Herbs, I love their herbal powders.

Caution using sedative medications and sleep aids with Holy Basil, consult with a doc like me before experimenting. 

Rhodiola is another of my favorite adaptogens for helping with recovery.

Whether it’s a mentally taxing day, after participating in a sporting event or as a routine after the gym, Rhodiola speeds up recovery.

Rhodiola has a stronger flavor, masking it can be tricky thus I recommend capsules adding it to a BBQ or steak sauce. 

Caution using Rhodiola if you’re taking blood pressure medications or antidepressants. 

It’s not uncommon for me to pair Rhodiola with Schisandra Berry, it’s my go-to for type-A work hard and play hard clients.

Schisandra Berry shines in the attitude adjustment department.

I use it for those who feel irritable, agitated and angry often.

It’s really helpful in cases of PMS and PMDD. 

I find it interesting that it’s spicy flavor mimics the spiciness of the person who’s needing it!

If you want to use Schisandra Berry in powder form, it pairs nicely with spicy salsa or BBQ.

I don’t recommend using Schisandra Berry with sedatives, prednisone or other immune suppressing medications.

Ginsengs paired with Cordyceps mushrooms are great for a focus and energy boost.

There are many drinks like MUD\WTR™ that have these things in them already. 

If you’re trying to cut down or get off of coffee consider these two adaptogens.

They both have mild flavors and can be easily added to smoothies, oatmeal or purchased as pre-made drink powders.

Ginsengs have the ability to interact with MAOI (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors) antidepressants, clotting medications such as warfarin as well as blood pressure medications and diuretics while mushrooms can interact with diabetes and blood thinning medications. 

I use licorice root for energy boosting when one is feeling depleted and has low cortisol

Plus it’s one of my go-to’s to support the digestive system lining as well as regulate estrogen production. 

The combination of licorice and peony root is a famous Chinese herbal formula that’s been used for thousands of years to regulate hormones and periods.

It’s best used in tea, tincture or capsule form due to it’s strong flavor.

Licorice root has quite a few drug interactions from blood pressure, cardiovascular medications, corticosteroids and estrogen hormone replacement, use with caution.

If you have elevated blood pressure but want to use licorice you’ll want to find a form that has had the glycyrrhizinic acid removed, aka DGL form.

I could write for days on adaptogenic herbs but this rounds out my favorites. 

If you want to add herbs to your daily regimen, it’s wise to consult with  medical practitioner that’s well versed in using herbal medicine, especially if you’re taking pharmaceutical medications.

Adaptogenic herbs can have an incredible effect on your overall health and it’s not uncommon for herbalists and naturopathic doctors to find a formula or mix a few together for you to get a synergistic effect.

If you’re up for testing out adaptogens on your own, I recommend trying them individually to fully evaluate their effect before mixing them together.

Enhancing your ability to adapt to life’s changes is crucial as stress is the trigger of most illness.

I take a mushroom blend in the morning, Holy Basil in the evenings and I add in Rhodiola after taxing hikes and workouts.

Herbal adaptogens are a great place to start if you’re wanting to optimize your health and how you feel. 

The next step up from adaptogens are nootropics and I’ll be writing about them next. 

Stay tuned!

Here’s to your health,

Dr. J

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