Adaptogenic is a word that is used in relation to healing herbs. Adaptogenic herbs or adaptogens are herbs which increase the human body’s own unique ability to resist a variety of stressors whether they be physical, emotional, biological or environmental. The term “Adaptogenic” was coined by a Russian scientist by the name of Dr. Nikolai Lazarev in 1947 although knowledge of Adaptogenic substances dates back to ancient India and China and is thousands of years old. Scientific research studies did not begin on adaptogens until the latter part of the 1940s. Dr. Lazarev defined an Adaptogenic herb as being “an agent that allows the body to counter adverse physical, chemical, or biological stressors by raising nonspecific resistance toward such stress, thus allowing the organism to ‘adapt’ to the stressful circumstances.” The name derives from the word adapt because it is a substance that adapts to many different kinds of stressors.
An adaptogen is a natural herb that is very beneficial to the body in many ways but is particularly good at fighting extreme fatigue, anxiety and any number of traumas that occur in the human body. It is important to note that all Adaptogenic herbs contain plenty of antioxidants however antioxidants in and of themselves are not Adaptogenic herbs as the job of being an antioxidant is not their number one function in the body. Adaptogenic herbs are also sometimes referred to as restoratives, rejuvenating herbs, rasayanas and qi tonics.
Adaptogenic herbs are in a class all of their own because they are different from any other substance due to the fact that they are not only able to strengthen the immune system but they are able to help balance the immune system with the endocrine hormones and they also help to keep the optimal homeostasis of the body where it should be.
The majority of Adaptogenic herbs are widely used in either Ayurveda medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Adaptogenic herbs are generally broken down into three categories, which include Ayurvedic herbs, Chinese herbs and Western herbs. The Ayurvedic herbs include Amla, Ashwagandha, Guduchi, Holy Basil, Licorice, Shatavari and Shilajit. The Chinese herbs include Asian Ginseng, Astralagus, Codonopsis, Cordyceps, Eleuthero, He Shou Wu, Jiaogulan, Licorice. Lycium, Prince Seng, Reishi and Schisandra. There are only three Western herbs and these include AMERICAN GINSENG, Rhaponticum and Rhodiola.
There are many foods that are considered to be Adaptogenic functional foods as well as whole food supplements which help to encourage the body’s level of adaptability such as aloe vera, noni and maitake mushrooms, among others. These foods contain a special collection of nutrient, which the body recognizes as helpful substances. The body then is able to absorb the Adaptogenic herb and to provide a steady stream of nutrients which can bring abut a strong, well functioning immune system and a balanced system. Many herbalists believe that sickness and disease are caused by the imbalance of the body’s systems. Vitamins and mineral supplements that are standardized and chelated provide some of the required Adaptogenic herbs but not enough which is why whole food supplements are so essential. It is much simpler for the body to digest, absorb and make use of the nutrients it obtains from whole food adaptogens than it is from vitamin and mineral supplement alone.
An Adaptogenic whole food supplement or an Adaptogenic functional food is a non-toxic food that does not necessitate a prescription and does not become habit forming in the way many drugs do. An Adaptogenic whole food supplement provides a beneficial way of normalizing the chemistry of the body to bring it to its optimum level.
An Adaptogenic whole food supplement helps the body deal with all types of stress be it physical stress, stress related to imbalance on the body, emotional stress and pollution from the environment. The unique aspect of an Adaptogenic substance is that it is able to ward off sickness before it first takes up residence in the body, which makes it a form of preventative medicine. This is very different from Western medicine in which drugs are administered to a patient to attack the symptoms of a health problem after a person has become ill. Adaptogens are unique in that they do not just afford benefits to the body when they are taken but also for a sustained span of time and they become more active in the body when they are needed the most.
Adaptogenic herbs are a form of “herbal coping” that are effective in helping individuals deal with stress in a variety of ways. As previously mentioned, adaptogens provide antioxidant action in the body as well as antitoxin activity and protection of the liver. Adaptogens help to support the proper metabolism of blood sugar and they improve the work of the immune system. Energy and stamina is increased thanks to the work of adaptogens and there is improved muscle tone and more strength in the body overall. Adaptogens afford a better ability to focus and concentrate on tasks and they provide improved sleep patterns, improved moods and less anxiety and irritability. Consuming adaptogens on a regular basis means that a person will have a strong feeling of health and well –being and will recover faster from illnesses. But that is not all- adaptogens cause a higher level of motivation as well as productivity and decrease the craving for both sugar and alcohol.
Considered to be the number one Adaptogenic herb or the “gold standard” of all adaptogens is red ginseng that hails from Asia. This form of ginseng is referred to as Chinese ginseng, Japanese ginseng or Korean ginseng. Other Adaptogenic herbs that are high on the list include Siberian ginseng, white AMERICAN GINSENG, suma and ashwaganda.
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