What are adaptogenic herbs, and what are they good for? Can they be a part of the Kaufmann Lifestyle?
Many herbs are known to have medicinal properties, and a number of these have been used for millennia for a variety of health problems. As our understanding of biochemistry expands, some of the herbs are being validated for their use in treating a variety of health concerns.
Among the biggest concerns facing people today is the level of stress in their life. Stress is a normal part of life, and stress hormones serve beneficial, natural purposes in our bodies. For example, hormones like adrenaline are beneficial in life or death situations, heightening our senses, strength and endurance in intense situations.
The problem becomes that the kind of stress our bodies are supposed to deal with––acute, life or death situations––are not the norm for most humans anymore. Instead, the kind of stress most people deal with is chronic, low level stress brought on by our overstimulated, overworked and fast paced lifestyle. This type of stress increases cortisol levels and has been shown to have very real, physically damaging properties within the body. Knowing that, it is no wonder stress is linked to many health problems, including cancer, heart disease and many others.
Ultimately, mitigating stress and dealing with it in a healthy way is key to experience good health in the long run. Many people turn to drugs and alcohol, unhealthy eating, or decompressing in front a TV or other screens to deal with stress. These tools for coping with stress have their own negative side effects, and while some are ok in moderation, these should not be our regular, first line of defense against stress.
Fortunately, there numerous healthy ways to cope with stress that should be employed regularly. First, is to take active steps to reduce your stress levels. This could mean spending less time at work, or cutting off toxic relationships. Ultimately, it is important to remember what is important, and take active steps to mitigate your exposure to stress.
Since we all do have stress regardless of how much we work to reduce our exposure to it, other healthy ways of reducing stress include things like:
- Regular exercise
- Getting enough deep, restful sleep
- Taking time to be quiet, meditate or pray regularly
- Participating in a hobby or some sort of enjoyable activity
- Taking vacation time
All of these are important tools for maintaining health stress levels, but we do have one final tool to use in dealing with stress: adaptogenic herbs.
Adaptogenic herbs are known to work on a molecular level to mitigate the physical effects of stress. While there are a number of herbs thought to be adaptogenic, there are three that have been well studied for safety and efficacy. Rhodiola rosea or arctic root is indigenous to cold climates in Europe and Asia. It is best used during the day, as it is beneficial for warding off stress-induced fatigue. Schisandra is an adaptogen; it is also beneficial for the liver and for promoting healthy blood sugar levels. Siberian Ginseng is different from the ginseng most are familiar with, but it useful in fighting depression and stress.
All of these herbs are likely available at your local health food store. If you struggle with stress and associate problems, such as fatigue, depression or feeling “burned out”, adaptogenic herbs are one more tool you have available to help cope with stress. It is important to remember that adaptogenic herbs are likely most effective in the context of an overall health plan, including diet (such as The Kaufmann Diet), exercise, sufficient rest and other stress-mitigating tools. Always consult your doctor as some herbs can interfere with medications.