The term “adaptogen” comes from Dr. Nikolai Lazarev, a Russian Scientist, who first transpired the term in 1947. Adaptogens are unique and all natural substances used in herbal medicine – the word “Adapt” means to change something to provide a new purpose and meaning, “adaptogens” just enhance substances to help the body become more “normal” or “balanced”.
In order words, adaptogens can protect us by improving our body’s ability to adapt to stress, whether it’s a hectic schedule, heat or cold, noise, high altitudes or any number of other stressors. This class of herbs provide strength, energy, stamina, endurance and also improve mental clarity.
In Western Herbal Medicine, adaptogens are used extensively in high-risk, fast reflex occupations; from athletes to miners to deep sea drives. As a herbalist, adaptogens are used often in almost all our formulas, as we believe everyone has a certain degree of stress in their life which interrupts the whole healing progress.
With the scientific data to back these natural wonders, adaptogens are fast becoming one of the most popular herbs to take, due to the stressful modern lifestyle. Nowadays, people opt for something from nature instead of using pharmaceuticals for healing.
Based on the formal definition, adaptogens must meet the following criteria:
- Adaptogens must be safe to the body.
- Adaptogens work by reducing your body's response to stress.
- Adaptogens can support overall health by helping the body achieve balance, known as homeostasis.
Interestingly, most adaptogens are plants based, growing in very stressful conditions which contribute to their strength and adaptability. It is these characteristics that make them so powerful.
Top 5 Adaptogens Native To Asia
1. Ashwagandha (Withania somniferous)
Ashwagandha is known to be the most calming adaptogen and most nourishing for our nervous system. Ashwagandha has historically been used in Ayurvedic medicine as a strengthening and rejuvenating tonic for all forms of weaknesses, fatigue and convalescing.
In Tibetan and South African traditional medicine,Ashwagandha is regarded as a general and nervine tonic, and improves sleep. It is said to provide fresh energy and vigour for a system worn out by any diseases, strengthens the nerves and promotes restful sleep.
Modern science has shown that Ashwagandha has adaptogenic capabilities, increasing the resistance of the body to stressors and also revitalises the body. The key active constituent is known to be withanolides. In clinical trials, it has also shown some additional health benefits such as improved haemoglobin levels in the body and reduced stress and anxiety in those with chronic stress.
It is a very gentle and calming adaptogen that is especially suitable for anyone who easily has nervous breakdowns, great for ladies, the elderly and kids. If you think ginseng is too much for you, go for Ashwagandha.
Generally, you may takeAshwagandha in a supplement form or in the liquid herbal extract form. For stress relief and increased energy, the therapeutic dosage is from 1g-3g per day, which provides you about 20-40mg of withanolides.
Licorice is known to be the best solution for regular fatigue and a leaky gut. It can also be traditionally described as an adrenal tonic and is indicated for primary adrenocortical insufficiency and Addison’s disease (an adrenal disease characterised by the destruction of the adrenal cortex). It is one of the major herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, as it is has a nourishing effect and tonifies the “Qi”. It is useful for those who are fatigued from work, stress and suffer from weakness from diseases, loss appetite and unexplained weight loss.
Licorice also has some health benefits for gut. It helps to reduce heartburn, is anti-inflammatory, and will form a protective lining that helps to heal and seal the gut. Modern science has found that licorice contains glycyrrhizin, which acts similarly to cortisone in our body — thus making it a natural adrenal restorative agent.
However, licorice needs to be used cautiously. Avoid consuming in massive doses, as the glycyrrhizin may increase the blood pressure if overdosed over a long period of time.
Dosage: 3-6g/day, as a tea or add it to soup.
3. Korean Ginseng
Korean Ginseng is a popular herb in both oriental and Western herbal medicine, used as a secret ingredient for longevity and well-being. It is used as a tonic indicated for physical or mental exhaustion and is great for men and women who suffer from adrenal depletion. It is also thought to enhance performance for athletes and improve general well-being in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. The key constituent ginsenosides, is particularly important for therapeutic activity. The ratio of ginsenosides Rg1 to ginsenoside Rb1 being greater than 0.5 is accepted as the market of quality.
Korean Ginseng is a powerful apoptogenic herb, it has the ability to enhance the body’s nonspecific resistance to stress. Of the many adaptogens, Korean Ginseng helps the body adapt to stress through regulation of the endocrine and immune system via the hypothalamic-pituitary axis. Studies shown that 0.2g of Korean Ginseng dried root per day can helps to reduce mental and physical stress and fatigue.
Contraindicated in hypertension, pregnancy, oedema, and not to be prescribed for elderly patients with cardiac and renal disease. Best not to used during acute infection.
4. Schisandra (Chinese: Wu Wei Zi )
Used in Chinese Medicine for more than 2000 years, Schisandra is China’s most potent medicinal berry and is grown on woody, climbing vines in the cool subtropical forests of China. It is known to be a potent general tonic, which helps decrease fatigue, enhance physical and mental performance, and promote endurance.
Schisandra has astounding health benefits and is a potent adaptogen. It supports brain function by improving concentration and memory, and is also a strong liver tonic that can help prevent liver damage. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, can improve heart function, and gives the body lots of antioxidant making it a great anti-aging herb.
Amazingly, Schisandra berries (sometimes spelled with a “z”) feature all five of the taste senses at once: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and pungent. Due to the unique taste, it is not recommended to put Schisandra berries in yogurt, unlike goji berries. It is often consumed in the form of a tea, pill or a liquid extract.
Dosage: Schisandra extract standardised to 20 mg lignan content (equivalent to 1.5 grams crude schisandra) given daily. For improving mental and physical performance: 500 mg to 2 grams of schisandra extract daily or 1.5-6 grams of crude schisandra daily. 5-15 grams daily of a boiled tea made from crude Schisandra can also be consumed, however this medicinal berry should not be taken during an acute infection.
Astragalus is native to northern China, and had been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 4000 years, having been extensively researched in modern science. It is known as a powerful adaptogen, or Qi-tonic, recommended for chronic weakness, fatigue, low immunity, and to enhance energy.
Astragalus is a good source of selenium, an antioxidant and immune system stimulant. The main constituents of Astragalus include polysaccharides, saponins, flavonoids, amino acids, trace elements, and minerals include zinc, manganese, calcium, potassium etc.
Astragalus strengthens and raises metabolism and digestion, aids in strengthening the immune system, and is used in the healing of wounds and injuries. It also enhances energy and is useful for people with weak and tired legs. It promotes the metabolism of serum and liver proteins, stimulates growth of antibodies, increases white blood cells, and thus increases resistance to viruses, helping prevent bacterial and viral infections. Taken as a tonic, Astragalus is believed to build stamina and vitality. Adaptogens help normalise the functioning of various body systems by affecting the action of hormones.
You can get the dried sliced root from the Chinese grocery shop, simmer a handful of the slices in a quart of water for 30 minutes and have a refreshing tasty beverage best used between meals. The usual daily dose varies from 2 to 30g or more of the dried root; although large doses appear to be safe. Capsules containing 150-500 mg are commonly marketed, to be taken from twice to as often as 8 or 9 times a day as needed; tinctures and fluid extracts are also available.
Astragalus is safe for most adults when taken appropriately by mouth. Doses of up to 30 grams/day by mouth for 3 months. People who suffer from any auto-immune disease such as multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis should use this adaptogen with extreme caution.
Note: certain herbs may cayse different interactions with different groups of pharmaceutical drugs. Consult your doctor before using this herb. If you are currently on medication, incorporating this herb can be very ideal for your general wellbeing.