Adaptogen is a term that you may have heard but, what exactly is an "adaptogen"? Technically speaking, adaptogens are medicinal plants, unaltered from nature which are well known in the world of herbalists and back in times when we relied on nature to remedy our many ails. Adaptogens have a remarkable ability to balance and stabilize the body by strengthening the hormonal, immune, cardiovascular, nervous, and muscular systems in order to bring the body back into homeostasis. They provide us with natural remedies for anxiety. As Western medicine peaked in the last century, we had forgotten about the powerful effects of adaptogens on our bodies. However, today, many of us are returning back to old remedies and are using these tonic agents.
Adaptogenic substances know intuitively what and how to target specific areas of the body that need them the most. They provide energy but do not overstimulate the body, they are non-toxic, they have no side effects, and they improve one's overall vitality. Their name, "adaptogens", comes mainly due to their ability to help the body adapt to environmental and internal stress or trauma whether it be from a physical, chemical or biological source. Is there anybody who could not benefit?
Many of these adaptogens are widely available and come from all parts of the world. Here are some examples that are easy to include in your regime. I urge you to continue with your own research since the benefits listed below are just the tip of the iceberg!
A cruciferous vegetable that grows in the Peruvian Andes of South America at altitudes of up to 14, 000 feet above sea level. Maca is known for its beneficial effects on fertility, hormonal balance, and libido. Since Maca does have beneficial hormone effects in the body, people who are at higher risk of breast or prostate cancer are cautioned against its use since it could raise some of the hormones that also place these people at higher risk.
2. Goji Berries
A bright red berry that grows abundantly in Asia, North and Central America in vast climates, the Chinese believe goji berries significantly extend life. They are an immune booster, increase alkalinity and vitality, protect the liver, improve the eyes and blood, and deliver anti-aging benefits.
3. Reishi Mushroom
Originally found in nature on plum trees, they were extremely rare and only consumed by royalty in China and Japan for thousands of years. Today, the reishi is widely cultivated in Japan, China, North America, and other parts of Asia. Reishi is primarily used to enhance the immune system and improve blood circulation.
A remarkable herb used in history for various health purposes. Its main uses are to strengthen the nervous system, fight depression, enhance immunity, boost energy, improve memory, aid in weight reduction, and increase sexual function.
A root that has a variety of types including Siberian, Korean, and American. It was documented being used in China over 2000 years ago. Healers have used it as a tonic to cure lethargy, arthritis, impotence, diabetes, and to calm the mind. Ginseng is also known to be one of the most effective anti-aging supplements.
A potato-sized fruit that grows from a tall perennial evergreen tree. It has a peculiar odor and is sometimes referred to as the "cheese fruit." The juice is consumed and used as a pain killer, laxative, wound healer, immune strengthener, and anti-inflammatory agent. It helps lower blood pressure, treat arthritic and joint pain, levels of blood sugar, and increases energy.
The sweet-flavored root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant that resembles plain wooden sticks. It is used to nourish the adrenal glands, for auto-immune conditions, to treat viruses (particularly herpes), for ulcers, and for digestive troubles.
8. Holy Basil
Also known as tulsi, it is an aromatic plant native to the Old World tropics. In Ayurveda, it is dubbed the "elixir of life" and believed to promote longevity. It is excellent for coping with stress, helping immunity, stomach disorders, and heart disease.
The root of a short, flower-bearing shrub cultivated in the drier regions of India. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine as an aphrodisiac, sedative, rejuvenating, and life-prolonging herb. It is used in treating chronic fatigue, nervous exhaustion, and weaknesses in the body.
A medicinal mushroom that has a parasitic relationship with the larva of a caterpillar. This fungus germinates inside the living organism, killing it and then growing from its body. It is highly prized by Eastern practitioners and very new to the West. Chinese studies reveal cordyceps to improve the immune system, increase the production of sex hormones, improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, reduce fatigue, as well as building physical endurance and strength.
Many of these adaptogens are familiar in the raw food world and used in smoothies and various elixirs. Add them into your day and find your balance!
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Image (Holy Basil): Thangaraj Kumaravel