The Quantum Lotus: Brief Primer on Adaptogenic Herbs for Health, Fitness & Athletics
In our evolution, stress was a crucial part of our survival. "Fight or Flight" wasn't just a cute description-it usually meant kill or be killed, to the best of our knowledge.
The difference between this and modern times is that once the cause of stress (predator) had gone on its merry way, it was back to business as usual-feed and breed, rest & digest, rest & restore, etc.-chillin'. Today's 'predators' are things like getting cut off in traffic, a work deadline, FOMO (fear of missing out), tripping out while waiting for a text reply, etc. Worse? It never goes on its merry way and retreats-or we don't let it, rather.
You see, acute stress its good. Working out is a good stressor of the body, from which it has to adapt to grow stronger. But chronic stress is quite negative and is one of the foremost drivers of issues relating to health, quality of life, etc. The biopsychosocial tie-ins between our biology, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, basically. These issues can include compromised immune function, suppressed digestion, hormonal fluctuations, methylation issues, etc.
If the body is ALWAYS focused on defense, some of these less pressing functions get compromised. Remember, when your nervous system is in a sympathetic state (fight or flight), it doesn't know the distance between running from a bear or a backlogged work e-mail. This prolonged stress results in a disruption of our internal homeostasis.
Proper diet, sleep, fulfilling relationships, pursuing passions, a healthy environment, and mindfulness practice (like meditation) are your main lines of defense, but if you overreach for too long to the point of exhaustion, the fundamentals may not be sufficient. Enter adaptogens.
Adaptogenic herbs have been fringe in the West for some time, but are now getting embraced further. The idea of adaptogens is an ancient one-many Rasayanas of India's Ayurvedic Medicine and the Qi Tonics of Chinese Medicine are all known as adaptogens in the parlance of our times (the word was first coined in 1947 by Soviet scientist Dr. Nikolai Lazarev). It refers to their ability to 'pivot' within the body, meaning their benefits can adapt to the unique needs of the individual's biological imbalances.
Adaptogens are classified as non-toxic, safe for long-term use (not that you have to use them in that fashion), and produce nonspecific actions in the body that promotes resilience to stress of various types, including mental/emotional, physical, and environmental. These botanicals have a stabilizing effect on the body, aiding it in a move towards homeostasis upon its intervention.
Potential Stress Causes
- Mental/Emotional/Spiritual (negative self-talk, anxiety, FOMO, anger, life purpose search, etc.)
- Physical Stress (over work, poor sleep, poor diet, overtraining, lack of exercise, etc.).
- Environmental (EMF's, excess blue light exposure, lack of sunlight, heavy metal contamination, mold, issues with food sourcing, mold, etc.)
Common Adaptogenic Herbs
- He Sho Wu/Fo Ti works on the kidneys (one of the body's batteries) and the adrenal glands. Your adrenals are part of the endocrine system and sit above the kidneys. They create and store important chemicals and hormones that help the body cope with stress. Prolonged stress exhausts these and can lead to fatigue. The adrenals can also decline with age, with an additional concern being that they can 'borrow' energy and nutrients from other organ systems in the body, concurrently promoting their decline. He Sho Wu provides balance and restoration for the adrenals, helping the body adapt to stress, thereby providing more energy and helping you feel good.
- Reishi was revered in China as an immortality herb and immune booster. This mushroom helps prevent and repair damaged caused to cells by inflammation and insults to the body. Reishi also has helped those with insomnia and anxiety, while also promoting resistance against numerous health concerns or diseases.
- Cordycepts are a type of fungi that have been grown in various places (from Himalayan caterpillars to soybeans). Cordycepts are a tonic for fatigue that provide requisite benefits to circulation, aerobic activity (athletes), and enhance energy. It has also been used as a therapeutic for libido, impotence, kidney health, and in tumor reduction.
- Rhodiola, grown at high altitude, is known as a whole-health herb, supporting both immune function and longevity. It can help with stress-driven physical and mental fatigue, including aiding those with anxiety, depression, thyroid issues, adrenal compromises, and lung deficits. Other benefits and uses include memory function, brain health, blood circulation, and longevity promotion. It's commonly used for athletes for enhanced endurance and recovery properties.
- Ashwagandha has commonly been used to combat stress, fatigue, lack of energy, and concentration difficulties. It has many therapeutic uses and benefits, including immune system protection, combating of the consequences of stress, reaction time improvement (athletes), cognitive enhancement, anxiety & depression quelling, reduction in brain-cell degeneration, blood sugar stabilization, cholestrol-lowering, anti-inflammatory, sexual function (giggity), and anti-malarial properties.
The Bio-Puppeteer: Summary
While there are probably enough side topics and applications to warrant multiple posts involving adaptogens, let this serve as an overview. You might have noticed a common theme being that many of these reported issues and benefits relate to one another. It's true-many of these systems are linked, so conceptualize it like this: traffic in one area of a freeway exchange is probably going to cause traffic elsewhere. Western Medicine commonly takes a reductionist view of issues without treating the body as a whole. The reality is that many of these systems are connected and benefits (or issues) can cause other downstream effects. Don't let your stress become a puppeteer of your various health systems in your body.
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