10 Adaptogen Herbs For Optimal Health

10 Adaptogen Herbs For Optimal Health

Adaptogens are one of my favorite class of medicinal herbs for supporting optimal health and increasing overall vitality.

Adaptogens are non-toxic herbs which can non-specifically enhance the human bodies resistance to stressors helping to maintain homeostasis.

Adaptogenic herbs have a multi-targeted and multi-channel network-like effect, especially by positively affecting the immune-neuro-endocrine system and the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis.

Each adaptogenic herb also has its own specific health benefits and unique characterisitics.

In no particular order, let me take you through ten of my favorite adaptogenic herbs and botanicals.

1. Schisandra Chinensis

Schisandra Chinensis Adaptogen

Schisandra chinensis is considered to be one of the top adaptogen herbs and has a long history of usage in traditional Chinese medicine(TCM).

Schisandra berry or Wu-Wei-Zi as its known in TCM, translates to the “the fruit of five tastes” in Chinese.

Schisandra is known as the “5 flavor fruit” because it stimulates the sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and pungent receptors of the tongue.

Schisandra has shown many biological activities in studies including adaptogenic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antiulcer, antioxidative, ergogenic, anti-depressant and hepatoprotective properties.

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2. Jiaogulan

Jiaogulan Gynostemma pentaphyllum Adaptogen Herb

Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is another of my favorite adaptogen herbs and has also been widely used in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of several diseases, including hepatitis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Jiaogulan is actually about 7 times richer in sterols than the popular adaptogen herb Panax Ginseng and is often significantly cheaper to purchase than quality Ginseng roots.

Jiaogulan also helps to lower cholesterol levels due to the high level of sterols.  Sterols help to dilate the blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure.  This also strengthens the heart and prevents arrhythmias by decreasing cardiac irritability.

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3. Maca Root

Maca Root Adaptogen

Maca (Lepidium meyenii) also commonly referred to as “Peruvian Ginseng” and is an edible herbaceous biennial plant of the family Brassicaceae that is native to South America in the high Andes mountains of Peru.

Traditionally Maca has been used for centuries as an aphrodisiac and to improve sexual function and enhance fertility.

Maca root is a good source of essential amino acids, fatty acids, dietary fiber and micro-nutrients such as vitamin C, copper, iron, and calcium.

Research has found that maca root can potentially help treat sexual dysfunction, boost libido and have a number of positive effects on reproductive function.

The studies demonstrate that Maca has high effectiveness in improving sexual function, increasing libido and improving erectile dysfunction; also helps reproductive health, increasing sperm count and sperm motility, enhances the anticancer action, favorable effects on menopause symptoms and improves inflammatory responses. [2]

4. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha Root Adaptogen Herbs

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) or “Indian Ginseng” as its popularly known is another potent adaptogen herb that has been used for centuries in the traditional Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine and is prescribed by herbalists as a Rasayana (tonic).

Ashwagandha is a good choice of adaptogen when a calming agent is needed such as in anxiety disorders.

Ashwagandha has shown GABA-mimetic activity in studies and has a mild tranquilizing effect.

Modern clinical research has confirmed that Ashwagandha exerts adaptogenic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-stress/cortisol reduction, anxiolytic, neuroprotective, and thyroid hormone modulating properties.

5. Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea Adaptogen Herb Stress

Rhodiola rosea (R. rosea) is a flowering biennial grown in high latitude and altitude regions of the world in the arctic and mountainous regions throughout Europe, Asia and North America.

Rhodiola Rosea L. has been traditionally used as an “adaptogen” for enhancing physical and mental performance and fighting stress in healthy population for centuries. [3]

Recent studies have revealed Rhodiola Rosea exerts a wide variety of biological activities which include anti-aging, anti-fatigue, anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, antioxidant, anti-viral and anti-cancer effects, as well as increasing immunity, enhancing DNA repair and modulating adaptation to hypoxia and angiogenesis.

6. Holy Basil (Tulsi)

Tulsi Holy Basil Adaptogen Herb

Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) also known as “Holy Basil” is an aromatic herb indigenous to the Indian continent and a very important plant within the Ayurvedic medicinal system.

Holy Basil is considered to be another potent adaptogen herb with a number of health benefits including broad-spectrum anti-microbial activity, immunomodulatory, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective and metabolic/anti-diabetic effects.

The three common varities of Tulsi include Rama or Sri tulsi (green leaves) and Krishna or Shyama tulsi (purplish leaves) and Vana or wild/forest tulsi (dark green leaves).

The studies suggest tulsi is an effective treatment for lifestyle-related chronic diseases including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and psychological stress. [5]

7. Suma Root (Brazilian Ginseng)

Suma Root Brazilian Ginseng Adaptogen Herbs

Suma root (Pfaffia paniculata) is a herbaceous vine commonly grown in Brazil and other parts of South America.

Suma is also commonly referred to as “Brazilian Ginseng” despite not being related to the Ginseng species, due to its adaptogenic effects.

Suma is the richest herbal source of organic germanium (Ge-132), which helps the cells to utilize oxygen more efficiently.

The rich content of Ge132 may be one of the reasons why Suma is considered to have anti-cancer properties traditionally and in clinical research.

8. Reishi Mushroom

Reishi Mushroom Adaptogen

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) or Lingzhi is a medicinal mushroom with a long history of use for promoting health and longevity especially in Asian countries.

Research has found that Reishi mushroom has many biological activities and health benefits including adaptogenic, control of blood glucose levels, modulation of the immune system, hepatoprotection and potential anti-cancer properties.

Studies suggest Ganoderma could be administered as an adjunct to conventional treatment to enhance the tumor response and stimulate host immunity. [7]

Recommended Product: Full Spectrum Duanwood Reishi Mushroom (Dual Extraction) Extract Powder – Wild Cultivated by Navi Organics

9. Astragalus

Astragalus Adaptogen Herbs

Astragalus (Radix Astragali, huang qi) is one of the most popular adaptogenic tonic herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and has a long history of medicinal usage.

The major components of Astragalus membranaceus are polysaccharides, flavonoids, and saponins.

Pharmacological research indicates that the extract component of Astragalus membranaceus can increase telomerase activity, and has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunoregulatory, anticancer, hypolipidemic, antihyperglycemic, hepatoprotective, expectorant, and diuretic effects. [8]

10. Korean Red Ginseng (Panax Ginseng)

Korean Red Ginseng Adaptogen

Korean Red Ginseng and the Panax Ginseng species are probably the most well known of all the adaptogen herbs.

Traditionally Red Ginseng has been used to restore/increase energy and well-being, enhance sexual function, boost the immune system and support overall vitality.

Out of all the various adaptogenic herbs, Korean Red Ginseng I would say is the most energizing and stimulating from my own experiences.

Modern clinical research has also found that Korean Red Ginseng may be an effective adjunctive alternative for erectile dysfunction.

References

[1] Potential of Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill. in Human Health and Nutrition: A Review of Current Knowledge and Therapeutic Perspectives

[2] Systematic Review On The Use Of Maca (Lepidium Meyenii) In Sexual Dysfunction

[3] Rhodiola rosea L.: an herb with anti-stress, anti-aging, and immunostimulating properties for cancer chemoprevention

[4] Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons

[5] The Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Tulsi in Humans: A Systematic Review of the Literature

[6] Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi) – A Medicinal Mushroom – Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.

[7] Ganoderma: A Cancer Immunotherapy Review

[8] Anti-Aging Implications of Astragalus Membranaceus (Huangqi): A Well-Known Chinese Tonic

[9] Red ginseng for treating erectile dysfunction: a systematic review

The information in this article has not been evaluated by the FDA and should not be used to diagnose, cure or treat any disease, implied or otherwise.

Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any significant dietary or lifestyle changes including supplements and herbs.



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