The discovery and use of adaptogens in modern science is a relatively new in context to the use of these medicinals in traditional herbal medicines such as Chinese medicine and Ayurveda medicine for thousands of years. Adaptagens simply put,
- Help the body balance out and reduce the internal physiological and psychological stress triggers.
- Adapagens help to normalize your physiology in response to change, for example, if your immune system is auto-immune (running too high) adaptagens will slow it down, if it's too low they will pick it up. They are a two directional normaliser and a modulator.
- Adaptagens do not negatively affect the homeostasis of the body, they are innocuous and do not influence normal body functions more than required.
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) views stress and our internal survival system as an ever-evolving balance in the body systems. Adaptagens maintain a balance between excess and deficiency of our physiological system (yin yang theory). Being an adaptogen is only one aspect of the individual herb. Each herb has its own functions alongside being an adaptagen, for example;
Turmeric used as an adaptogen in Western and Eastern Medicine
In Western medicine Turmeric
will reduce the severity of your innate defence mechanisms by;
- Controlling the immune system by controlling the liver and the way your nervous system responds to stress by reducing the severity of the stress trigger
- Reduces and controls inflammation
- Reduce Blood Lipids
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces platelet aggregation
In Chinese medicine turmeric (Yu Jin) has been used since the Tang dynasty (618-907) primarily for;
- Blood and Qi circulation (reducing pain and inflammation from trauma, chest, menstrual and flank pain, increase healing),
- Ease the mind (calm anxiety, heart palpitations and wandering thoughts)
- Remove stagnation of undigested foods by increasing the release of bile.
- Turmeric is a cooling herb, reducing heat toxicity in the blood
Functions of other Adaptogen herbs
Tulsi (Holy Basil); Adaptogen, aphrodisiac and liver supporter, anti-oxidant, anti - anxiety. Ashwagandha / Withania; Supports the parasympathetic nervous system, Acetylcholine esterace inhibitor (sleep quality, digestion, detox short term memory, concentration, recovery, meditation), building up the chemical which has the opposite effect to stress.
Shisandra; Antioxidant, protects the liver, tonifies the nervous system, commonly used in Chinese medicine to reduce anxiety, calm the mind, whilst still being able to increase endurance and energy and libido. Rhodiola (Hong Jing Tian); more sedative adaptagen, reduces the adrenal crash, reduces the affects of palpitations and anxiety often caused by excessive adrenal output. Rhodiola “enhances the transport of the serotonin precursors, tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5HTP), into the brain. This promotes the secretion of beta-endorphins by the brain and thus promotes a feeling of mental ease and contentment”
The paradigm shift in thinking about health
Viewing the body as a microcosm of the macrocosm. Adaptagens work with the individual bringing harmony to core physiological mechanisms, as opposed to being a symptomatic based treatment. They affect the individual in accordance to what the individual system is requiring. For example, the same herb (given in the same form) can have two different effects for two different people, depending on the individuals need of the plant. A person with fatigue due to adrenal burnout can take an adaptagen and it will increase their energy, a person with hyperactivity can take that same herb and it will subdue their energy. Our understanding of the negative effects of using “straight jacket” type pharmaceutical approach is turning our exploration and practices in modern medicine to a holistic approach. Unifying the traditional application of herbs with modern pharmacopeia. Adaptagens are a ‘do no harm’ approach to healing. When looking at the microcosm as a reflection of the macrocosm, Immunity creates friction and differentiation (the continual flux of yin and yang). Adaptation creates unity (the source of yang within yin and yin within yang). Immunity is often generated by will and attack mechanisms whereas adaptation is often generated by love, cohesion. Immunity is about polarized individual and adaptation is about unifying our community, our Biota, both are needed for harmony. By using herbal anti-stress adaptogens we are increasing our core vitality and integrity beyond immunity, increasing our systemic resilience to stress and stressors, and amplifying our ability to accept, allow and adapt to stressors. This is key to returning, as vehicles of consciousness, to the inner/individual and outer/collective health that we all want for ourselves, and our loved ones, including this good Earth.