An adaptogen is an herb that is used to increase the body's resistance to stress, trauma, anxiety and fatigue. The concept of adaptogens dates back thousands of years to ancient India and China, but modern study of this amazing class of herbs did not begin until the late 1940s. In 1947, adaptogens were defined as agents that allow the body to counter adverse physical, chemical, or biological stressors by raising nonspecific resistance toward such stress. This nonspecific response in the body allows the organism to "adapt" to stressful circumstances. Adaptogens are nontoxic in normal doses, produce a general defensive response against stress, and have a normalizing influence on the body. Adaptogens balance the systems of the body (maintain homeostasis), irrespective of the direction of change from physiological norms caused by the stressor.
In addition to protecting the body from the harmful effects of stress, adaptogens can help to decrease the feeling of being stressed-out and increase the feeling of well-being. Adaptogens can increase stamina and strength, and also help to shorten recovery period after physical exertion. One might notice an increased level of concentration and work capacity resulting from taking adaptogenic herbs. Due to the antioxidant content, adaptogens are anti-inflammatory, and improve circulation. Adaptogens can even increase sexual potency!
Adaptogens used in Traditional Chinese Medicine include: Cordyceps, Reishi, Gynostemma, Goji berries, and Schizandra Berries. Those used in the Ayurveda Medical System of India include Holy Basil and Ashwaghanda. Gotu kola has been used for thousands of years in both systems. Other adaptogenic substances include Siberian ginseng, also known as eleuthero, rhodiola, and maca, a South American root vegetable. The list of herbs with adaptogenic qualities is incredible. This is just a small sampling of the most widely used and studied adaptogens available.
Goji berries are not only adaptogenic, but also incredibly delicious, and an amazing longevity food. Gojis are loaded with nutrients and powerful Antioxidants. Goji berries are 13 % protein and contain 18 Amino Acids. They contain more Beta Carotene than carrots and more Iron than spinach. Goji berries contain 21 trace minerals essential to human health and contain 500 times more Vitamin C by weight than oranges. They are also loaded with Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamins B1, B2, B6, and Vitamin E.
Maca is a root vegetable similar to a radish that has a long history of use in South America. As an adaptogen, maca improves the user's sense of physical and emotional well being. Maca provides increased physical energy, and stamina without being over-stimulating and continued use increases mental clarity and focus. This superfood balances hormones by supporting the endocrine system and has been shown to aid in the treatment of symptoms associated with menopause. Maca is known to provide nutritional support for healthy fertility and can even increase libido and sexual functioning in both men and women.
Cordyceps mushrooms are a prized tonic herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine used for increasing longevity and improving endurance, stamina, and reducing fatigue. Taking cordyceps can strengthen the immune system, increase cellular energy, and increase nutrient absorption. Cordyceps can strengthen and tonify the cardiovascular and respiratory systems of the body. Taking codyceps can increase cellular detoxification, improve memory, and even increase libido and sexual performance.
Recommended reading: <br>
Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress <br>
by David Winston and Steven Maimes
For more information on maca, goji berries, and cordyceps, visit:
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Erin Brennan is a Raw Foods Chef and the owner of Living Bliss, a company based out of Louisville, KY which provides fresh and delicious raw and living whole foods. Erin is passionate about teaching and practicing yoga, holistic health, herbs, healing arts, spending time in nature, and creating beautiful art.
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