Dr. Anderson’s Favorite Adaptogens

When you think of Adaptogens, think of these three S words: Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief!

To qualify as an Adaptogen, an herb must be completely safe and non-toxic, it must have broad uses for health, and it must specifically reduce stress, both mental and physical. To put it simply: Adaptogens help you adapt. By tonifying and rejuvenating the entire adrenal system, they promote the healthy regulation of cortisol, the “stress hormone.”

Adaptogens greatly improve your body’s ability to adapt to stressors, from a hectic schedule or rush hour traffic to extreme temperatures and high altitudes. This elite class of herbs impart strength, energy, stamina, endurance, and they improve mental clarity. In many parts of the non-western world Adaptogens are used extensively in high-risk, fast-reflex occupations, from athletes to miners to deep sea divers.

Ashwagandha: For exhaustion from physical and/or mental strain.

Of all the medicinal plants used in India’s several millennia old tradition of Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is the most highly prized. It is used to help increase vitality, energy, endurance and stamina, promote longevity, and strengthen the immune system. Today, herbalists often recommend it for people with high blood pressure, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and impotence associated with anxiety or exhaustion. It enhances endocrine function, especially the thyroid and adrenals.

Astragalus: The Immune Defender

Astragalus has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. It was often combined with other herbs to strengthen the body against disease. Astragalus may help protect the body from diseases such as cancer and diabetes. It contains antioxidants, which protect cells against damage. Astragalus is used to protect and support the immune system, preventing colds and upper respiratory infections, lowering blood pressure, treating diabetes, and protecting the liver. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, studies have shown that astragalus has antiviral properties and stimulates the immune system, suggesting that it may help prevent colds. U.S. researchers have looked at astragalus as a possible treatment for people whose immune systems have been weakened by chemotherapy or radiation. In these studies, astragalus supplements seem to help people recover faster and live longer.

Eleuthero: For sexual function and overall vitality.

Employed in Traditional Chinese Medicine to invigorate sexual function, boost vital energy and normalize overall body functions, Eleuthero enhances immunity and vitality overall. With 3000 studies and counting, Eleuthero has been studied more than any other herb on the planet! It helps the body adapt to stress and makes the stress response more efficient. It also strengthens memory and helps one stay clear-headed even under pressure. It helps sustain energy over the long-term without the jitters or energy roller coasters of stimulants like caffeine.

Holy Basil: For immunity and longevity.

Like other Adaptogens, Holy Basil enhances the body’s natural response to physical and emotional stress. But it’s also used to treat common colds and flu, diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, earache, headache, heart disease, fever and ringworm. The natural chemicals found in this herb help decrease pain and swelling (inflammation), and stabilize high blood sugar.

Maca: For stamina and performance.

Maca root enhances energy, memory, libido and fertility. Women can use it for hormone balance, menstrual problems and menopause symptoms, and men can use it for sexual and athletic stamina. Maca is also used to treat anemia, osteoporosis, immune dysfunction and depression.

Panax Ginseng: For mental clarity and mood stability.

Ginseng is a tonic herb used for rejuvenate and invigorate. It is often used for improving thinking, concentration, memory and work efficiency, physical stamina, and athletic endurance. It’s also useful in treating depression and anxiety.

Rhodiola Rosea: For “burn-out” from prolonged stress and exhaustion.

A well studied Adaptogen, Rhodiola defends the body overall, and protects general health and well-being. Its anti-stress and fatigue-fighting properties make it one of the most popular botanicals in all of Siberia. It is known for fighting “21st century stress”: fatigue, mental fog, trouble concentrating, low energy and, perhaps, mild depression.

Schisandra: The liver and cell protector.

Schisandra is a potent general tonic, decreasing fatigue, enhancing physical performance, and promoting endurance. The berry counters stress by reducing the levels of stress hormones in the blood. This herb has particular benefits to the liver. It helps in the treatment of hepatitis, as noted in over 500 cases. Schisandra berries provide powerful antioxidant protection, particularly from free radicals and other toxins in the environment that may cause cellular damage.

A few things to note about Adaptogens:

  • Adaptogenic herbs do not alter mood or have a numbing effect, but rather, they help the body function optimally during times of stress.
  • Because many adaptogenic herbs have a stimulating effect, it’s best to take them before 3 p.m., so as not to disrupt sleep. Another class of herbs called nervine relaxants are more suitable for the evening hours (kava kava, avena sativa, etc, chamomile, etc).
  • Different Adaptogens affect people different ways. At Longevity, we favor the synergistic blends, but many of our patients do well with certain herbs over others and like to take one by itself. As you’re experimenting with these herbs, start with low doses and be mindful of your mood, energy and sleep levels. We can help you adjust accordingly.