We often experience a sense of improved overall wellbeing with adaptogens, because all of our systems are working together more harmoniously. Adaptogens strengthen the intricate dance of hormones and neurotransmitters continuously secreted throughout our body, and, in doing so, improve many systems simultaneously, including our nervous system, hormones, immune system, energy, digestion, and stress response.
Traditionally, adaptogens are prepared as formulas, not taken as individual herbs, as each herb enhances and builds upon the other. This creates a synergistic benefit beyond what any single herb can provide.
Much of their strength lies in the fact that adaptogens are “nonspecific” in action. They don’t target only one specific organ, system, or symptom, but support the entire body, from head to toe. They accomplish this via their action upon the body’s major communication network, a hormone-neurotransmitter feedback system known as the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPS) axis. The HPA can be considered akin to a busy, yet extremely synchronized switchboard, with many different conversations going on at the same time. All are clearly understood by those participating, and each response is determined by the preceding one (and even other conversations!).
This nonspecificity is essentially the opposite of how conventional, mainstream medicine approaches disease – by targeting a specific organ or function, often at the expense of others.
Examples of some of my favorite adaptogens include Ashwagandha, Eleuthero, Licorice, Maca, Schizandra berry, Gotu Kola, Rhodiola, Fo-ti (He Shou Wu), Holy Basil (Tulsi) and, as a group, medicinal mushrooms including Cordyceps, Reishi, Maitake, and Shiitake, amongst many others.
What are your favorite adaptogens?
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)