Calm, Strong and Energized–with Adaptogenic Herbs
Modern life is stressful. And when you go through a particularly demanding time–like a crisis, loss, illness or major life transition–you’re under tons more stress.
When my son lost his legs to traumatic amputation at age 19, of course it him me hard, too. For a while, it wasn’t clear if he’d survive, or how deeply his losses would change him.
After the accident, my main priority was to inspire a sense of security and courage in my son. To be as fearless as I could be! And to make good decisions and keep our little family of two moving toward accepting and adapting to a radically-changed life.
I have to admit, a big chunk of my energy was high-jacked into a turbulent reckoning with this tragedy for my one-and-only child.
Still, I did the best I could to care for Gabe’s ever-revealing needs, advocate for his medical care, handle financial and other logistics–plus try to keep my clinic–Rasa Ayurveda Traditional Healing Centre for Women in Kerala, India–running smoothly from a distance, while Gabe’s recovery took as long as needed in New Jersey, USA. No matter what I was feeling inside, I couldn’t afford to get lost in despair, devolve into stress reactions or a health breakdown–right when I was needed most!
Still, the cliff-hanging days and long, nightmarish nights burdened my sensitive nervous system. Seeing my depleted state, a family member offered me a handful of sleeping pills, insisting I leave the ICU for a night to “knock myself out,” and get some rest.
What I really longed for, though, were the well-stocked herbal pharmacy shelves at my clinic, filled with the adaptogenic herbs and formulas I knew could smooth some of the stress and bolster my overall mental, emotional and physical strength for the challenging times that still lay ahead.
Facing Challenging Times?
If you’re going through a hard time, I want you to know: I get it!
In times like this, it’s natural to wonder…
How much more can my system take?
Will I feel tired and worn out forever?
If you’re feeling this way, you need and deserve support, my friend!
And one way Nature can support you is through adaptogenic herbs.
What are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a category of natural therapeutics informally named in the 1940’s to refer to nontoxic substances (usually herbal) that increase resilience against the damaging effects of stress, and help protect, increase or restore normal physiological function.
Adaptogens are seemingly magical plant and other natural substances that have been shown to…
> Calm your nerves–while powering your mental and emotional resilience.
> Soothe you to sleep, while boosting your energy.
> Strengthen your immune system, and your memory, too.
> Help you beat fatigue, depression–and rejuvenate the dryness of spirit deep weariness can bring.
You’re probably thinking–“Gimme some now!”
But first, it’s wise to ask…
How do you know what’s right for you?
Which adaptogen(s) should you take?
In what form, and what amount?
Are there any dangers?
And if you take adaptogens, how can you get the most effective results?
The best start to getting what you need is to identify–as specifically as possible–what you’re experiencing now AND what you’d like to have happen instead.
Ideally, you should meet with a seasoned practitioner who can recognize your unique challenges and needs, recommend a specific plan of action to give you the results you need. There are many factors to consider, including how the stress is manifesting in your body, mind and/or life, its qualities and characteristics, your current stage of life, your digestive capacity, the demands of your “normal” lifestyle, and the inherent qualities of your nature, too.
If you’re trying to figure this out on your own, though, you can start simply by thinking about what kind of stress you’re under and how its affecting you. Before you spend time and money trying an adaptogen supplement just because it’s all over Instagram at the moment, do your best to gain clarity about your current needs, and what you most want to address.
You might ask yourself which of these sounds like you…
> “There’s nothing big going on, but I’d love to feel a more confident in my overall strength and ability to deal with stress.”
Even when you’re well and times are good, sadly, it’s just a matter of time ’til life brings your next challenge! None of us escapes the “play of sun and shadow.” (I love the way my spiritual teacher referred to life’s mixed nature.) Life’s pleasure, ease and progress mix with darker experiences of suffering, challenge and loss. And when a “shadow” comes over you, you’ll likely to feel stressed.
Similar to taking a “multi-vitamin” to cover your basic essentials, you might take a wide-spectrum, overall tonifying adaptogenic formula to help protect and maintain your vital reserves. Taking adaptogenic herbs can provide extra, deep nourishment to help keep your systems strong and steady, ready to respond to life’s stressors when they inevitably arise.
Depending on your specific needs and nature, you may benefit from a classical formula, like Chavanprash or Triphala.
> “I’m in the midst of crisis or emergency, dealing with high-level, acute stress day-to-day, right now.”
You’ll probably benefit from adaptogens thought to immediately increase resilience and “elasticize” your nervous system–so you can more easily up- or down-regulate “on a dime,” as life requires.
Herbs like Tulsi and Ashwagandha can increase your ability to adapt to challenging conditions and stressors in your environment, while helping protect your nervous and immune systems from the effects of traumatic stress.
> “I’m living with a chronic, low-level stressor that’s draining my energy over time.”
Resilience support is in order. Herbs or formulations designed to strengthen and tonify all your systems could be good, too.
> The “storm has passed and the dust has settled”–but I don’t have my energy fully back–and I still don’t feel like myself.
The truth is, time alone does NOT heal all wounds. After a huge life event, like coming through a trauma, crisis or impactful illness–things like chemotherapy, childbirth, divorce, the loss of a loved one or of part of your identity due to a big life change–it’s essential to stabilize, replenish and restart your physical and mental systems for your health, happiness, and longevity, too. Don’t wait to seek expert assistance to get the comprehensive restoration you need and deserve.
Ayurveda takes the restoration and strengthening of your body, mind and life very seriously. In fact, there’s an entire branch of Ayurvedic medicine–called Rasayana–focused completely on rejuvenation. The right adaptogenic herbs can play a part.
Single Adaptogen–or Formula?
In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, single herbs–used on their own–are rarely prescribed.
Instead, carefully-designed formulas are the norm. Formulas bring together several ingredients to initiate a synergy–a positive “herb-herb” interaction–that helps potentiate the active constituents–and aid with digestion and assimilation–sometimes also directing effects toward specific organs or tissue types.
It’s also believed that a well-designed formula not only increases the overall power of the plant medicine, but reduces risk of of toxicity or side-effects.
If it’s hard to grasp how this might work, envision a handful of individual people (single herbs), coming together to form a team (an herbal formula).
The team gets organized for working together to achieve a shared goal. If the team is well-designed, each team member contributes their unique skills and talents to accomplish their aim. As they begin to take action together, motivation, focus and energy ripple through the entire team. The “cream” in each team member rises, and everyone contributes their best qualities and effort. This synergistic “team power” is much greater and more effective than the singular efforts of any one person can be.
Also, any weakness or defect of one person (or herb) standing alone, will recede and have less negative-impact when “blended” into a team (herbal formula) context.
Non-Toxic… Are You Sure?
Adaptogens are defined as “non-toxic.” However, any ingested substance has the potential to cause reaction or irritation in some people, in some situations, in some amounts. If you want to try supplementation with any adaptogen for the first time, be sure to follow your practitioner’s guidance for dosage and timing, and watch for signs of any potential reaction over the first few days.
Many adaptogenic herbs are dense and heavy, posing a potential challenge to digestion–especially when consumed in the 4-6 gram doses often recommended. Poorly digested or unassimilated foods or medicines are said to cause the accumulation of a sticky, toxic residue –called aama, in Ayurveda–which can lodge in various spots in the body, causing disease. This is why traditional Ayurveda adaptogenic herbal formulas, like “lickable” lehyams always incorporate digestion-boosting ingredients. The most well-known of these jam-like pastes is a rasayana called Chavanprash.
If you’re purchasing an Ayurvedic formulation, make sure it’s not from a class of traditional preparations that intentionally include mercury, lead or arsenic. These “powerful medicines” must be avoided, and they are not generally available in the United States or Europe for safety reasons.
Even regular medicinal herbs and formulations can pose danger. Microbial contaminants, pesticides, heavy metals and other chemical toxins have been detected in otherwise beneficial herbal ingredients due to poor agricultural practices, contaminated growing soil, incorrect storage techniques, or manufacturing problems.
To get the benefits you want from adaptogens to improve your health, it’s worth being “choosey” to source ingredients that won’t harm you.
Know Your Source
If you’re not in a hurry, and you have good growing conditions, the very BEST way to reliably source adaptogenic herbs is probably to grow them yourself! Many varieties of adaptogenic organic seeds and plant starts can be ordered online. Depending on your growing zone, you can nurture a variety of herbs to maturity–in clean soil, with clean water–in your own backyard.
While commercially prepared adaptogens can never compare to the joy I experienced at my clinic, Rasa Ayurveda, in Kerala, India– dining on freshly prepared Shatavari root, or drinking the potent, hand-squeezed juice of Tulsi leaves–fresh from the garden. Still, I do enjoy purchasing from some great sources of organic and wild-crafted adaptogenic herbs and formulas. You might, too! Here are some sources you might explore:
Note: The links provided are to sources and suppliers I personally like and trust. Some may be affiliate links. No guarantee of availability, suitability for you or purity is implied.
Tulsi teas, adaptogen bulk powders and capsules.
Organic Chavanprash, adaptogen bulk powders and capsules.
Adaptogenic Formulations commonly relied on in Ayurvedic medicine:
- Chyavanprash – an overall strengthening formula in the form of a jam, designed to be licked from a spoon
- Triphala – a powder made from 3 dried fruits
- Saraswati Churna
Single Ingredient Adaptogens:
- Amalaki – fruit
- Ashwagandha – root
- Gotu Kola – leaf
- Shatavari – asparagus root
- Shilajit – earth-sourced resin
- Tulsi – Holy Basil – leaf
- American Ginseng
- Korean Ginseng
- Rhodiola Rosea
and many more…
When to Take
Your practitioner will give you specific instructions, however, it’s generally considered best to take adaptogenic supplements separately from meals or other medicines. It’s usual to take adaptogens at least 30 minutes before a meal, or 90 minutes afterward.
It can take some time to notice the effects of adaptogenic supplementation. Again, your practitioner will give you specific instructions on how many days or weeks of treatment will be best for you. No matter how long your treatment is, traditionally, all treatments–including Rasayana treatment––is generally administered in “mandalams” – one “round” of treatment, no greater than 45 days.
This is easy to calendar, if you take a 2 week break after each 6 week period of supplementation. (Confirm your plans with your practitioner.)
Whatever stresses you may be facing, you’ll go best to get comprehensive support in many forms, and in many areas of your life. Please don’t rely ONLY on adaptogenic herbs to carry the load! When it’s possible and you’re ready, the BEST way to handle stress is to eliminate the stressor, instead of trying to get “strong enough to handle” more than you should.
Sometimes, getting free of a damaging burden takes courage, clarity and action to implement impactful change. In the meantime, if you need a little extra support from Mother Nature, adaptogenic herbs might be just the right remedy for you.
May you be Strong. And then, Restored!
P.S. When I can, I set aside some time each week to talk with women ready to recover from the effects of crisis or traumatic loss. If that’s you, I invite you to look at my calendar to reserve a time to talk by phone or Skype. There’s no charge for this one-on-one private call, designed to clarify your specific needs. You’ll get valuable personal insight, and my best recommendations on the best way for YOU to break away from depletion and fear into a vibrant new life. Find my calendar here: NiikaQ.com/talk