In today’s world, everyone resonates with stress, fatigue, lack of energy, and difficulty concentrating. Stress is a natural response to internal and external factors. However, stress will begin to affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
For thousands upon thousands of years humans have depended upon plants as both food and medicine. Since their inception, both Chinese medicine and Ayurveda have relied on herbal remedies for healing and rejuvenation. However, in the West, much of the plant’s wisdom has been limited or even relegated to folklore and indigenous communities. An ideal system of the future would be one that incorporated both Western and Eastern philosophies so that the benefits of both would be available to everyone.
There is a fascinating concept at play here, and that is the fact that plants have actually helped us to adapt to our changing environments and circumstances. Plants have helped us cope and adjust with the stressors in our lives. These types of plants have come to be known as adaptogens.
What are adaptogens? While these plants have been around and in use for thousands, if not millions of years, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that a Russian scientist first proposed the term adaptogens. Today, an adaptogen can be defined as an agent that:
- Has a normalizing effect on a wide range of bodily functions
- Has a nonspecific action that helps the body overcome stress regardless of the direction of stress
- Is nontoxic when used in normal dosage
In other words, adaptogens help modify the body’s reaction to stress, both internal and external. One way they do this is by strengthening and supporting the immune, nervous, and glandular systems.
Ayurveda and Herbs
When it comes to herbs, Ayurveda recognizes that all substances have energetic properties, and all plants have the potential for therapeutic application. By taking a holistic approach and using herbs as whole foods, this helps supply the body with nutritional nourishment in the form of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. The primary role of holistic herbalism is to support the body’s healing capacity, and therefore have fewer side effects than western pharmaceuticals.
Pharmaceuticals can be dangerous and taxing on the body, while herbal remedies provide gentle support and are more practical for everyday use. It is very unlikely to overdose on herbs, however taking too much can come with side-effects. Regardless, they are still much safer and effective than pharmaceuticals. They can be used to spice up your dinner and provide flavor along with nutritional support for health and vitality!
Ayurvedic Adaptogenic Herbs
Here is a list of adaptogenic herbs that you can incorporate into you daily life that can be used as added ingredients, made into teas, taken in tonics, etc.
- Amalaki – Also commonly called amla, or indian gooseberry, is known as “mother” or “nurse” in Sanskrit. It is known to be a super antioxidant and tonic for general debility and weakness. It pacifies pitta, thus influencing clarity and calmness of mind. It is a rejuvenative as well as an adaptogen that is said to slow the aging process, increase virility, and promote immune function. This is the primary ingredient in Chyawanprash.
- Ashwagandha – also known as “Indian ginseng,” though it is not related to the ginseng family and most likely gets this name in reference to its energy promoting qualities. The scientific name of this plant, Withania somnifera, is translated as “sleep-inducing,” reflecting its relaxing and calming properties that bring us energy by supporting deeper rest. Most commonly taken as a powder.
- Bacopa – Used to aid in recovery from exhaustion, stress, and debility with aggravation of vata. It is often paired with brahmi/Gotu Kola, a mighty duo in supporting cognitive function, including memory and concentration. It eases tension and helps induce restful sleep. Can be taken in supplement form.
- Brahmi/Gotu Kola – In the mind, brahmi improves concentration, intelligence, memory, and alertness. In the body, brahmi nourishes the dhatus, supporting the brain and nervous system, and helping the body cope with stress. This is one of the most powerful brain tonics in Ayurvedic medicine. Can be taken as a powder or added to food.
- Guduchi – Often called “the one who protects the body.” It benefits all conditions of aggravated pitta in the blood. It helps clear pitta toxins and uric acid, boosting the immune system. It is calming to vata and the nervous system in general. Commonly found in powder form.
- Licorice – Benefits all seven tissue layers, or dhatus. It is calming and cooling for pitta while also nourishing for vata. Licorice has a special affinity for the lungs and mucous membranes. It acts as a strong adrenal tonic, thus supporting the body’s stress response, and its sattvic nature is calming to the mind. Can be used fresh and brewed in tea.
- Moringa – Due to its impressive nutrient content, this herb is helpful for sleep, the heart, kidneys, liver, blood, and the pancreas. Moringa supports healthy energy levels and restoration of the body’s tissues. Commonly found in the form of tea, powder or capsules.
- Mucuna or Kapikacchu – As a natural source of L-dopa, a precursor to dopamine, mucuna has a special affinity for the nervous system. Also known as kapikacchu, this herb is both strengthening and calming, and it is considered one of the best tonics for the reproductive system, both male and female. Commonly found in tablet form.
- Tulsi or Holy Basil – Referred to as “a goddess incarnated in plant form.” Tulsi is said to increase prana, or life force. It is stimulating for digestion and good for vata in the digestive process. Tulsi is beneficial for all three doshas, with a special affinity for the lungs and rasa dhatu (plasma). Research has found that tulsi helps protect organs and tissues against physical stress, among other benefits. Can be used fresh, brewed in tea, or found as a powder.
- Shatavari – Affectionately referred to as “the one who has 100 husbands.” It is to the female reproductive system as ashwagandha is to the male reproductive system, considered a rejuvenative as well as an adaptogen. It is especially effective for the tissues of the lungs, stomach, kidneys, and sexual organs. Typically found as tablets or liquid form.
- Brew a cup of tea with Chamomile, comfrey, and angelica.
- Brew a cup of Brahmi tea. Brahmi tea can be made by adding 1 cup of boiling water to ½ tsp brahmi. It’s exceptional at calming the nerves.
Stress is a normal part of human life, but high levels of stress can lead to further dis-ease and that is something we want to prevent. Ayurveda is about preventative care while also finding treating the root cause, however unique it may seem. Health is not about one treatment or one pill that can help your gut, stress, or inflammation. It is a lifestyle change of being present, tapping into our breath, and nourishing our mind, body, and behaviors as a whole ecosystem. Nature gives us medicine in all forms and using medicine from the source will truly transform your health better than band-aids such as pharmaceuticals.
If you are curious about how to use other Ayurvedic herbs and spices for improving health but don’t know where to begin, you can reach out to us anytime through our website, social media, or by giving us a call! We would be more than happy to help.