If your daily to-do list seems to lengthen while your energy levels diminish, this may be the time to try adaptogenic herbs.
Certain herbs called adaptogens are particularly helpful in restoring and maintaining positive homeostasis. This is due to their ability to help us adapt to change, in particular to the challenges associated with aging. Many people who follow traditional healing systems (think Chinese, Tibetan or Ayurvedic) have incorporated these herbs and remedies into their lifestyles and even their cooking.
Derived from plants and plant parts, these herbs reduce stress and correct imbalances in your system. With the right regimen, you'll sail through winter in good health. Adaptogenic herbs increase your body's resistance to physical, biological, emotional, and environmental stressors. All adaptogens help regulate the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitaryadrenal) axis, meaning they can adjust imbalances related to immunity, hormones, and stress. Each one also offers unique benefits; peek some of our top 5 below:
Ashwagandha (Fatigue & Insomnia) The roots of this nightshade plant, also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, have been used in parts of Asia and Africa to treat various ailments, including lower back pain, arthritis, sexual dysfunction, and stomach upset. A review of scientific studies published in Alternative Medicine Review concluded that the herb fights stress and has a positive effect on the central nervous system.
Reishi (Emotional Balance) Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners use this herb to calm the mind and restore emotional balance. A study in the Journal of Medicinal Food found eight weeks of treatment with reishi reduced fatigue and improved wellbeing in 123 Chinese patients diagnosed with fatigue. The mushroom has polysaccharides, carbohydrates that boost disease-fighting cells.
Schisandra (Mental & Physical Ability) These berries can be both calming and stimulating. TCM practitioners use the fruit to remedy diarrhea and boost lung and liver health. Schisandra also stimulates the central nervous system, enhancing physical and mental abilities. A study in Phytomedicine showed that athletes who took schisandra before training had improved exercise performance and enhanced recovery when compared with athletes not given the herb.
Panax Ginseng (Vitality) One of the more stimulating adaptogens, Panax (or Asian) ginseng root (shown) improves cognitive function and strengthens the body. In TCM, it's used to restore energy, boost a depleted immune system, and improve vitality. Winston recommends Panax ginseng for people who have chronic fatigue or who are frequently cold or sick. A Journal of Nutrition review says ginseng's anti-inflammatory properties may thwart damage to DNA.
Eleuthero (Stamina) Occasionally called Siberian ginseng (though it doesn't belong to the same plant species), eleuthero was traditionally used in Chinese medicine to treat swelling and spasms. Evidence shows eleuthero improves endurance and strengthens the immune system, reducing the incidence of colds and other common infections.