Schisandra drying, China. Photo by Chris Kilham
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. The following herbs (in alphabetical order) demonstrate significant adaptogenic activity:
- Ashwagandha: Of all the medicinal plants used in India’s several millennia old tradition of Ayurveda, Ashwagandha, Withania somnifera, is the most highly prized.
- Eleuthero: Employed in Traditional Chinese Medicine to invigorate sexual function, boost vital energy and normalize overall body functions, Eleuthero is classified as an adaptogen, enhancing immunity and vitality overall.
- Holy Basil: Holy Basil functions as an adaptogen, enhancing the body's natural response to physical and emotional stress. Adaptogenic herbs do not alter mood, but rather, they help the body function optimally during times of stress.
- Maca: Maca has been dubbed “Peruvian ginseng,” though it bears no relation to ginseng. But like ginseng, the root increases strength, energy, stamina, libido and sexual function.
- Panax Ginseng: Ginseng is a tonic herb used for rejuvenate and invigorate. It is considered an adaptogen, providing non-specific protection against various mental, physical and environmental forms of stress.
- Rhodiola Rosea: 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.
- Schisandra: 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.
Adaptogens greatly improve your body's ability to adapt to stress, whether it's a hectic schedule, heat or cold, noise, high altitudes or any number of other stressors. 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. With the scientific data to back these natural wonders already available and more research under way, it is only a matter of time before adaptogens begin making their mark in the United States.
Chris personally takes his favorite adaptogen, Rhodiola rosea, to help his body cope with the stress of cold water while surfing. With the scientific data to back these natural wonders already available and more research under way, it's only a matter of time before adaptogens begin making their mark in the United States.
We lead an adventurous lifestyle. Perhaps that's why we love the adaptogens so much. There are several fine products we recommend with adaptogens as key ingredients: