By Zane Christopher
If you missed Part 1, click here to read it.
Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief
It was my great pleasure to attend this lecture by one of the authors of the book with the same name as above, David Watson. That book was one of the first books we used for reference when we started this company in our quest to provide herbs for modern-day stressful life. Of course, Adaptogens are fundamental when you talk about herbs for athletics.
It has been awhile since then and luckily for use, David himself has learned a lot more about adaptogens since he participated in writing that book. One of the big take-aways that I hope we will be able to incorporate more into the website is that of the different energetics of the adaptogens.
No herb is going to work for 100% of people because everyone is different. Many old traditions do a fine job of classifying the different human body types and predilections and are fairly accurate at it in the hands of a trained practitioner. All ancient traditions therefore use herbs to support what the body needs at the moment. For example, if you have a cold and you possess a higher than normal body temperature (heat) and your coughing is harsh with lots of phlegm (dampness), the herbs that would be appropriate to take in this instance would be cooling and drying.
Adaptogens are the same and ideally you will be taking one or more that counteract the current operating system of the body. We all tend to certain types of conditions with our body and mind as we go through life (hot, cold, dry, damp, etc.) and so taking adaptogens that promote something (like heat) if you already tend to be a hot person means it could actually exasperate that condition in a negative way.
Another idea is that of flavors. This is not necessarily referring to the taste of a thing. It is more the idea of how it effects the body. Certain flavors in herbs and food will tone organs through a sour puckering action while other flavors might provide a broad underlying nutritive support to build up the body like sweet or bland. Learning the flavors of things and understand how they effect you can greatly increase the power of herbs to work for you on an individual bases as opposed to just shooting around in the dark. It can also make your cooking a part of the whole process of building radient health.
Energetics and flavor could be the reason a herb or formula isn’t working. It may be pushing you more towards an extreme then you would otherwise be at.
Energetics and Flavors of Adaptogens
Here is the energetics and flavors for the adaptogenic herbs we offer on our site:
Ashwagandha Root (Withania somnifera) – bitter, sweet, warm, dry
Cordyceps Fungus (Cordyceps sinensis) – sweet, slightly acrid, warm, moist
Eleuthero Root (Eleutherococcus senticosis) – sweet, slightly bitter, neutral
Rhodiola Root (Rhodiola Rosea) – sweet, slightly bitter, cool, very drying
Schisandra Berry (Schisandra chinensis) -sour, pungent, warm, dry
David has changed his opinions on some of the adaptogens as mentioned earlier and so here is the herbs he includes as possible adaptogens (according to him) that we offer:
Neutral actions of herbs are great because that means they can be used in a formula or program as support while not directly effecting the energetic or flavor effects. If creating a formula one can use this system like a mathematical equation to find out how far one way or another the formula will stray. For instance:
A hot, slightly moist herb + a cool, slightly moist herb + a neutral, moist herb + a warm, dry herb = a warming, moistening formula
Another take away from David Watson is the reminder that in no tradition of herbalism were herbs taken one off. Almost completely across the board is the use of multiple herbs in formulas.
This is because with herbs, 1+1=3 in many cases. That is, the synergy of separate herbs is greater than the whole, a rather dubious idea to many Westerners. We offer single herbs because many people like creating their own herbal regiment but a larger focus on our formula offerings will become inevitable the more we grow and learn about the different herbal systems.
There was so much more but the final thought I want to touch on is that of contraindications. Herbs are fairly safe things but of course there are a few herbs that should not be used by pregnant women or in other instances and that is why we list contraindications at the bottom of our herb pages.
There are 7 known drug groups that are typically problematic with the regards of combining them with herbs. I will be doing some more research to get this into a blog but here is a partial list (my note taking can be something to be desired sometimes so I don’t have them all at this time):
-protease-inhibitors (used for HIV)
-lithium (used for depression)
-Methotrexate (cancers and autoimmune disorders)
Yes, some interactions may occur between western medications and herbs. However, something I did not know was that drug interactions among pharmaceuticals has not been studied very well. Studies have only been done on interactions between two different medications at any one time. With the use of statistics and these studies one can extrapolate out that if you or anyone you know is taking six or more prescription there is 100% chance of a drug interaction taking place in the body.
That is kind of a big deal that has been conveniently ignored by the medical establishment. This is also more than likely why the accidental death from pharmaceuticals number is so high and rising. I realize my mother’s ultimate cause of death was cancer (though you could go further back and look at her life-style, stress-levels, emotional makeup, etc. over the years for the cause of the cancer itself) but personally I know it had more to do with the mix of morphine and other pills she was taking that so quickly exacerbated the process.
I am not saying she should not have been on pain meds or what have you but I am saying it is definitely something to consider and accidental death from prescription drugs seems to be a wide spreading phenomenon. It is currently claimed to be the 4th leading cause of death in the United States, though no government agency includes it in their figures.
We must not forget that since we were raised in a Western culture, we will often times look at things with that mindset. I in particular have noticed that as I learn more about these herbs and the mindset of the east, just how much a product of this culture I truly am. I consider myself more open-minded then the average individual but what does that actually mean? How can that even be tested?
It can only be tested with time. Breaking away from a process of indoctrination (our mandatory schooling is the primary means our society possesses to make us good little citizens among others) takes time, lots and lots of time. So if you initially got into herbs because you wanted natural supplements that would greatly benefit your health and athletic abilities like I did, and you only scan through the effects each herb supposedly has to pick out the ones to try, without realizing the thousands of years of history and knowledge of how to use them, at what age to use them, or even when not to use them, then know this is all a process. Just you taking herbs is a huge step when you consider the scientific culture we reside in.
Things are moving constantly and you are moving forward with them. There is no rush. Rushing is just what our culture says we need to do to be happy.