Introduction to Chinese Herbology Part 3 of 4

It has been my experience that stress is part of every health issue. On some level stress has compromised your ability to move forward and heal from your particular disease, or held you back from reaching your potential. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about cardiovascular health, digestive issues, memory or even diabetes – stress is a component of that health problem.

Now for the better part of two decades, stress has been my primary focus. The introduction of the herb Rhodiola into the marketplace back in the nineties changed the whole idea of adapting to stressors. The idea of adapting was usually just the concept of having enough energy to withstand a stressor. Adaptogens were different. Herbal adaptogens like Rhodiola go right to the core issue of how your body reacts to stress and dealt with the core issue of homeostasis – inner regulation of the actual response.

Adaptogens strengthen the response mechanism and set up healthy stress response and recovery. By working directly with the HPA axis, adaptogens can prevent chronic stress by making sure your body doesn’t lose its ability to shut down stress and rebuild energy.

Most people are stuck in survival mode and the resulting loss of energy creates a myriad of health problems. Insomnia, poor digestion, inflammation and constant fatigue are all warnings that your stress response is locked into survival mode.

I often refer to adaptogens as “Natures Perfect Food” because nothing helps you deal with the stress of modern living like a true adaptogen. I use the word true because the term adaptogen is being applied to dozens of herbs now because it’s good for marketing. In my 26 years as an herbalist I can honestly think of only 5 herbs that qualify as a true adaptogen – Rhodiola, reishi, ashwagandha, eleuthero and schizandra.

Why those five? A true adaptogen must directly affect the HPA axis, the part of your glandular system involved in the stress response. If it doesn’t regulate the healthy flow in and out of stress then it isn’t a true adaptogen.

It’s common to be locked into survival mode for extended periods of time. This “fight or flight” syndrome wears the body out. You miss the recovery phase needed to rebuild after a stressor and without it you begin to break down.

This is extremely important for athletes and may determine the maximum benefits from working out. High intensity workouts are stressful and strength gains are all about recovery. Combining high intensity workouts with a high intensity emotional life could be disastrous for your health. Adaptogens are just as important for adrenal recovery in athletics as they are for chronic stressors.

Recovery is the key to life and a great adaptogenic herb formula is essential to recovery.

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