Have you ever heard the term, “It’s all in your head?” That’s usually what you hear from a doctor or friend when no one can figure out what is causing your poor health. Often times they miss what’s going on because it’s something so confusing and causes so much havoc in your body that everything seems to be slightly off. You’re just worn out and tired all the time. Headcase? No, basically, you’re stressed out!
Poor circulation? High blood pressure? High blood sugar? Afternoon slumps? Mental fog? Mood swings? These are just some of the symptoms leading back to a body that’s wearing out from long-term stress. We’ve all heard about it causing inflammation and how it ties into every chronic disease known to man, but plain old worn out too?
One of the biggest advances in health happened based on the idea of physical stressors. It started in Russia when they wanted to compete with the U.S. space program. Russia wanted to be able to beat the U.S. to Mars if they had to, but they knew going up in space for that long would probably kill the cosmonauts long before they could complete the mission. It was just too physically demanding and stressful to be subjected to the rigors of space for that long.
Cosmonauts usually suffer from excessive stress hormone and weak immunity. It’s not unusual to suffer extreme losses of muscle and bone mass as well. Basically it throws your entire system of homeostasis so far off the body loses its ability to regulate itself – just like in chronic stress. I’m sure you can remember seeing many astronauts come back from space and how weak and tired they looked. They would usually be whisked off to the hospital for a little R&R before slowly getting back to regular life.
Well the Russians were determined to do something about it. They hired a team of scientists and discovered a cure for space travel issues. In fact, one of their cosmonauts spent over 400 days in space, casually walked out of the space capsule and sat down for an interview. So what kind of magic had the Russians come up with to accomplish such a feat?
Rhodiola in particular was something that changed the Russian space program through a little known effect of simply regulating energy, which is the idea that the body has its own internal regulating system which is run by certain glands. These glands regulate our responses to our environment, cranking up energy when we need it and scaling it back when we don’t. Modern medicine calls this homeostasis and everything we do affects this process is some way. Excessive stress, whether its space travel or emotional upheaval, throws this system out of whack. No longer able to regulate output and intake, the body loses energy.
Obviously space travel is an extreme stress that causes immediate effects on the body. It wears you out in a short amount of time. Chronic stress on the other hand, like most of us are exposed to, takes time, sometimes decades to do it. The effect is the same though – internally we get old way before our time. Most modern medical tests will only show up a problem in extreme states. You might be down to 30% function of your liver or kidneys before symptoms show up. Most people are just one big stressor away from a full-blown medical crisis.
If you think this isn’t happening to you, think again. Have you ever thought your adrenals were tapped out? Ever used the term burned out? Ever been exhausted? These are all examples of a body on the brink of losing its last bit of life-force. You see, your adrenals are the gate-keeper of the body’s energy and if the regulation system fails, energy pours out without a means of stopping it or building it back up. This is they typical scenario in chronic fatigue.
This is something I learned ages ago when I began studying Chinese herbalism. A person can get worn out and start to experience a multitude of health problems. The problem is that they think the symptoms are the problem, when it’s only symptomatic of being worn out. Chinese tonic herbalism is based on the theory of tonifying worn out organs and glands so the body can once again regulate itself and heal.
This brings us back to rhodiola. Cosmonauts and Russian Olympic athletes may have been the first to figure it out but now the world has caught on to this whole process. I’ve been using this herb myself for over a decade and it’s one of the herbs I use in all of our adaptogenic formulas. Rhodiola affects the pituitary gland as soon as you ingest it. The pituitary not only regulates the stress response, it powers up the frontal lobe of the brain and has a major effect on the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. It helps restore your adrenals by calming the nervous system and starting the process of regeneration. It is also a great antioxidant and fertility herb.
I had only had experiences with the adaptogen Reishi before but rhodiola was completely different. As I started to get acquainted with the small group of true adatogenic herbs, I realized each was amazing on its own yet uniquely different. Best of all, they could all be worked into the system of tonic herbalism that I practiced. The practice of regulating energy and recharging the body’s energy reserves could be greatly enhanced by this amazing class of herbs known as adaptogens. A decade down the road I had refined my work with these amazing herbs and we launched our formulas for Inner Peace and TianChi.