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The “Times” They Are a Changing

As someone who has lived for thousands of years and seen a myriad of fads come and go, AdaptoGenie knows the difference between a flash in the pan and a trend that will endure.  This, I can tell you with supreme confidence, that the recent public interest in the power of adaptogens is something that will not fade and in fact will continue to grow.

nyt

Even the New York Times is getting in on the act.  In a recent article the Times outlined the growing popularity of adaptogens, and, while the article contains an ample dose of the Times celebrated cynicism, the article is still evidence that fans of adaptogens are successfully spreading the word about these powerful plants.

Here is the link:

Don’t Get Older, Get Better!

Have you ever wondered why some people never seem to show the effects of age?  I mean, take me, Adaptogenie, for example.  I’m a couple thousand years old and I still look fabulous.  What’s my secret?  Of course, you already know the answer…adaptogens!

Here’s the really good news.  You have access to the same amazing plants as a genie and you can receive all the benefits of their incredible anti-aging properties.   But before compiling a list of the best youth promoting adaptogens, let’s look at the research that has been done surrounding the aging process.

chinese medicine

For thousands of years the Chinese have had a tradition of anti-aging practices that involve diet, exercise, sexual practices and herbal formulas.   All of these are used in combination to slow down the aging process and contribute to an active and healthy old age.

The  ancient Taoists saw aging in remarkably modern terms. They believed that people are born with a finite amount of qi and that this was dependent on their parents. In modern science this corresponds to your genes. They then discussed how to supplement this qi by eating well, exercising and getting sufficient rest. All this good advice is now part of an emerging field called epigenetics, which is the study of how your environment and your choices can influence your genetic code.

According to more recent research, here are a few of the modern factors that can contribute to premature aging:

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  • Stress. This includes work stress, unsupportive relationships and poor work/life balance
  • Eating foods lacking in nutrients, including foods that can cause inflammation such as alcohol, coffee and, for some people, wheat. The additives in processed foods have been shown to accelerate aging in mice, so to keep your body feeling young, limit foods made in a factory and instead stock up on  unprocessed foods.
  • Not eating enough nutritious foods.  If I could give you one anti-aging tip it would be to eat as many fruits and veggies as you can in a broad range of colors.
  • Lack of sleep.  A 1999 study conducted by the University of Chicago and published in the Lancet found that cutting down from 8 hours of sleep a night to 4 hours produced significant hormonal changes and had an effect on glucose tolerance. “We found that the metabolic and endocrine changes resulting from a significant sleep debt mimic many of the hallmarks of aging,” said Eve Van Cauter, Ph.D., professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and director of the study.

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  • Lack of exercise. Regular exercise can slow down the effects of aging on many of your body’s systems. It’s most important effect is on the heart where it slows down resting heart rate and increases pumping capacity. It also lowers blood pressure and makes the heart muscle and blood vessels less stiff. On top of that exercise increases red blood cells and decreases the blood’s viscosity.
  • Environmental toxins. Many of the chemicals found in household cleaners, soaps, shampoos, deodorants and cosmetics have been found to be endocrine disruptors and can contribute to premature aging. Isn’t it ironic that the cream we buy to reduce wrinkles may well contain additives that are making us age from the inside out.

So, if the aging process can be delayed through good nutrition and relieving stress, adaptogens should be at the top of everyone’s plan for health and longevity.

Seniors

Here are 5 adaptogens that have been scientifically proven to help you look younger and stay more active.

  1. Ginseng – In Chinese herbology Ginseng is a qi tonic so it has long been priced for giving energy and increasing vitality. It seems to offset the effects of stress on the body and there is good scientific evidence that ginseng improves the immune system.
  2. Cordyceps – High in anti-oxidents, Cordyceps has been used for thousands of years in China where it is revered for it’s immune boosting properties and it’s ability to enhance energy. Recent research has shown that coryceps can reverse some of the effects of aging in mice.
  3. Rhodiola – Widely used by Russian athletes and cosmonauts to improve energy and performance, rhodiola helps your body manage stress. It is calming and plays a role in normalizing heart rate after stress or exercise.
  4. Ashwagandha – High in anti-oxidents and used in Ayurvedic medicine for its infection fighting properties, ashwagandha is also used to address depression and reduce the effects of stress.
  5. Holy Basil – Another ayurvedic herb, holy basil supports the cardiovascular system, balances insulin and even improves the moisture level of the skin. It helps to reduce the effects of stress by lowering cortisol levels.

ginsengcordycepsrhodiolaashwagandha4Holy Basil1

I can’t promise that by adding the these 5 amazing plants to your daily regimen that you’ll live as long as Adaptogenie, but I am confident that you’ll notice a difference in both the way you look and the way you feel.  Hey, age is just a number right?

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This Year I’m Thankful For Adaptogens!

This week, and for the rest of 2017, life may get a little more hectic. You know, it’s the whole hustle and bustle of the season thing.

And, as it is a tradition on Thanksgiving Day for many  to list the things that they are thankful for, I am going to begin my list with adaptogens.  This is probably not a big surprise coming from AdaptGenie, but I am sincere in my gratitude for plant sourced nutrition that can have a profound affect on overall health, stamina and mood.  The many benefits received from the simplest of herbs is amazing and, too often, taken for granted.  Check out this statement found in a recent online article by Naturals Grocers about the power of adaptogens to help manage the stress of the holiday season.

“Stressed Out?

Adaptogenic herbs like ginseng, ashwaghanda, and rhodiola improve the body’s ability to cope with stress and help to maintain a state of balance in the body. They also have the unique ability to calm while also boosting energy, helping you make it through those long hours of gift shopping or baking marathons. Bonus: many adaptogens also provide immune support. Look for individual adaptogens or try a combination.

Planning large meals for a crowd, navigating the airport at the height of holiday travel, or spending hours upon hours with family—any of these could send your stress meter off the charts, and did you know that high levels of stress can shrink your brain?! If you think you’re going to experience higher levels of stress this season, start taking phosphatidylserine (PS), a phospholipid that protects the brain from the negative effects of stress.

Is just the thought of holiday crowds anxiety-inducing? Or do you feel like you might implode if you hear one more of Uncle Al’s bad jokes? If you’re looking for immediate calm, something to take the edge off, try GABA, an amino acid that increases relaxing alpha waves in the brain. It also improves concentration and focus. Keep chewables on hand for quick relief.”

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Make sure and take your adaptogens this holiday season and Happy Thanksgiving from AdaptoGenie!

 

Licorice Root Health Benefits Are Sweet!

One of AdaptoGenie’s favorite adaptogens is licorice root, and not just because I have a sweet tooth.  Having been around for centuries, I have seen the amazing benefits of this gentle, but effective herb.  Licorice root had a long history of use in a number of ancient civilizations.  The early Egyptians loved licorice root. They used it in tea as a cure-all concoction. It was later imported to China where it became an important herb in Chinese medicinal tradition.

Licorice

The word “licorice” refers to the root of a plant called Glycyrrhiza glabra. It’s native to Europe and Asia.

licorice3

Today, licorice root, also known as sweet root, is used mostly as a sweetener in candies and beverages, but even the medical community is starting to be more accepting of its overall holistic benefits.

Here is a list of some of the traditional health benefits of licorice root:

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Stomach/Digestive Issues

Licorice root has been used to soothe gastrointestinal problems. In cases of food poisoning, stomach ulcers and acid reflux, licorice root can speed the repair of stomach lining and restore balance. This is due to the anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties of glycyrrhizic acid.

One study found that glycyrrhizic acid can suppress the toxic bacteria H pylori, and can prevent it from growing in the gut. There is also research that’s shown people who have peptic ulcer disease, heartburn, or gastritis had improved symptoms when taking licorice root extract.

Respiratory Issues

Licorice is often suggested as a treatment for  respiratory problems. Licorice can help the body produce healthy mucus. While increasing phlegm production may seem counterintuitive to a healthy bronchial system, the opposite is true. The production of clean, healthy phlegm keeps the respiratory system functioning without old, sticky mucus clogging it.

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Relieve Stress

Over time, stress can leave the adrenal gland exhausted by constantly producing adrenaline and cortisol.  Licorice has historically been used to strengthen the adrenal gland. Licorice root can help the body maintain healthy cortisol levels which in turn will help one better handle stress.

So, take it from AdaptoGenie, licorice is not just for candy.  Make it a daily part of your health regimen and start enjoying the sweet benefits.

Lower Cortisol With Adaptogens

More and more adaptogens are becoming  known for their ability to help manage stress.  One of the negative effects of stress is an increase in the production of cortisol which can lead to weight gain, chronic fatigue, thyroid issues and premature aging.  In fact, cortisol is know as the “aging hormone.”  (Could it be that the secret to AdaptoGenie’s longevity is the consistent use of adaptogens?  Hmmm…)

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Dr. Axe recently published an excellent online article listing 7 adaptogens that can lower cortisol.  It’s worth a look, so click the link below and make sure you’re getting at least some of these adaptogens in your daily diet..

https://draxe.com/7-adaptogen-herbs-to-lower-cortisol/

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Run Away From the Pack, With Eleuthero!

Elite level athletes everywhere are discovering the benefits of using adaptogens in their training regimens.  An article in Competitor.com talks specifically about the benefits of Eleuthero for runners.  To check it out, click the link!

http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/nutrition/runners-get-energized-with-eleuthero_30250

eleuthero

 

 

Who Is Israel Brekhman and Why Does He Matter?

The ability of certain plants to produce amazing, mind and body health effects has been known to herbalist’s for thousands of years.  And, even among these healing plants certain varieties were valued even more highly.  In Asia, they called these extraordinary herbs “kingly” or “elite” as they were the most effective in increasing both physical and mental capacity.  These plants were known to reduce fatigue, improve resistance to diseases, and extend lifespan. People learned that consuming these plants was helpful during times of challenges. In China, they were used by warriors right before battle. In Siberia, these same plants were used by hunters before long, dangerous journeys. The Tibetan monks were able to survive without food and warm clothes, living high in the mountains for many days just by consuming these plants.

chinese-herbs

As their legend grew the use of these plants spread to Korea, Japan, Russia and eventually Europe, and even those these plants were safely consumed and provided consistent results for centuries, from a scientific point of view, their effectiveness was not confirmed until the 1970’s.

It was at that time that a Russian physician and scientist Dr. Israel Brekhman and his mentor Prof. Nicolai Lazarv, were charged by Soviet leaders to find substances that could improve workers productivity and provide a competitive advantage to Soviet athletes in international competitions.

Their research led them to these amazing herbs that they named “Adaptogens.”

The reason for naming these herbs “Adaptogens” resulted from their effectiveness in helping the human body to “adapt” or to “adjust” to strains and changes of daily living. 

adptogens

Brekhman and Lazarev were aware that some of the adaptogens they were studying had actually survived Ice Ages. They surmised that if these miraculous plants could survive an Ice Age, that they must “possess qualities that could help our bodies adapt to the stresses of modern life.”

What they learned as they studied these herbs was that they had managed to survive harsh environments for centuries due to their unique composition of biologically active substances.

Stress response

One of the first herbs that Brakeman studied was eleuthero or siberian ginseng. What Brekhman  discovered was very influential.  Just two years after publishing the results of his study, eleuthero extract was approved by the Pharmacological Committee of the USSR Ministry of Health for clinical use.

Funded by the Soviet Union, Brekhman and Lazarev were able to employ an army of researchers and conduct more than 3,000 clinical trial and experiments on adaptogens.

research

In order to qualify as an adaptogen, Dr. Brekhman and his followers used the following parameters:

(1) plants which are entirely safe;

(2) plants which increase the body’s nonspecific resistance; that is, they provide valuable support to the human body in coping with the pressures placed on a wide range of its functions by both the internal and external environments; and,

(3) plants which normalize the functions of the bodily systems.

Of the 4,000 plants that the research team studied, only 12 were identified as adaptogens! The four main adaptogens that the Brekhman and Lazarev research team studied were, in addition to eleuthero: rhodiola, rhaponticum, and schisandra.

adaptogensbottles 

Eventually with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the financing for Brekhman’s research on adaptogens went away, and most likely delayed the Western world’s understanding and acceptance of these powerful plants.

In the United States the use of adaptogens, while growing, is still surprisingly low compared to other parts of the world.

 

adptogens

The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some aspect of their primary healthcare and research validating herbal medicine has been done in Germany, Japan, China, Taiwan, and Russia. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for licensing all new drugs (or any substances for which medicinal properties are claimed) for use in the United States, does not recognize or accept findings from other countries.

Even though substantial research is being done abroad, U.S, drug companies and laboratories have not found a way to financially benefit by investing money or resources into botanical research. The result is that herbal medicine does not have the same place of importance or level of acceptance as it does in other countries. For example, in Germany, roughly 600 to 700 plant-based medicines are available and are prescribed by approximately 70% of German physicians.

If you are living in the U.S., there is good news, however.  There are more than 22,000 adaptogen related studies listed on PubMed that anyone can access via the internet and more and more nutritional supplement companies are including adaptogens in their formulas.  And the future looks even brighter.  There are more than 750,000 plants on earth, and relatively speaking, just a handful of these healing herbs have been studied scientifically.  New studies are being conducted every year as a new generation of researchers follow in the footsteps of there Russian predecessors.

So, perhaps a little recognition for Israel Brekham and his team is long overdue.  AdaptoGenie says “thanks” and in time, maybe you will too.

Get Fat and Happy With Sea Buckthorn!

We all need fat in our diet.  Fat is critical to both physical and mental functions.  For example, both your brain and your heart require fat to maintain good health. But, not all fats are the same.  Dietitians and other health experts typically divide fats into two categories, good fats and bad fats.  But, AdaptoGenie is here to educate you about a third category, GREAT fats!  What constitutes a great fat?  I define a great fat as a plant sourced fat that not only has a broad array of physical benefits, but one that also helps with mood and mental clarity.

Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae Rhamnoides), is an adaptogen that is a great source of Omegas 3, 6, 9 and 7, and according to my definition, is a provider of great fat.  The online newsletter Natural Society had the following to say about Sea Buckthorn.

Sea Buckthorn

“Sea buckthorn has been used in China for more than 12 centuries to heal various disorders and is used in modern times by allopathic and Ayurvedic practitioners alike. Legend has it that even Genghis Khan, the Mongol conqueror, used Sea Buckthorn to propel the fight against his enemies.

Sea Buckthorn2

The fruit grows primarily high in the Himalayan Mountains (Spiti Valley), which makes it particularly hearty. It is even called “Holy Fruit’ among the locals there. It is here, under the conditions of high altitude, exposure to extremely strong ultra violet radiation due to its proximity to the sun, and reflected light from heavy snows, severe cold, scorching heat, and dry, ‘barren’ soil, that this plant becomes a ‘super’ food. It is extremely life-giving and enhances both health and beauty.

healthy skin

Sea buckthorn has multiple uses due to its protein building amino acids, vitamins B1, B2, K, C, A, E, and folic acid, over 60 antioxidants, at least 20 minerals, and healthy fatty acids. The fruit is full of carotenoids, xanthophylls, phenolics, and flavanoids, too. Its an absolute power house of nutrients!

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The leaves, berries and roots can all be used in different forms. It is a complete food that can support the body in all the following ways:

  • Treats gastrointestinal disorders including ulcers
  • Reverses gout
  • Eliminates skin rashes
  • Cures infections
  • Improves sight, lessens eye soreness
  • Promotes colon health
  • Contributes to proper brain and nervous system functioning
  • Reduces inflammatory response in the body
  • Improves mental clarity
  • Treats asthmatic symptoms
  • Reduces skin markings associated with measles or mumps
  • Reduces illness associated with cancer
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Boosts lymphatic circulation and immunity
  • Reduces hunger (due to Omega 7s)
  • Improves the look of skin and hair (also due to Omega 7, 3, 6, and 9s)
  • Neutralizes free radicals in the body
  • Slows the aging process
  • Supports internal organs
  • Boost health of the mucous membranes lining the digestive and respiratory tracts”
  • Supports urogential system
  • Reduces the condition of a fatty liver
  • Helps to increase cellular vitality”

That is quite an impressive list of benefits from just one plant.  It’s easy to see why Sea Buckthorn has been labeled as both an adaptogen and a super food.  With Sea Buckthorn you get your healthy fats to improve a host of physical conditions and simultaneously boost your mental and emotional state.  In short, you get fat and you get happy, all from one legendary plant.

Holy Basil, Batman! This Stuff is Amazing!

batman

In the recently released Lego Batman movie, the film starts with Batman’s voice describing the opening credits.  When he gets to one particular production company logo he says something like, “I don’t know what these guys do, but they have a really cool logo.”  I wonder if something similar doesn’t happen when people see Holy Basil listed an an ingredient in an herbal combination.  “I don’t know what it does, but it has a cool sounding name.”   Well, if that is the case, it is time that I, AdaptoGenie, educate you about this powerful and versatile adaptogen.

Holy Basil or Tulsi is one of the most potent herbs alive.  The name “Tulsi” means “The Incomparable One” because of its unique health benefits.  The herb was a staple of Hindu mythology and considered sacred by the Indian royalty.

Also known as Ocimum sanctum L. Holy Basil is a member of the mint family and is native to Southeast Asia. It has a history within Ayurvedic medicine and thus has been used for a myriad of conditions.  It’s versatility affirms it’s nickname as the “Queen of Herbs.”  Here are just a few of the health benefits of Holy Basil.

Holy Basil1

Stress Relief

As an adaptogen, Holy Basil helps your body adapt to stress and promotes mental balance, but scientific research also shows that holy basil has certain pharmacological properties that help your mind cope with many types of stress.

Holy basil has been shown to increase endurance and lower stress levels in both human and animal studies.  Animals who had holy basil leaf extracts and went through environment induced-stress scenarios demonstrated

  • enhanced metabolism
  • improved swimming time
  • less tissue damage
  • lower stress levels in loud environments

Humans experienced reduced:

  • stress
  • sexual problems
  • sleep problems
  • forgetfulness
  • fatigue

According to the Journal of Ayurvedic Medicine, holy basil has antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties.

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Detoxification/Immunity

Holy basil is also high in anti-oxidants and helps your body detox.  Studies show that holy basil can protect your body against toxic chemicals. It may also reduce the growth of cancerous cells.

Holy basil helps to strengthen the body’s immune system, allowing it to fight off opportunistic parasites such as candida, viruses and staph infections.

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Anti-inflammatory/Wound Healing

Holy Basil extracts have been used to boost wound healing because the plant has the following properties:

  • antibacterial
  • antiviral
  • antifungal
  • anti-inflammatory
  • analgesic (a painkiller)

Holy basil increases your wound’s breaking strength, healing time, and contraction. Breaking strength refers to how much pressure or weight a wound can take before it breaks.

Lower blood sugar

This could be good news if you or someone you know suffers with type 2 diabetes. Holy basil can help reduce your blood sugar levels.  Animal and human trials have shown that holy basil can help prevent symptoms of diabetes such as:

  • weight gain
  • excess insulin in the blood
  • high cholesterol
  • insulin resistance
  • hypertension

According to the research, rats who received holy basil extract saw a 24 percent decrease in blood sugar after 30 days.

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Control Cortisol Levels:

One of the key benefits that many adaptogenic herbs offer is their ability to lower and stabilize cortisol levels.  High cortisol drains the precursers to major hormones such as testosterone, progesterone and estrogen.

As a result, the body becomes sex hormone deficient.  This process rapidly accelerates the aging process and makes life much less enjoyable.

Healthy individuals have stable cortisol levels that naturally spike in the morning and then level off and stay consistently low during the day before tapering at night.  This allows us to wake up with energy in the morning and maintain that energy until nightfall when we should naturally be gearing down and getting ready for sleep.

Stable cortisol levels result in improved mental clarity and memory.  The individual feels as though they are less agitated and anxious and therefore able to perform better.

With all this going for it, it’s easy to see why Holy Basil is so highly regarded by ayurvedic practitioners and why it is a key component of many herbal formulas.  Like Batman, Holy Basil may disguise itself as a mild mannered garden plant, but don’t be deceived, this little herb has superpowers!

holy-basil
 Sources:
  1. Cohen, M. M. (2014, October-December). Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine 5(4), 251-259.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4296439/
  2. Yates, Beverly. Holy basil: An overview of the research and clinical indications. (n.d.).
    http://www.gaiaherbs.com/uploads/1596_HPR_HolyBasil_ResearchPaper-1371567034.pdf
  3. Wagner H, Nörr H, Winterhoff H. Plant adaptogens. Phytomedicine. 1994 Jun;1(1):63-76. PMID: 23195818
  4. Garabadu D, Shah A, Ahmad A, Joshi VB, Saxena B, Palit G, Krishnamurthy S. Eugenol as an anti-stress agent: modulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and brain monoaminergic systems in a rat model of stress. Stress. 2011 Mar;14(2):145-55. PMID: 21034296
  5. Hussain EHMA, Jamil K, Rao M. Hypoglycaemic, hypolipidemic and antioxidant properties of tulsi (Ocimum sanctum linn) on streptozotocin induced diabetes in rats. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry. 2001;16(2):190-194.
  6. Pattanayak P, Behera P, Das D, Panda SK. Ocimum sanctum Linn. A reservoir plant for therapeutic applications: An overview. Pharmacognosy Reviews. 2010;4(7):95-105.
  7. Prakash P, Gupta N. Therapeutic uses of Ocimum sanctum Linn (Tulsi) with a note on eugenol and its pharmacological actions: a short review. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2005 Apr;49(2):125-31. PMID: 16170979
  8. Baliga MS, Jimmy R, Thilakchand KR, Sunitha V, Bhat NR, Saldanha E, Rao S, Rao P, Arora R, Palatty PL. Ocimum sanctum L (Holy Basil or Tulsi) and its phytochemicals in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Nutr Cancer. 2013;65 Suppl 1:26-35. PMID: 23682780
  9. Agarwal, C., Sharma, N. L., & Gaurav, S. S. (2015, January). Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum Linn.) leaf extract enhances specific cognitive parameters in healthy adult volunteers: A placebo controlled study. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology1(4), 180-183.
    http://www.nepjol.info/index.php/IJASBT/article/view/9168
  10. Bhattacharyya, D., Sur, T. K., Jana, U., & Debnath, P. K. (2008). Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders. Nepal Medical College Journal, 10, 176-179.
    http://nopr.niscair.res.in/bitstream/123456789/12818/4/IJTK 10(4) 668-671.pdf
  11. Ocimum tenuiflorum (holy basil). (n.d.).
    http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/ocimum-tenuiflorum-holy-basil

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