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The Effects of Adaptogens Can Be “Limitless”

You know the movie “Limitless” starring Bradley Cooper?  The sci-fi thriller released in 2011?  Well, for the cinematically challenged, its a film about a struggling author who is experiencing writers block.  In the movie, the author (Cooper) is given a nootropic or smart drug that allows him to miraculously increase his brain function, allowing him to recall, categorize and utilize information at an incredible rate.  The end result is that his productivity shoots off the charts and he becomes rich, successful and famous.

Now, what if I told you that there was an all natural, plant sourced version of a smart drug and that it had actually been tested in double blind studies and proven to work?  What if you knew that these plants had been consumed for centuries and that there was no risk of side effects? Would you be interested?

Well, according to a 2010 double-blind, placebo controlled study, adaptogenics herbs can dramatically effect cognitive functioning.  (Phytomedicine. 2010 Jun;17(7):494-9. Epub 2010 Apr 5.)

rhodiola3 siberian-ginsengschisandra
The study, which used a blend of rhodiola, schisandra and eleuthero, “improved attention and increased speed and accuracy during stressful cognitive tasks, in comparison to placebo.”  In addition, “there was also a tendency…to reduce percentage of errors, which means better accuracy and quality of the work…”  The study also reported, ” no serious side effects…”

 

Kind of mind blowing, right?  (pun intended) That, my friends, is the power of adaptogens and the kind of useful information that we are just beginning to learn.  (Actually, it’s stuff YOU are learning, AdaptGenie has know all about this for hundreds of years and it’s why I created this blog)

Can’t Wait to Get On the Rhodiola Again

Rhodiola rosea, hereafter referred to simply as rhodiola, is an remarkable herb hailing from the mountains and found native to Eurasia (specifically the Caucasus Mountains , a mountain range found between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea), Russia (specifically found in the Altai mountains and known there are golden root) and even native to Maine and Vermont in the United States.

rhodiola

So it’s not too surprising that rhodiola would turn up in ancient Greece, just on the other side of Turkey from the Caucasus mountains.  The Greek physician, Diascorides, lauded the uses of rhodiola in his book about plant medicine. Vikings were known to use the plant so they could enhance their strength and endurance. Even to this day, people in Siberia recommend the plant to help a person live longer, and they give it to newlywed couples to enhance fertility and vitality.

romance

Rhodiola is one of my favorite adaptogens for helping increase energy, lift mood and enhance concentration, attention and focus. A recent study comparing rhodiola to a common antidepressant medication found that rhodiola reduced depression very similarly to the pharmaceutical antidepressant, however there far fewer side effects with rhodiola.   Two common side effects from antidepressants are sexual dysfunctions (like being unable to reach orgasm) and agitation (even enough agitation that the result is insomnia). Rhodiola actually enhances sexual response and improves sleep, so the side effects of rhodiola are actually likely to help a person rather than hurt a person.

Adaptogens can help people survive tough physical stressors, including extremes of temperature, toxic chemical exposure, cancer and high endurance demands. They reduce stress’s demand on the body, improve longevity and enhance the immune system response.  And they are incredibly safe.

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The adaptogen rhodiola is appealing in part because there is quite a lot more research using rhodiola so we know more about it scientifically than we know about some of the other adaptogens. We know that rhodiola can:

  • delay cellular aging
  • prevent free radical damage to cell membranes
  • reduce insulin resistance
  • counteract excessive fat storage
  • reduce inflammation (as measured by c-reactive protein levels)
  • reduce fatigue
  • help normalize heart rate
  • enhance mental performance (concentration, attention)
  • improve physical endurance and performance
  • improve sexual functioning
  • ease menopausal symptoms
  • help protect the liver and help the liver perform its job (detoxification)

In short, what’s not to like? And one of the best things is that I can use rhodiola nearly every single day of the year and have no worries that I’m using it to excess or that it will stop “working” for me.  I have also seen a number of people benefit from its anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects. Rhodiola is truly one of my first “go-to” herbs.

In future posts, we’ll take a look at some of the more specific areas in which rhodiola is a star, including mental functioning, physical performance, stress, mood, fatigue, immune support and more.

-Dr. Alison Caldwell-Andrews is an expert contributor to the AdaptoGenie blog.  Dr. Caldwell-Andrews received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Kentucky and completed a post-doc in Mind-Body Medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine.  As a faculty member at Yale, she served as Director of Research for the Yale Perioperative Research Group, conducting clinical research and publishing 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals.

 

The Maral of the Story

Much like stories of genies in bottles, there are also mythical tales of plants that bestow super powers and incredible strength upon anyone lucky enough to find them.  (Think Popeye and his spinach.) The curious thing is that a large number of these stories are based in fact.  There are, in actuality, certain plants that can give you near superhuman strength and stamina.  Here are some facts about one such herb.

 

maral-root

Maral root (also known as rhaponticum) has distinguished itself among Russian military and eastern European athletes and a large number of body-building aficionados as specific along with Chinese ginseng for building muscle mass. It has a wide following that would attest to its libido-enhancing properties as well.

According to herbalist David Winston in his book Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief (Healing Arts Press, 2007), maral root is a long-living perennial that lives anywhere from 75 to 150 years and has a long history of use in Mongolian, Siberian and possibly Chinese medicine. In Siberia, where it grows, it is used as a folk medicine “to enhance physical and sexual energy, improve mood and concentration, and help people survive the cold and challenging climate of Siberia” (Winston, 2007). It is named after the maral deer who eat its roots especially during the mating season to maintain their strength. Maral root has a wide range of adaptogenic benefits serving as a cardiac tonic, antioxidant, immune stimulant and nervine with antitumor and hepatoprotective properties.

Among its many uses include:

Replenishes strength and energy reserves
Restores sexual potency in men
Increases mental awareness
Increases lean muscle mass
Helps decrease fatty tissue
Adaptogens have a wider range of effect than do the traditional Chinese tonics. One would hardly consider any of the Chinese tonics as a treatment for inflammatory conditions such as fevers and sore throat. However, in Mongolian medicine, “(maral) roots are used to treat people with respiratory, liver and kidney diseases as well as fevers and severe sore throats” (Winston, 2007).

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The biochemical constituents in dried Rhaponticum root are tannins, phytoecdysones, flavonoids, glycosides, lignins, alkaloids, vitamins and an organic acid which helps people to maintain mental focus and alertness, especially under stressful conditions.

Ecdysterone plays a special role in regulating protein synthesis and thus increasing muscle mass in a similar way as steroids but without their harmful effects. Ecdysterone also helps enzymes including glutamate decarboxylase and acetylcholine esterase to synthesize in the brain and in the cells to assist in the production of energy. Finally it helps to protect liver cells from oxidation and DNA and cellular membranes from hydrogen peroxide.

Scientists believe that ecdysterone mimics natural steroid hormones in the human body and will increase them if they are insufficient. These steroid hormones are comparable to Kidney Yin and are depleted when the body or mind is subject to physical or mental stress.”

So, as you can see, plants with super powers are not mere stories or superstitions. They do exist, and rhaponticum is an excellent example.  And that is the Maral of the story!

Adaptogens Provide Broad Mind/Body Benefits – Dr. Alison Caldwell-Andrews

You may be one of the millions of people who are looking to feel better. Perhaps you want to improve your immune system or simply get over bronchitis. Maybe you are hoping to avoid coming down with a cold this year or possibly you want to take steps now to avoid future health problems. Or, perhaps you wish you had more endurance and stamina. If you’re a runner or a biker or are hoping to schedule your next triathalon, you probably would love to find a way to increase your ability to train and get better results.

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Another category of people who are looking for help are those who would like to be less anxious, more emotionally stable or less depressed. Better quality sleep, lower blood sugar, improved liver functioning….this list of what we wish for can go on and on. The sum-up here is that most people want better health.

We know that you can’t get healthy by taking a pill.  It’s just common sense, isn’t it?  However, there are some plants that are almost as good as free health in a pill: Adaptogens.

adaptogen-pill  Adaptogens are plants that have been shown to have “non-specific” beneficial effects. What this means is that the effects are not limited to one area; multiple areas of the body will benefit from one plant. You can think if this effect somewhat like nutrition: if your cell mitochondria are fed by nutrients, your whole body will benefit. Adaptogenic plants will not only help you feel more energetic, they will usually help lift your mood, boost your immune system and provide a variety of other benefits including (and not limited to) protecting the liver and improving liver functioning, protecting the heart and improving cardiac function, protecting the brain from beta-amyloid plaques that are associated with degenerative brain disorders like Parkinson’s disease, soothing and strengthening gut tissues and functioning, and much more.

Look forward to future posts that will discuss specific adaptogens, current research, and other adaptogen-related health concepts and concerns.

 

alison

Dr. Alison Caldwell-Andrews is an expert contributor to the AdaptoGenie blog.  Dr. Caldwell-Andrews received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Kentucky and completed a post-doc in Mind-Body Medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine.  As a faculty member at Yale, she served as Director of Research for the Yale Perioperative Research Group, conducting clinical research and publishing 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Her interest in mind-body healing began in the early 1990’s and she is a Certified Nutritional Herbalist.  She’s an active public speaker, author, conducts workshops, and consults in the areas of creating success behaviors, herbs and the mind-body connection, and science-based holistic treatment for psychiatric disorders.

The Joy of Jiaogulan

Deep in the mountainous regions of southern China, herbal teas made from the adaptogenic herb jiaogulan have been consumed for centuries. Known as the “immortality herb,” the southern Chinese locals have utilized the herb to promote longevity and to cultivate a healthy lifestyle going far back into the early Chinese empires. Throughout the early days of herbal Chinese medicine, the herb was ignored due to the preference of ginseng and the isolation of the southern provinces from the central cities, but during the modern era it has seen a surge of popularity because of its proven adaptogenic effects. Starting in the 1970’s, studies about jiaogulan began being published in medical and herbal medicine journals, and the positive effects proven to be associated with the herb were astonishing. Throughout multiple rigorous studies, jiaogulan has been conclusively shown to assist the body in:

jiaogulan-tea

· Regulating blood pressure – (Tanner MA, Bu X, Steimle JA, Myers PR (1999-10-03))

· Reducing unhealthy cholesterol levels – (Blumert, Michael; Jialiu Liu (2003). Jiaogulan: China’s “Immortality” Herb. Badger, CA: Torchlight Publishing. p. 42)

· Reducing stress on cardiovascular systems – (Chen, LF et al. (1990). “Comparison between the effects of gypenosieds and ginsegnosides on cardiac function and hemodynamics in dogs”. Chinese J Pharmacol Toxicol 4 (1): 17–20.)

· Maintaining optimal homeostasis – (David Winston; Steven Maimes (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Healing Arts Press).

With all of these proven health benefits, it appears that the stories of the “immortality herb” were not entirely inaccurate. You may not live forever with jiaogulan, but you will certainly live a longer and healthier life!

Adaptogens – Centuries Old Secrets Revealed

For too long, the secret of adaptogenic herbs has been” bottled up,” so to speak.  But the time has come for a new look and a new appreciation of the power of ancient healing.  So I, the great AdaptoGenie, have emerged from centuries of concealment carrying with me secrets from the past and timely advice for the future. (No, I’m not just blowing smoke.)

So, why now?

Because I believe adaptogens may very well hold the key to restoring health and vitality to a world that presently seems destined toward disease or fated to feel bad.  But before I tell you more about the secrets I bring, permit me to start with a little history lesson.  (When you have lived as long as I have, history is kind of your thing.)

ashwaganda

For millennia, man (and woman) has relied on the power of plants to heal from and ward off illness.  Traditional herbal philosophies such as ayurveda from India, traditional Chinese medicine, Tibetan medicine, Greco-Arabic medicine, kampo from Japan and Native American medicine were all based on the amazing healing effects of plants.  Many of the herbs held in highest esteem within these cultures were those with the broadest benefits.  In fact, all of these traditions speak of seemingly miraculous plants with the ability to restore physical and emotional balance and harmony.  Each of these cultures shared stories about the existence of certain plants with the astonishing ability to adjust their effects based on the individual needs of the person consuming them.

In Ayurveda, there is a class of herbs called “rasayana.”   These herbs were believed to strengthen tissues and organs throughout the body.  These herbs were said to revitalize and regenerate.  They were plants that would slow down the aging process and build up one’s resistance to disease.

chinese-herbs

Chinese herbal medicine, has for centuries, studied plants and recorded their effects on health and wellness.  The most cherished class of plants according to the Chinese philosophy is a group they labeled the Superior class.  These are herbs that can be taken in large quantities, over an extended period of time, with no risk of ill effects.  These superior plants are believed to enhance normal physiological functions rather than force a specific physical or emotional effect.

With the rise of allopathic medicine at or about the turn of the 20th century, the use of plant based remedies steadily declined and more and more health practitioners turned to synthetic drugs and surgical procedures to treat illness.  So, for more than a century now, the remarkable benefits of adaptogens have gone underutilized and unappreciated.  Well, I AdaptoGenie intend to change all of that.

stress-free

If you, or someone you know, may be interested in;

  • Increased energy
  • Stronger immunity
  • Improved performance (both athletic and sexual)
  • A more balanced mood
  • Stress management
  • Greater stamina
  • Improved digestion
  • Better sleep

then I encourage you to follow this blog and like my page @adaptogenie on Twitter or Facebook.  In the weeks to come I, and a prestigious list of guest contributors including renowned herbalists, acclaimed research scientists and knowledgeable health experts, will be sharing life changing information about adaptogens and mind body wellness. So, if you’ve been wishing for better health and vitality, I can grant that wish by giving you the power and knowledge you need to take control of your own health.

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