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If Mama Ain’t Happy…

How does the old saying go?  “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”  Most people can relate to this statement.  But, just because you can relate, doesn’t mean you necessarily know exactly how to make mama happy.  While both genders are subject to the blues and depression now and then, women are twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than men. There are a number of explanations for this including biological reasons, psychological reasons and sociocultural explanations.

Let’s start with the biological reasons.  First of all, women may have a stronger genetic predisposition to developing depression and compared to men, women are much more subjected to fluctuating hormone levels. This is especially the case around the time of childbirth and during menopause, both of which are associated with an increased risk of developing depression.

 

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There are also some psychological reasons that women are more prone to moderate to severe depression.  Women are more ruminative than men, that is, they tend to think about things more—which, though a very good thing, may also predispose them to developing depression. In contrast, men are more likely to react to difficult times with stoicicism, anger or substance misuse.  In addition, women are generally more invested in relationships than men. Relationship problems are likely to affect them more, and so they are more likely to develop depression.

Finally, there are a couple of sociocultural reasons that may explain why women tend to battle with depression more than men.  Women live longer than men. Old age is often associated with bereavement, poor health, and loneliness.  All of these can lead to depression.

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Women are also more likely to receive and accept a diagnosis of depression. For starters, they are more likely to consult a physician and to discuss their feelings with the doctor. Conversely, physicians (whether male or female) may be more likely to diagnosis depression in a woman.

So ladies, those are the unfortunate facts.  You’re more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.  However, don’t despair, your friend  AdaptoGenie is here with some herbal wisdom.  Here is a list of  3 adaptogenic herbs that help balance female hormones and assist women in preventing or dealing with depression and anxiety.

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1. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwagandha is a popular herb in the Indian system of medicine Ayurveda. Ashwagandha has a balancing effect on the adrenal glands and the thyroid. People with hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are both benefited by taking Ashwagandha extract.

Ashwagandha can reduce stress, improve blood circulation, and prevent premature aging. It is considered an aphrodisiac, and is used to treat erectile dysfunction in men, but its ability to relieve stress is thought to be behind this effect. A similar effect on women is attributed to increased blood flow to the reproductive organs.

As the species name ‘somnifera’ suggests, Ashwagandha improves sleep. It has a rejuvenating effect on older people, helping them to regain physical vigor and vitality. It also improves memory.

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2. Maca root (Lepidium meyenii)

The root of this turnip-like plant belonging to the cabbage family is called Peruvian ginseng after its native place, though it is actually no relative of true ginseng. The highly nutritious root is used as a vegetable, and is consumed in the Andean cuisine. But what made it popular is its energy boosting effect that is thought to have provided strength and stamina to the Inca warriors of old.

The hormone balancing effect of this root provides additional benefits like stress relief. Maca root has plant hormones that confer special benefits to women such as relieving premenstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats.

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2. Suma root (Pfaffia paniculata)

Suma is native to South America.  The root extract of this herb is known to normalize endocrine function, improve immunity, and increase strength and performance. In its native land, Suma is known as a ‘cure all,’ and it is used for treating a large number of ailments besides being used as a general tonic and calming agent.

Suma is also known as ‘Russian Secret’ because Russian athletes used an ergogenic compound ecdysterone extracted from the Suma plant to increase sports performance. It was found to be free of the side effects associated with many other anabolic steroids. Although it remained a well kept secret of the Russians for quite some time, this compound is now used by sportspersons everywhere. Other uses of this herb includes enhancing memory, stimulating appetite, and balancing blood sugar levels.

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Whether you currently suffer from depression or have a history of depression and anxiety in your family or are just looking to generally improve your mood, adding these 3 powerful adaptogens to your daily routine will do wonders.  Look, now mama is happy and everybody is happy about that!

 

Build More Muscle With Ashwagandha

Athletes, body builders and/or anyone who wants to build lean muscle and look better should check out this November, 2015 study examining the effects of ashwagandha on muscle strength and recovery.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26609282

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Here is the conclusion: “This study reports that ashwagandha supplementation is associated with significant increases in muscle mass and strength and suggests that ashwagandha supplementation may be useful in conjunction with a resistance training program.”

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Pretty impressive stuff!  So, if you are looking to get stronger and build more muscle, do it the right way, the healthy way, with ashwagandha!

 

 

Hanging With Huang Qi

In China, where it is a native plant, astragalus is known as Huang Qi which is translated to mean “Yellow Leader.”  This title seems somewhat oxymoronic since it would be difficult to be both yellow (or cowardly) and a leader, unless you were a very poor leader, but I digress, which genies should be allowed to do.

Anyway, astragalus is an adaptogen that is a leader among tonic herbs and is anything but poor or cowardice in terms of it’s potency and benefits.  Astragalus root has been used for centuries to expel pus and relieve pain.  Chinese herbalists recommended astragalus for night sweats, asthma, coughing and diseases with chills and fevers.

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Modern uses of astragalus include preventing liver and kidney damage due to long term use of medications.  It is a known immune booster that helps prevent colds, flus, bronchitis, mononucleosis, pneumonia and other common ailments.  Astragalus has been known to improve blood flow and increase stamina.

Other benefits attributed to astragalus include increasing appetite, improving recovery from chemotherapy and as a cure for hemorrhoids.

Recent research at the UCLA AIDS Institute focused on the function of cycloastragenol in the aging process of immune cells, and its effects on the cells’ response to viral infections. It appears to increase the production of telomerase, an enzyme that mediates the replacement of short bits of DNA known as telomeres, which play a key role in cell replication, including in cancer processes.

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With such a broad array of benefits, you can easily see how astragalus received its name.  It is a leader among herbs.  The yellow part simply refers to the color of its root, but then you probably figured that out.

Sensational Schisandra

Schisandra is an adaptogen that is native to northern and northeastern China. Its name comes from the fact that its berries possess all five basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour, pungent (spicy), and bitter. The Schisandra berries are used in traditional chinese medicine, where it is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs.

 

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Schisandra is classified as an “adaptogen” because it increases resistance to disease and stress.  It works to balance hormones naturally and therefore improves the ability to deal with stressors, both physical and psychological. It has also been traditionally used to increase energy, physical performance and endurance.

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It is also well know for its prowess in preventing early aging and increasing lifespan. Different cultures have had different uses for Schisandra.  Just look at the impressive list of conditions addressed by this amazing herb:

  • Normalizes blood sugar and blood pressure
  • Stimulates the immune system 
  • Liver detoxing and hepatitis  (The Chinese have developed a liver-protecting drug called DBD that is made from schisandrin, one of the chemicals in schisandra.)
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Asthma and chronic cough
  • Improves sleep
  • Helps relieve nerve pain
  • Prevents night sweats
  • Stops chronic diarrhea
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Excessive urination
  • Depression and irritability
  • Protects against memory loss
  • Improves vision
  • Relieves adrenal fatigue

Historically, schisandra was consumed as a tonic in tea form, but today you can find it in capsules and herbal beverages, which makes it easier than ever to use. Because it is an adaptogen, it can be taken long term without any negative side effects or risks.  In fact, it’s believed to work better and better the longer you take it, just like many other natural adaptogens.

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Schisandra berries may have five flavors, but it has at least 5 times that many health benefits.   Schisandra…an adaptogen for everyone!

 

Suma – The Sum Total of Health

One of the best things about being a genie, is that you frequently know what is going to happen before it actually transpires.  What this means is that I am often aware of future trends, inventions, discoveries, etc. before any of you.  Well, I AdaptoGenie am here to tell you about a little known herb that is poised to become the next kale, quinoa, ginseng  or whatever.  The next big thing in herbal supplementation is going to be Suma.

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Suma is an adaptogen that is native to the Amazonian rainforest.  It’s berries bark and leaves are all used medicinally, but it is the suma root that is widely recognized as an herbal powerhouse.  The word suma comes from the latin word which means “sum total” and the plant is known throughout the Amazon basin as “para todo,” which means for everything.

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According to the American Pharmaceutical Association, suma is an “energizing adaptogen,” which boosts the immune system and combats low energy or fatigue. Natutal health practicioners have often suggested suma to fight the exhaustion that occurs from viral infections such as Lyme disease and Epstein-Barr disease. It has also been used to control diabetes and hormonal imbalances due to menopause. The Mayo Clinic has stated that a serum containing suma can improve the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.

So, here’s a little Suma-ry of health benefits attributed to this amazing plant:

  • Boosts immunity
  • Increases stamina
  • Promotes fertility
  • Enriches skin
  • Boosts libido and sexual performance
  • Inhibits tumor growth
  • Reduces dark circles under eyes
  • Balances hormones
  • Helps control diabetes
  • Improves athletic performance
  • Relieves stress
  • Increases appetite
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Strengthens the heart and circulation

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You know what? It really doesn’t take a genie to see that suma is destined to be one of the hottest herbs on the market.  With the ever growing need for stronger immunity and greater stamina, suma is the right herb at the right time.  If you are not currently including suma in your daily health regimen, now is the perfect time to start.

5 Reasons You Need Reishi

Many people wonder how genies can live for so long.  Most assume it’s magic, but I’m here to tell you that it has more to do with adaptogens than with abracadabra.  One of the best herbs for slowing down the aging process is reishi mushrooms.

Reishi mushrooms may be relatively new to Western cultures, but this fabulous fungus has been revered in Asian societies for thousands of years and is one of the oldest symbols of well-being and longevity. Revered as the “herb of immortality” reishi mushrooms are classified as an adaptogen.  They can be found growing wild on plum trees and for centuries they were reserved for use only by royals.

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There are many varieties of reishi, the most common of which has a soft, cork-like texture and an ear-shaped cap that ranges in color from red-orange to black. The reishi mushroom has a rather bitter, woody taste, which is why it is traditionally prepared in a tea or as an extract. It wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that researchers began to rigorously study the medicinal properties of the reishi mushroom, which is known to the scientific community as ganoderma lucidum.

Due to its increased notoriety, the reishi mushroom is now cultivated commercially throughout the world.

Here are five scientifically studied health benefits of the reishi mushroom:

  • Life Span Extension – In 2009, Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry published a study conducted in Taiwan that displayed the life span-extending properties of the polysaccharides found in the reishi mushroom. These unique molecules promote longevity by boosting immune system function and preventing abnormal blood vessel formations that could lead to life-threatening cancerous growths.
  • Defends Against Tumor Growth – The reishi mushroom has not only been shown to prevent the development of cancers, but research has indicated that the reishi mushroom may also eliminate existing cancer cells in the body. In 2010, Pharmacological Reports published a study that highlighted the role of ganoderic acid, a triterpinoid found in the reishi mushroom, in the inhibition of the development and metastasis of tumors.
  • Improves Liver Function and Detoxification – A 2013 study in Food and Chemical Toxicology used the reishi mushroom to reverse chemical-driven liver damage in mice. The same triterpenes that displayed anti-cancer properties in other studies appear to aid the release of free radicals and promote liver cell regeneration.
  • Promotes Heart Health and Balances Blood Pressure – In a study reported by Burton Goldberg in “Heart Disease,” 54 people with hypertension unresponsive to medication, taking reishi extract three times a day for four weeks was enough to significantly lower blood pressure.
  • Fights Allergies and Asthma – Laboratory studies suggest that reishi mushroom may have antihistamine effects. This has not been tested in humans.

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So, if you desire to live longer or just live better, I highly recommend you make ‘shroom for Reishi. The secret to longevity isn’t magic, it’s adaptogens like reishi mushrooms.

Here Comes the King!

Of all the plants classified as adaptogens, the one with the most renown is eleuthero!  Eleuthero has been the subject of thousands of scientific studies, in dozens of countries and its benefits have been extremely well documented.

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In fact, in the 16th century Li Shih-Chen, a Chinese pharmacologist and physician wrote a 52-volume manuscript detailing the treatments used in traditional Chinese medicine. He covered over 10,000 substances, but there was one herb in particular that stood out to him. When it came to the herb eleuthero, he saw no comparison.

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He wrote, “I would rather take a handful of eleuthero than a cartload of gold and jewels.”

Eleuthero is native to Eastern Asia and is found primarily in mountain forests.   It has been called the king of adaptogens, because of its almost endless list of benefits endless.  Eleuthero has been used as a treatment for:

  • Cold & flu
  • Stress & anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Weakened immunity
  • Emotional imbalance

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Eleuthero is also a top choice for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.  Dr. Ben Tabachnik, a former Soviet sports nutrition researcher and coach, attributes eleuthero to helping the Soviet Olympic team dominate the 1988 Olympics.  Athletes who supplement with eleuthero report significant improvements in:

  • Peripheral vison
  • Reaction time
  • Stamina
  • Suppression of increased cortisol
  • Oxygen uptake
  • Lung capacity
  • Faster recovery

So, whether you are a professional athlete looking for an edge, a weekend warrior trying to relive your glory days or just a soccer mom looking for greater stamina and better immunity, eleuthero could very well be the perfect supplement.  Look to the king of adaptogens, eleuthero.

No Horsing Around, Ashwagandha Works!

In Sanskrit Ashwagandha means literally, “the smell of a horse.” Fortunately, this name  does not refer to the smell of the plant itself, but instead is indicative of Ashwagandha’s ability to impart the vigor and strength of a stallion.  Historically, Ashwagandha has been particularly beneficial helping people strengthen their immune system after an illness.

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After years of scientific studies involving Ashwagandha, researchers have determined that this amazing plant has a myriad of health giving properties.  Four recent studies clearly illustrate Ashwagandha’s broad array of benefits.

  1. Physical Performance
    In a small double-blind, placebo-controlled study, healthy participants receiving a standardized root extract of ashwagandha for eight weeks showed an increase in speed and muscular strength by nearly 10% in tested physical activity.2
  2. Focus and Concentration
    In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, twenty healthy males were given 500 mg of ashwagandha root extract for fourteen days. Significant cognitive improvements were seen in reaction-time tests, discrimination tests, and in card sorting tests, among many others. These results show ashwagandha’s ability to support attention, memory, focus, concentration, and responsiveness and coordination between the mind and motor functions.3
  3. Stress and Food Consumption
    In a study with fifty-two healthy subjects experiencing stress for a long period of time, ashwagandha (300 mg twice daily) not only decreased stress (as measured by the perceived stress scale), but also food cravings and overall body weights. This was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial that lasted eight weeks.4
  4. Rejuvenation
    In a clinical trial with healthy male volunteers aged fifty to sixty-nine, purified ashwagandha powder, given as 3 grams per day for one year, showed increases in blood counts, improved posture, and increased hair melanin (pigmentation of the hair). In another study, healthy children who were given 2 grams of powdered ashwagandha in milk, experienced improvements in blood counts, body weight, and hand strength.

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Truly, Ashwagandha is an herb that can benefit people of all ages.  Because, it is an adaptogen, it has a non specific effect and helps bring the body and mind into balance, it can be taken over an extended period of time with no adverse side effects.  So, put some giddyup into your daily health regimen with Ashwagandha!

References

2 Sandhu Jaspal, et al. “Effects of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) and Terminalia arjuna (Arjuna) on physical performance and cardiorespiratory endurance n healthy young adults.” Int J Ayurveda Res. 1, no 3 (July-Sept 2010):144-149.

3 U Pingali, et al. “Effect of standardized aqueous extract of Withania somnifera on tests of cognitive and psychomotor performance in healthy human subjects.” Pharmacognosy Res. 6, no 1 (January 2014):12-8.

4 D Choudhary, et al. “Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment with Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. April 6, 2016.

5 Lakshmi-Chandra Mishra, Betsy Singh, and Simon Dagenais. “Scientific Basis for the Therapeutic Use of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha): A Review.” Alternative Medicine Review. 5, no 4 (2000):334-346.

Questions About Adaptogens? Ask AdaptoGenie!

After centuries of granting some of the most bizarre and unbelievable wishes, I am somewhat hesitant to open myself up to queries from strangers.  However, as adaptogens push their way more and more to the forefront of society’s collective consciousness, I  the world’s foremost expert on adaptogens feel it is my duty to accept any questions my readers may have about adaptogens and plant sourced nutrition.

It is somewhat remarkable and puzzling that adaptogens, plants that have been used effectively for hundreds of years, are now being talked about as chic and nouveau.  Just recently, a Huffington Post online article stated the following about adaptogens, “Their popularity is going to be bigger than spirulina… bigger than kale even, because ancient herbal wisdom is back in business baby!”

So, with all this excitement about adaptogens, I am certain that many of you have questions.  Well, lucky for you I have answers.  Please email your questions about adaptogens to adaptogenie@gmail.com and I will respond in a future blog.

 

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