Adapt to Stress with Herbal Adaptogens

Build up your system with these safe and effective herbal tonics.

| September/October 2007

There’s no escaping stress in life. Although most of us tend to think of stress in negative terms—relationship difficulties, job pressures, family problems and financial concerns—stress also is triggered by positive experiences, such as a promotion at work, getting married or buying a home. Stress simply is the body’s heightened physiological response to new situations and to the ever-changing conditions of life.

There’s no doubt that positive stressors feel better than negative ones, but all stress takes a toll on your physical and emotional well-being. The body responds to stress by preparing to fight or flee: The adrenal glands release hormones (including cortisol and adrenaline), which give you a surge of energy and strength. This is designed to be an emergency response to a temporary situation, and all systems are meant to return to normal functioning when the crisis has passed.

Problems arise when stress becomes chronic. Continual releases of stress hormones trigger inflammation, knock back immune function, elevate blood pressure, hinder digestion and impair mental clarity. In fact, researchers estimate that between 60 and 90 percent of all illnesses are stress-related.

Bolstering your resistance to stress includes basic strategies: Eat a healthful diet, get plenty of exercise and rest, and learn to reduce your stress through some type of calming practice, like meditation or yoga. In addition, taking a specific class of herbs known as adaptogens can protect your body, improve your mental functioning and help your body adapt more easily to stressors.

A Long History of Use

Knowledge of special tonic herbs to fortify health and promote longevity dates back thousands of years to ancient China and India. Research over the past few decades has proven that these tonic herbs—now called adaptogens—have remarkable health-protective properties. Today, more than ever, adaptogens play an important role in helping strengthen resistance to the daily stresses of life.

There are certain criteria an herb must meet to qualify as an adaptogen. The herb must restore balance and strengthen the functioning of the body without throwing another organ or body system out of balance. Adaptogens facilitate these changes by a wide range of actions rather than just by one specific action. Of equal importance to the herb’s active properties is its safety—an adaptogen must be nontoxic and non-habit forming, even when taken over a long period of time.

elderberry, echinacea, bee hive


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