Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants that have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to help the body resist stressors of all kinds, whether physical, chemical, or biological. Different Adaptogens are linked to different meridian and chakra energy. These herbs and roots have gained popularity in the modern world for enhancing the body’s resilience in dealing with stress and fatigue, thus promoting balance and well-being. They are an easy-reach-for solution for individuals not wishing to dive in deeper but still ‘do the work’ at the deep subconscious level, which is why they get the positive feedback they deserve. In terms of the tiad of health being the perfect balance of physical, emotional and biochemical they restore balance within the emotional body by shifting and supporting the biochemical.
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens support the adrenal system, which manages the body’s hormonal response to stress. They help to modulate the release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands, enabling the body to adapt more readily to stressful situations. This adaptability can lead to improved focus, endurance, and energy and reduced exhaustion during periods of mental or physical stress.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Often called Indian ginseng, ashwagandha is renowned for its ability to reduce anxiety, improve energy levels, and enhance concentration. It has been the subject of numerous scientific studies demonstrating its effectiveness in reducing cortisol levels and managing stress and anxiety. Ashwagandha root typically have a light tan to brown colour. Its flavour is often described as slightly bitter (Fire Element) and earthy (Earth Meridian), with a somewhat pungent taste (Metal Element).
- In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is considered to have a warm constitution, balancing the Vata and Kapha doshas while potentially increasing Pitta in excess.
Rhodiola Rosea: Known for enhancing physical and mental performance, Rhodiola Rosea can also improve mood and reduce fatigue. It’s particularly beneficial during periods of physical and mental stress. Rhodiola Rosea typically exhibits a greenish or reddish stem with yellow flowers (Earth Element), and its roots, which are the most commonly used part of the plant for medicinal purposes, have a rose-like aroma when cut. The root’s taste is slightly bitter and astringent. Constitutionally, Rhodiola is considered to have a cooling effect on the body, helping to balance stress-induced symptoms by enhancing energy, stamina, and mental capacity without causing overstimulation.
- In Ayurvedic medicine, Rhodiola Rosea links the energy between the sacral and the Solar Plexis, drawing heat and energy up the body. Filling these energy centres and in turn open up the heart space to bloom.
- In TCM. Rhodiola Rosea Bridges the Yin connection between the heart and the spleen. Supporting the individual to step out of the perception of hard work, high energy motivation and drive into enjoying the sweetness in the fruit of their labour.
Ginseng: This well-known adaptogen has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. There are several types, including Panax ginseng and Siberian ginseng, both of which are believed to enhance mental clarity, energy, and immune function.
- In TCM, Panax ginseng, also known as Ren Shen, is highly valued for its potent tonification of the primary Chi of the body, supporting the spleen and lung meridians, enhancing the production of bodily fluids, and calming the spirit. Panax ginseng treats qi deficiency, manifesting as fatigue, weakness, and a lack of appetite. Its warming nature makes it suitable for boosting yang energy and improving vitality and stamina.
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum): Also known as Tulsi, Holy Basil has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to to assist a variety of conditions, including anxiety and stress. It’s believed to possess antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties comparable to antidepressant drugs.
- In TCM, Holy Basil is recognised as Sheng Lou Le. It is associated with the Heart, Spleen, and Kidney meridians and is valued for calming anxiety, lifting the spirit, and improving heart health and circulation. It’s considered a Shen tonic, which tonifies the spleen, kidneys, and yang, showing its versatile use in Eastern healing traditions for enhancing physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra): While best known for its use in candy, licorice root can also support adrenal function and reduce stress. It’s important to use licorice root carefully, as excessive use can lead to side effects like hypertension.
- In TCM, Licorice Root, known as “Gan Cao,” is highly regarded for its harmonizing and balancing properties. It is often used to enhance the effects of other herbs, soothe the stomach, and relieve respiratory and digestive issues. It supports the Spleen and Stomach meridians, clears heat, and detoxifies the body.
- Ayurvedic medicine is commonly used for its soothing properties on the digestive and respiratory systems, enhancing skin health, and supporting the body’s natural defences. Yashtimadhu is valued for its sweet flavour, which is thought to harmonize the body’s functions and promote longevity and vitality.
How to Use Adaptogens
Adaptogens can be taken in various forms, including the foods themselves, capsules, powders, and teas. It’s important to start with a low dose and gradually increase it to see how your body reacts. Because adaptogens and all herbs can interact with medications and aren’t suitable for everyone, including pregnant or breastfeeding women, it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any adaptogen regimen.
How and when you consume them will add to their energetic properties, colours, flauors and corresponding meridians mentioned within the text. Between 7 and 11am the body is in the Stomach and then Spleen meridian, this will amplify and maximise their benefits. Between 11am and 1pm they will have more of a nourishing heating effect and within 5 to 7pm detoxing effect.
Adaptogens, which include herbs, plants, and mushrooms, are known for their resilience, often thriving in harsh environments like extreme cold or heat. This ability to survive and flourish under difficult conditions is believed to translate into their potent stress-resistance benefits for humans. When consumed, adaptogens support the body’s natural ability to cope with stress by having a nourishing effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which regulates stress responses. This suggests that adaptogens grown in their original, challenging environments might possess enhanced bioactive properties due to their adaptation to stressors, potentially offering stronger support for human stress resilience compared to those cultivated under less demanding conditions.
This is why as I attempt to grow adaptogens in my own garden I try to make growth as hard as possible. I would love to experiment with speaking to it negative statements like the rice in the jar words of affirmations experiment but I haven’t go there yet.