“You can get past the dead end. You can break through the ceiling. I did and so have countless others.”

Clinical Pearl Wednesday #175

Chinese Traditional Herbal Medicine and Organic Herbs

Adaptogens are supplements, typically herbal in nature, that are used to promote homeostasis, improve energy, and reduce cellular sensitivity to stress.  A variety of ingredients are known to have a calming effect, while others promote increased energy and focus. 

First coined in 1947, the word adaptogen referred to specific mushrooms and herbs that appeared to offer significant support for body processes, especially those used for health restoration and overall well-being.  

Since then, various substances have been added to the “list” of supportive adaptogens.  The most commonly used adaptogens include those that reduce stress and anxiety.  Patients who suffer from chronic stress struggle with adrenal release of appropriate cortisol amounts. Adaptogens can reduce this stress response in many patients without the need for strong prescription drugs.  

Listed here are a few of the most popular adaptogens:

Ashwagandha exerts a good calming effect; best dosed at bedtime, it helps reduce cortisol response that causes stress.  It CAN be dosed in the daytime for episodes of higher-stress situations. 

Holy Basil is another calming agent that is often dosed in the evening to promote calming, relaxation, and/or sleep.  Holy basil has been used in traditional, allopathic medicine for coughs, colds, and even scorpion bites. 

Ginseng is a popular herb, long used in Chinese and Western medicine to help with immunity, headaches, digestion, and even fertility.  Its most common use, though, is for focus, mental clarity, and promoting concentration and memory.  Ginseng is another calming herbal supplement and is often taken 2-3 times a day.

Astragalus is another staple of Chinese medicine, used often to support immunity, combat inflammation, and may improve cardiac function.  The impact on the heart may be attributed to its anti-anxiety properties.

Rhodiola is another adaptogen that can help with stress, but it is also used to increase energy. Helpful for a variety of symptoms, it is frequently used by students taking exams to increase focus and mental clarity; it’s also used by night shift workers who need to remain awake.  Because of these conflicting impacts on the body, choose to recommend Rhodiola with caution; it can raise heart rate and blood pressure too.  

Some supplement companies market combinations of adaptogens and other ingredients like B vitamins or valerian root to maximize the calming effects of the individual ingredients. 

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