When life gets full, it is worth it to give yourself some added support to help strengthen you and give you the stamina to carry you through. I have come to love using herbs more and more as they are gentle on your system, work with your body and have minimal side effects. When it comes to stress of any kind, I particularly like working with adaptogens that work with your body to restore homeostasis regardless of whether you are in an up or down moment. When we can go from low to high in the course of a day (shoot, an hour) having an herbal support to help you balance you no matter where you are in the moment, is beautiful.

An adaptogen is:

“A substance that increases the body’s resistance to physical, environmental, emotional, or biological stressors and promotes normal physiologic function.” (Bone 2003)

There are many, many adaptogenic herbs you could research and study, today I am going to highlight three.

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Rhodiola: Strength and Stamina

Rhodiola is native to northern climates and can be found in Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia and Siberia. It is an antidepressant, antioxidant, antiviral, immune system stimulant, nervine, cardioprotective and neuroprotective. Traditionally, this herb was used to enhance mental and physical endurance and in fact, Chinese emperors would send expeditions to Siberia to collect it and bring back the plant as they believed it was the secret to long life and immortality. It is a great addition to your routine, particularly for those times in life that feel like a marathon. Rhodiola has been shown to improve memory, reduce muscle recovery time, protect against cardiac problems aggravated by stress, increase the body’s resistance to toxins, stimulate and protect the immune system and it enhances the transport of serotonin in the brain, making it an effective antidepressant.

You can try Rhodiola in tincture form like this one.

holy basil Holy Basil: Energy Balancing

Holy Basil is native to India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, southern China, Thailand and Malaysia. In India, it is used daily to help induce a relaxed, balanced state particularly in preparation for meditation. It is an antidepressant, antibacterial, antioxidant, antiviral, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, glactagogue, radioprotective and an immunomodulator. In India it is believed to help maintain the balance of the chakras (energy centers) and to bring on goodness, virtue and joy in humans. Holy Basil has a calming effect on the nerves and can be beneficial for anxiety and depression, it decreases inflammation and can be used as a pain-management tool, it also supports cardiovascular health and helps remove toxins.

Holy Basil is often utilized in a tea such as this one.

licorice plant Licorice: Restorative

Licorice is native to southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia. It is an antiviral, antidiuretic, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumor, demulcent, expectorant, hepatoprotective and immunomodulator. Licorice is particularly useful for adrenal fatigue, when used over a period of weeks or months it will revitalize the adrenal glands. It also benefits the GI tract in reducing inflammation and has been used for IBS, IBD, ulcers and leaky gut syndrome. Licorice can also be used in conjunction with other herbs to support menopause to reduce hot flashes and sweating. One note of caution: licorice can increase hypertension if used in excess (4 or more cups of tea a day over an extended period of time) or those more susceptible to hypertension. (If susceptible to hypertension, it may be better to use deglcyrrhinated licorice.)

Licorice is often best in a combination formula such as this one.

When you are working with chronic stress and considering adding some herbal supports, it is often best to consider a combination of herbs, rather than just a single herb in isolation.  Most herbs work best in conjunction with other herbs.  Another note to remember is that herbal formulations work best over time. They are designed to be gentle on your system and modulate your body over a period of weeks or months to bring you back to harmony.  So, it is most beneficial to be consistent with your daily dosage and give your body a chance to find center again as the herbs nourish the organs most stressed by life.

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References:

Gladstar, R. (2008) Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. North Adams: Storey Publishing

Martin, H. (2015, Feb. 15) Uses of Holy Basil Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/142618-uses-holy-basil/

Wilson, J. (2007) Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. Petaluma: Smart Publications

Winston, D., & Maimes, S. (2007) Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief.
Rochester: Healing Arts Press