Herbs for a stress-free year

Stress reme­dies that are down to earth


Stress is in­te­gral to our sur­vival but it has got­ten to a point where any­thing we do can po­ten­tially trig­ger it. A late night at work, a peek into a crowded plan­ner, even just click­ing on a link on so­cial me­dia can all be rea­sons to feel stressed. Good thing na­ture has been kind enough to pro­vide us adap­to­gens that help our bod­ies re­gen­er­ate.

The con­cept of adap­to­gens is not en­tirely new. Long be­fore they were con­sid­ered as such, the herbs that we now call adap­to­gens have been greatly used in tra­di­tional medicine across var­i­ous cul­tures, from Chi­nese and Ayurvedic to Na­tive Amer­i­can. In Hindu, holy basil is hailed as “The In­com­pa­ra­ble One” and is as­so­ci­ated with the god­dess Lak­shmi, wife of Vishnu. Tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine, mean­while, uses an herb called as­tra­galus root— Huang Qi in Chi­nese, which trans­lates to “yel­low se­nior” in English—to warm the mus­cles and nor­mal­ize sweat­ing.

Sim­i­lar to how as­tra­galus root is used in Chi­nese medicine, adap­to­gens are not pre­scribed as a cure to dis­eases. In­stead, they in­crease the body’s abil­ity to adapt and fight against stress-in­duced or psy­cho­so­matic ill­nesses and fa­tigue. Adap­to­gens work on a cel­lu­lar level. They reg­u­late prop­er­ties that in­crease the body’s re­sis­tance to stress and pro­mote bal­ance, such as the pro­duc­tion of var­i­ous pro­teins that pro­tect the cells from stress-in­duced dam­age.

While there’s an ar­ray of sub­stances used in her­bal medicine, not ev­ery herb can act as an adap­to­gen. In a study con­ducted in 1958, Rus­sian doc­tors Is­rael Brekhman and Igor Dardy­mov iden­ti­fied adap­to­gens as “in­nocu­ous, and cause min­i­mal dis­or­ders in the phys­i­o­log­i­cal func­tions of an or­gan­ism. [They] must have a non­spe­cific ac­tion, and [they] usu­ally [have] a nor­mal­iz­ing ac­tion ir­re­spec­tive of the di­rec­tion of the patho­log­i­cal state.” Whether an herb should be con­sid­ered as an adap­to­gen is sub­ject to fur­ther re­search, but nu­mer­ous herbs have been proven to per­form as one.

In Ayurveda, the Ash­wa­gandha root is a prized Rasayana or re­ju­ve­na­tive that is tra­di­tion­ally used to com­bat anx­i­ety and ex­haus­tion. It’s also used to rem­edy in­som­nia and bad dreams. Gin­seng, on the other hand, is a stim­u­lat­ing adap­to­gen that is tra­di­tion­ally used in Chi­nese medicine to re­plen­ish the qi or en­ergy flow by al­le­vi­at­ing fa­tigue, back pain, and even erec­tile dys­func­tion. Licorice is one of the most ver­sa­tile adap­to­gens: It works as an anti-in­flam­ma­tory, anti-ox­i­dant, anti-his­tamine, and anti-vi­ral rem­edy, strength­en­ing cells against au­toim­mune dis­or­ders and im­mune de­fi­ciency con­di­tions like can­cer and HIV.

Adap­to­gens may be taken as tea or tinc­ture, de­pend­ing on the pre­scribed amount. Al­though they oc­cur nat­u­rally, it’s still ad­vised to con­sult a doc­tor be­fore us­ing them as over­dosage may re­sult to ad­verse ef­fects. Adap­to­gens are a re­minder that while hu­man­ity keeps on mov­ing to­wards mod­ern­iza­tion, the power of na­ture re­mains un­de­ni­able.

Adap­to­gens in raw form that can be used for steep­ing are com­monly avail­able in tra­di­tional Chi­nese apothe­caries in Bi­nondo. On the other hand, com­mer­cial phar­ma­cies also sell adap­to­gens as food sup­ple­ments in cap­sule form.

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