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Dr. Jon Dunn, Licensed Naturopathic Doctor
JANUARY 2010
Adaptogenic Herbs to the Rescue
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Adaptogens help us fight stress.
Adaptogenic herbs help us fight stress by supporting our resistance to internal and external stresses.  Specifically they improve our energy and stamina, shorten recovery time from exercise, strengthen the immune system, aide in recovery from stress related illness and help maintain optimal health.   Further examples of adaptogenic benefits include improved cognition and memory, better digestion, healthier skin, less anxiety and depression, blood sugar balancing and improved libido. 

All of these plants have beneficial antioxidant properties, however their primary action comes from support for our hormonal system; specifically our adrenal, thyroid, pituitary and hypothalamus. 

Many adaptogenic herbs belong to the ginseng family, and they are all quite safe to use even for extended periods of time.  You can take them individually or in combination, depending on your needs.  I often prescribe these herbs for my patients.  Here are eight of my favorite adaptogenic herbs and a few of their main health benefits.

Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Actions: Improved energy, anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, liver function aide and hot flash reduction

Rhodiola or Russian ginseng (Rhodiola rosea)
Actions: Improved energy, memory, clarity of mind, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety

Ashwagandha or Indian ginseng (Withania somnifera)
Actions: Improved energy, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, immune system support, fertility enhancement and improved libido

Maca or Peruvian ginseng (Lepidium meyenii)
Actions: Improvement of energy, memory, libido, immune system and liver function

Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
Actions: Improved energy and liver function

Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
Actions: Improved energy, memory, clarity of mind, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Actions: Improved energy, anti-inflammatory

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
Actions: Improved energy, enhanced immune function

You can buy these herbs in capsule or tincture form.  If you buy tinctures, then you can more easily mix and match to create the combination desired.  If you use tincture, I recommend equal parts of each herb, to be dosed at 1/2 to 1 teaspoon in liquid twice a day.  Usually breakfast and lunch are the best times to take adaptogenic herbs.

The roots of these plants contain most of the medicinal value; however Schisandra berries are used for medicinal tea and Maca and Gotu kola leaves can be used in salads.  Licorice for some people can give a temporary increase in blood pressure, so if you have high blood pressure it is best to monitor for a week or two to be sure you are staying in a healthy range.  Licorice is not a concern if you have celiac disease or pancreatic issues as some have suggested.

While each of these herbs merits a newsletter, such as the one I did on Rhodiola, my intention this month is to provide a brief and practical introduction to each of these wonderful herbs.  I invite you to explore them more fully and use them to ensure a Happy and Healthy New Year.

In Health,
Jon Dunn, ND

Many adaptogenic herbs belong to the ginseng family. They are all safe to use even for an extended period of time.
Stress is at the root of all chronic disease.  Living in the 21st century we all get a heavy dose of stress.   Every direction we turn we encounter stress in the form of air and water pollution, financial fears, family confusions and countless other daily challenges.  Stress wears us down and eventually damages every system in the body.  
There is a defense to protect us both physically and mentally from stress, and this form of defense comes from the family of herbs known as adaptogenic herbs.
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