Herbal Support for Stress and Trauma: Part 2, Adaptogens

Adaptogens are some of our best herbal allies to help ourselves cope with chronic stress.  Adaptogens are herbs that help increase the body’s ability to adapt to all kinds of stressors: physical, emotional, environmental, social, and biological.

Adaptogens help build the body’s resistance and reliance to stress by supporting the nervous, immune and endocrine systems. They help to increase the body’s strength, stamina, vitality and immunity.

Many adaptogens have been considered supreme herbal tonics in the cultural systems from which they come.  For example, reishi mushroom was considered in ancient China to be the “herb of immortality”and Holy Basil is considered a panacea in India and in Ayurvedic medicine.

Dosing for adaptogens:  The more we need the adaptogen, the more we need to increase the amount and frequency of dosage.  For lower stress levels, stick to the lower recommended doses.  For higher and acute stress, higher doses more frequently are helpful.

By definition, adaptogens are tonics, non-toxic, and safe for long term use.  However, if you are pregnant or have a medical condition, please consult with a health care practitioner or do further research before trying any of these herbs.

  • Eleuthero (eleutherococcus). Also known as Siberian Ginseng, eleuthero has been well researched to support the body during a multitude of stressors.  Eleuthero helps to stabilize the nervous system and is an excellent choice for normally healthy people who are stressed out.   It is not too stimulating or sedating but gives us balanced, moderate energy.  It’s a great tonic for times when we’re under chronic stress or recovering from stressful situations.  It helps with hypertension and high cholesterol,  builds immunity, nourishes depleted adrenals and improves athletic performance.
    • Dosage: 1-4 cups herbal infusion per day as needed, or 30-60 drops of tincture 3-5X/ day.
Reishi Mushroom, courtesy of Wendell Smith

Reishi Mushroom, courtesy of Wendell Smith

  • Reishi (ganoderma lucida): Called “herb of immortality” or “spirit plant” this medicinal mushroom offers a multitude of healing properties.  It is extremely calming, grounding and centering and can help with insomnia, anxiety, stress, nightmares and mood swings.  Reishi is good for the heart (lowers blood pressure & cholesterol)and helps with chronic lung and respiratory issues.  Reishi is a strong immune system tonic and can build our resistance to cold and flu.  It also helps prevent and treat chronic diseases like cancer.

Spiritually Reishi helps to heal the fragmented soul.  It can help gather the parts of ourselves that we have lost during traumatic events and helps to bring our spirits back into our bodies.

  • Dosage: 1-4 cups herbal decoction per day as needed, or 30-60 drops of tincture 3-5X/ day

Herb student Bekah with her herbal ally, ashwaganda

  • Ashwaghanda (withania sonifera) This powerful herb comes from India and Ayurveda but grows easily in North America. Ashwaganda is one of the most calming adaptogens.  It helps with insomnia, anxiety, headache and fatigue.  Ashwaganda both calms the body and increases vital energy.

Ashwaganda is particularly helpful with chronic musculo-skeletal conditions like arthritis or fibromyalgia.   Energetically ashwaganda gives us the strength and capacity to endure challenging or stressful situations. A traditional way to have ashwaganda is decocted in milk with a little nutmeg at bedtime.

  • Dosage: ¼ to ½ tsp decocted in milk of your choice (cow, goat, soy, etc), or 30-60 drops of tincture 3-5X/ day.
Holy Basil, courtesy of Lotus Johnson

Holy Basil, courtesy of Lotus Johnson

  • Holy Basil (ocimum sanctum): Another herb from  Ayurveda and India, where it is considered to be a sacred plant.  It supports the body to function better during chronic stress.  Tulsi also helps lift depression, normalizes blood sugar, helps with memory and brain functioning, lowers both blood pressure and cholesterol and is anti-inflammatory (particularly useful in upper respiratory allergies.)  Spiritually, Tulsi helps connect us to the healing energy of the Divine Mother and of the plant world.
    • Dosage: 1-4 cups herbal infusion per day as needed, or 30-60 drops of tincture 3-5X/ day.

Other adaptogens:  schisandra, astragalus, shatavari, ginseng and rhodiola.  All have great healing properties.  For more on adaptogens, I recommend the great book: Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief  by David Winston.

Ready to learn more?  Our Cecemmana program, our nine month training in herbal medicine begins in February of 2017!  Check out the class page fore more details.

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Author AtavaAtava Garcia Swiecicki, MA, RH (AHG) is the founder of Ancestral Apothecary and loves to connect people to plants for their healing and empowerment.  She sees clients in Oakland as clincal herablist and flower essence practitioner and teachers many classes here at Ancestral Apothecary .  Her website is www.ancestralapothecary.com

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