June 25, 2018

ADAPTOGENS: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

Adaptogens in America website provides educational information on herbal adaptogens. Information provided by Steven Maimes.

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Recommended book:
ADAPTOGENS: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief
By Steven Maimes and David Winston, RH (AHG)

Healing Arts Press (Inner Traditions): $18.95 quality paperback, 324 pages, illustrated. ISBN: 1-59477-158-8, Published April 2007. 32,000+ copies in print.

The definitive guide to adaptogenic herbs, formerly known as “rejuvenating herbs,” that counter the effects of age and stress on the body 

• Reveals how adaptogens increase the body’s resistance to adverse influences 

• Provides a history of the use of these herbal remedies and the actions, properties, preparation, and dosage for each herb 

We all deal with stress every day, and every day our bodies strive to adapt and stay balanced and healthy.

In Adaptogens, authors David Winston and Steven Maimes provide a comprehensive look into adaptogens, non-toxic herbs such as ginseng, eleuthero, and licorice, that produce a defensive response to stress in our bodies. Formerly known as rejuvenating herbs or tonics, adaptogens help the body to “adapt” to the many influences it encounters. They increase stamina and counter the normal effects of aging and thus are becoming important tools in sports medicine and in the prevention and treatment of chronic fatigue and other stress-related disorders. 

Winston and Maimes present the historical uses of these herbal remedies in India, Russia, China, and the Americas and explain how they work and why they are so effective at combating stress-induced illness. Monographs for each adaptogen also present the latest scientific research and include the origin, traditional use, actions, properties, preparation, and dosage for each herb.

About the Authors of Adaptogens
Steven Maimes is a researcher, freelance writer, philosopher, and principal of SALAM Research in New Hampshire. Steven is also the former owner of an herbal products business in the San Francisco Bay Area. Website
David Winston, RH (AHG), is an herbalist and ethnobotanist who has practiced Cherokee, Chinese, and Western herbal medicine since 1969. He is the president of Herbalist and Alchemist, Inc., author of Saw Palmetto for Men & Women, and coauthor of Herbal Therapy and Supplements. He lives in Washington, New Jersey.

Praise for Adaptogens
"Adaptogenic herbs can be most useful in the quest for health in our stressful society. David Winston and Steven Maimes explain and champion the use and benefits of these important herbs."
James A. Duke, author of The Green Pharmacy

Essential reading for all involved with adaptogens, whether practitioners or consumers. This is the first comprehensive guide to adaptogens based on good herbalism, good science, and NO hype! A truly excellent book.” 
David Hoffmann, author of Medical Herbalism and The Holistic Herbal

“With Adaptogens, David Winston and Steven Maimes have finally made this important healing concept accessible to a wider audience. We need adaptogens—gentle remedies that, over time, have the powerful effect of restoring and protecting our health on many levels. David Winston’s vast clinical and practical knowledge of herbs adds tremendously to the value of the book.”
Christopher Hobbs, author of Handmade Herbal Medicines and Medicinal Mushrooms

“Brilliant! Fully researched, full of information not readily available, as well as being practical and easy to digest. The authors have managed to blend the traditional and recent scientific information into a fully comprehensive and informative text. This will become a classic, a definitive work on this most important group of medicinal plants.” 
Rosemary Gladstar, founder of United Plant Savers and author of Herbal Healing for Women

“Adaptogens are destined to play an increasingly important role in the future of health care. This book provides an excellent introduction to and comprehensive overview of their traditional uses and of the science supporting their safety and therapeutic benefits.”
Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council

“The great American herbalist David Winston and researcher Steven Maimes have written an excellent analysis on what is arguably the most important class of herbs for those of us living in a stressed world. The book is clearly written and free of jargon, but will meet the needs both of professional herbalists and those who want to understand this group of herbs more deeply. Adaptogens are herbs that help us work better, which balance our neuroendocrine system as well as our immune system, which make our organs function normally and which increase stamina. Herbs like ginseng, schisandra, eleuthero, ashwaganda, holy basil and lycium (goji) berries are described in useful monographs. Interestingly, the book differentiates adaptogens from similar or overlapping classes of herbs like Chinese qi tonics, Ayurvedic rasayanas, amphoterics which normalize the functions of specific organs, and alteratives which enhance generalized elimination. I highly recommend this book to people at all levels of interest in herbal medicine.”     
  - Review by Karen Vaughan, Herbalist

The authors have composed a thorough, well-researched, and well presented treatise discussing the class of herbs known as "adaptogens" -- herbs that help the body adapt and respond to the many stresses and influences encountered daily. These herbs increase stamina and have angi-aging properties, and are thus important tools in addressing not only sports medicine and geriatric conditions, but chronic fatigue and other illnesses of our times. Historical usage in Russia, India, China, and Europe are presented, along with monographs for each that offer a full picture of the herb, including origin, traditional use, actions, properties, preparation, dosage (of tincture as well as tea preparation ), and current scientific research. In addition, complementary herbs for adaptogens, including nervines and nootropics, are covered, and further chapters cover adaptogens in clinical practice (e.g., case studies), in herbal combination, as food, and for animals. - Redwing Book Co.

Table of contents - see separate page

Most herbal adaptogens that have been identified are used in either Ayurveda or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Adaptogens from these traditions and the Western tradition include:

Ayurveda:  Amla, Ashwagandha, Guduchi, Holy Basil [Tulsi], Licorice, Shatavari, Shilajit

Traditional Chinese Medicine:  Asian Ginseng, Astragalus, Codonopsis, Cordyceps, Eleuthero, He Shou Wu, Jiaogulan, Licorice, Lycium, Prince Seng, Reishi, Schisandra
Western:  American Ginseng, Rhaponticum, Rhodiola

Please order the book ADAPTOGENS: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief using our affiliate link to Amazon.com.  Amazon is accepting orders of the book at a 31% discount (list price $18.95, less 31% = Amazon’s price $13.15). Also available for Kindle. Please click on this link to order or for additional information from Amazon.

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October 11, 2013

ADAPTOGENS: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief - Contents

ADAPTOGENS: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief
By Steven Maimes and David Winston, RH (AHG)

Contents of Adaptogens

Part One: Herbal Adaptogens
1. Herbal Medicine Around the World
2. Adaptogens: An Overview
3. History of Adaptogens
4. Actions of Adaptogens
5. Adaptogens and the Stress Response
6. Health Benefits of Adaptogens

Part Two: Materia Medica
7. Monographs on Adaptogens: American Ginseng, Amla, Ashwagandha, Asian Ginseng, Astragalus, Cordyceps, Dang Shen, Eleuthero, Guduchi, He Shou Wu, Holy Basil ,Jiaogulan, Licorice, Lycium, Prince Seng, Reishi, Rhaponticum, Rhodiola, Schisandra, Shatavari, Shilajit
8. Nervines: Complementary Herbs for Adaptogens: Blue Vervain, Chamomile, Fresh Milky Oat, Hawthorn, Lemon Balm, Linden, Mimosa, Motherwort, Passionflower, Skullcap, St. John’s Wort
9. Nootropics: Complementary Herbs for Adaptogens: Bacopa, Bhringaraj, Ginkgo, Gotu Kola, Lavender, Rosemary, White Peony, Yuan Zhi

Part Three: Herbal Adaptogens in Use
10. Clinical Use of Adaptogens
11. Adaptogenic Herbs in Combination
12. Adaptogens as Food
13. Adaptogens for Animals

Plus: Tables, Resources, Glossary, Bibliography and Index
324 pages, Illustrated with pictures of adaptogens

Please order the book ADAPTOGENS: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief using our affiliate link to Amazon.com.  Amazon is accepting orders of the book at a 31% discount (list price $18.95, less 31% = Amazon’s price $13.15). Also available for Kindle. Please click on this link to order or for additional information from Amazon.

Articles on Herbal Adaptogens

Below are selected older articles on adaptogens.
The newest additions are at the end.
Newer articles and photos are posted on my Adaptogens Facebook page.

- Steven Maimes

Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief
As the co-author of this book, I have decided to add some additional descriptive information for the prospective reader:

Adaptogens are rejuvenating herbs that help the body adapt to stress, support its normal functions, and restore balance. This book includes a detailed overview of adaptogens with history, actions and monographs. Scientific research includes efficacy, safety, phytochemistry and biomedical stress theory. The chapter on health benefits of adaptogens discusses leading applications for 23 different indications including aging, athletic performance, cancer, cardiovascular function, immune system support, sex hormone regulation, sleep problems and stress. 

The monographs on the individual adaptogens tell their interesting story in history, ethnobotany (relationship between plants and people across cultures) and modern use. Because 18 of the 21 adaptogens have been used as medicines in either Ayurvedic practice or traditional Chinese medicine, these traditions are discussed in more detail. In addition, there are chapters on adaptogens as food and adaptogens for animals and we let you know the leading two adaptogens used for animals. The book contains illustrations, tables and a glossary. 

Besides learning more about adaptogens in our quest for health, there are a few other reasons to read and think about this book. The future of natural medicine will include more herbal use and adaptogenic formulas will be a component in overall wellness protocols. There will be marketing hype and drug company attacks. However, as you will learn, there is long standing evidence in support of adaptogens. 

My current favorite adaptogens include holy basil, schisandra, ashwagandha and ginseng. I am also continuing to learn more about the individual herbs and their innate wisdom and healing power.

Lycium Fruit
Lycium fruit (Lycium chinensis) is an adaptogen that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. Many popular books and Web sites refer to it by a variety of common names such as lycii berry, gogi berry, goji berry, or wolfberry. In Chinese it is referred to as gou qi zi or shortened to gouqi.
In TCM, lycium is considered both a blood tonic and a yin tonic and used to supplement the body’s natural vital energy (qi), to nourish the essence (jing) and to brighten the spirit (shen).
Lycium contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin), flavonoids and is a rich source of vitamin C. It supports healthy vision and promotes the growth of healthy bowel flora. It also supports the liver, kidney and can be eaten daily to strengthen weak muscles and ligaments. Lycium polysaccharides support the immune system and have been shown to enhance the effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
Lycium berries have a sweet, mild, raisin-like flavor. The dried fruit can be eaten like raisins, cooked with rice, or made into a tea. It is considered a food herb and is safe, gentle in action, and has very low toxicity. It is native to China and naturalized in Hawaii.

Herbal Adaptogens for Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a virus that can cause damage to the liver. While herbs may not remove the hepatitis C virus, they can help strengthen the immune system and protect the liver. All adaptogens help to modulate and/or enhance the immune system and some of them are hepatoprotective and help protect against liver damage and dysfunction.
Here are some of the important hepatoprotective adaptogens that are useful for those with hepatitis C:
Schisandra is the most beneficial adaptogen for the liver. It helps regenerate liver cells and increases the presence of hepatic glutathione, an essential liver nutrient.
Licorice is a liver tonic. It heals liver damage and is used in treating hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Guduchi is a detoxifying herb because of its ability to scavenge free radicals and heavy metals as well as alleviate symptoms of liver toxicity, hepatitis, and liver fibrosis. It helps stimulate regeneration of liver cells and the hepatic immune cells known as Kupffer cells. It traditionally was used for treating jaundice and today is used as a supportive therapy for patients with hepatitis C.
Reishi protects the liver and enhances its ability to detoxify metabolic wastes.
Lycium has mild hepatoprotective activity. It helps regenerate liver cells and protects against liver damage caused by medications or hepatotoxic chemicals.
Other adaptogens that protect against liver damage and dysfunction include: amla, cordyceps and holy basil.
Astragalus (not specifically hepatoprotective) is a broad-spectrum tonic for overall immune system boost and can be used for long-term strengthening of the immune system. It increases T-cell activity, NK-cell activity, and interferon production.
Note: The above is my opinion. Please consult your medical advisor for individual protocols. You may write me if you wish to discuss privately. adaptogen@gmail.com

Rhodiola Medicinal Alcoholic Tonic
Dr. Mehmet Oz was on The Oprah Winfrey Show (November 1, 2007) and he had prepared the herb rhodiola rosea and vodka as an adaptogenic tonic for stress.
In Adaptogens (chapter on Adaptogens as Food), we discuss how this medicinal alcoholic tonic is prepared in present-day Ukraine. It is called nastojka and is prepared by mixing 80 proof vodka with an equal weight of fresh rhodiola and allowing the mixture to stand for a few weeks. Only a few teaspoonfuls should be consumed daily.
Rhodiola rosea can also be taken in tablets and is best consumed on an empty stomach before breakfast.
Rhodiola has broad-reaching benefits -- it helps to balance blood sugar levels, protect the heart and reduce stress. It is a cooling adaptogen and unlikely to cause overstimulation.

Adaptive Energy Reserve
As we deal with the many stresses of modern life, there is a greater need to have an adaptive reserve of energy. We often can minimize most of the daily stresses of life and we may have our own stress busters such as exercise, meditation or yoga, etc. that help us.
Herbal adaptogens are another tool for combating stress. They help build a reserve of adaptive energy (or vitality) and boost energy reserves. This energy helps keep the body balanced when affected by multiple stressors or harmful influences. We never want to run low on adaptive energy. When our adaptive energy is exhausted we become prey to chronic illness, exhaustion and fatigue.
From the adaptive reserve that we have built up, adaptogens help create an adaptive response. This response helps the body adapt to stress, minimizes the effects of stress and reestablishes homeostasis disturbed by stress. Adaptogens support the entire neuroendocrine system, in particular adrenal function.
Adaptogens enhance a person's capacity for physical work and provide an increased flow of steady energy throughout the day. They help to increase performance, endurance, and rehabilitation and aid recovery after strenuous physical activity. Adaptogens provide an adaptive energy reserve that can be tapped under extreme physical tension and during recovery from fatigue, when the body needs it most. This adaptive energy also helps the body withstand and recover from the cumulative effects of stress.
Everyone can benefit by increasing adaptive energy. It does not matter how healthy you are, adaptogenic herbs will eventually improve your capacities.
Read more about adaptogens and adaptive energy in Adaptogens.

Adaptogens for Digestion
Most adaptogens are not used as specific digestive tonics, but they support many aspects of digestion and absorption and in some cases, they stimulate digestive function.
Digestion is often affected by stress and stress hormones can slow digestion, allowing food to ferment and stagnate. Stress also has a significant influence on the balance of intestinal microflora and can cause indigestion, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. Adaptogens provide a defense response to stress and have the ability to balance endocrine hormones and reduce stress.
The following adaptogens support digestive health:
Amla is good for digestive system disorders, including indigestion, constipation, and flatulence. It also increases the digestive fire. Amla is found in Chyavanprash, a traditional Ayurvedic herbal jam.
American ginseng is a useful medicine to enhance digestion and absorption of nutrients. Chewing on a small bit of the root can help stimulate gastric acid and digestive juices.
Astragalus is used for chronic diarrhea and chronic ulcers.
Holy basil is useful for relieving gas.
Licorice offers significant benefit for irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases. It is an excellent digestive tonic.
Lycium when consumed regularly promotes the growth of healthy bowel flora.
Shatavari is used for gastric irritation and ulcers and to prevent aspirin-induced stomach irritation.
Read more about adaptogens in Adaptogens.
Adaptogens and Skin

The skin is the largest organ in our body, and its function involves the regulation of body temperature, elimination of wastes, and reception of temperature, pressure, and pain signals. The skin, as a sense organ, also has a connection with the nervous system, and in Ayurveda, skin is believed to support both physiology and psychology.
All adaptogens have antistress qualities that help provide stabilizing effects on the neuroendocrine system; help modulate and/or enhance the immune system; and have antioxidant properties.
We know adaptogens work when taken internally – they also can work when applied externally. They can be absorbed through the skin and will help the skin adjust to stress (temperature, pain, elasticity, texture, etc.).
Topical application often includes mixing the herb in a base of oil such as sesame oil, castor oil, olive oil or coconut oil. For topical use, mix the herbal powder with oil and apply.
The following adaptogens benefit the skin:
Amla supports the skin’s natural ability to withstand the negative effects of the environment, and keeps skin clear and healthy. It nourishes sensitive skin tissue.
Ashwagandha, Amla, Holy Basil and Shatavari are skin rasayanas that help support skin elasticity, moisture balance, texture and radiance. In addition they help detoxify the skin while nourishing it at the same time.
Astragalus treats disorders of the skin including burns. It also has been used for the treatment of skin tumors.
Ginseng is found in several skin care products. It is claimed to help with the microcirculation of the skin, which can help reduce fine lines and make the skin firmer.
Holy Basil (Tulsi) contains ursolic acid – one of the cosmetic industry’s latest favorites because not only does it quickly heal the skin but it also improves elasticity and removes wrinkles. A poultice made from the herb is used topically for its antifungal and antibacterial actions.
Licorice is used topically for herpes, eczema, psoriasis, and allergic dermatitis. Licorice has been found to boost the body’s natural steroid hormones to counteract inflammation and irritation. It also has been claimed to help fade sun and dark spots and is used in skin-whitening creams, lotions and personal care products.
Schisandra relieves allergy-induced skin conditions, including hives and eczema. It is also used to benefit and beautify skin and to protect skin from the damaging effects of sun and wind.
Shatavari root infused in oil is used topically to treat skin diseases including dry skin. The leaves can be infused in ghee and applied to boils and sores.
One outstanding product, as an example, is a certified organic Breast Balm (Banyan Botanicals) that contains three adaptogens – Ashwaganda, Licorice and Shatavari – and other ingredients. The base of ghee, coconut and olive oils hydrate the skin keeping it moisturized and supple. Ayurvedic rejuvenating herbs like Ashwagandha and Shatavari tonify and firm the tissues while providing phytonutrients that promote breast health.
Read more about adaptogens in Adaptogens.

Adaptogens and Sleep ProblemsMany people suffer from insomnia and related sleep problems. One of the major causes of sleep problems is stress.
Stress manifests in our bodies in many different ways. It can disrupt the regular circadian (time-related) secretion of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that helps synchronize activity, patterns of eating, and also patterns of sleeping.
Adaptogens regulate and modulate the production of cortisol and reduce stress. When stress is under control, a hormone-balanced body allows for better and more rejuvenating sleep.
The following adaptogens aid the body in sleeping:
American ginseng helps with insomnia that is associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Ashwagandha is a calming adaptogen traditionally used for insomnia and nervous conditions.
Eleuthero improves sleep quality and prevents nighttime waking.
Holy Basil (Tulsi) helps regulate cortisol, reducing stress.
Rhodiola is used to regulate sleep disorders and improve sleep quality.
Schisandra is reported to relieve insomnia and dream-disrupted sleep.
It is best to try these adaptogens during the day as they are also known to increase energy and mental alertness during the day. Ashwagandha can be taken before going to sleep and is my favorite of the sleep-aid adaptogens. These same adaptogens also help with jet-lag.
Read more about adaptogens in Adaptogens.

Adaptogens for Athletes – Olympics
Athletes are constantly looking for effective ways to enhance health and performance. They especially need energy, muscle, endurance, and help resisting and defending against stress.
Adaptogens have been proved to enhance athletic performance capacity. Through extensive experiments on athletes (especially in Russia), scientists have demonstrated the benefits of adaptogens. Benefits include: increased endurance and oxygen intake; shortened recovery time from both training and sports injuries; improvements in pulse rate; reduction of fatigue; favorable influence on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems; and overall better performance.
Adaptogens are natural and safe and are not banned by any international sports organizations. There are no adaptogens on the 2006 list of prohibited substances published by The World Anti-Doping Agency.
Adaptogens Used in the Olympics
Adaptogens have been used by many athletes who have participated in Olympic Games.Eleuthero was used by Russian athletes to prepare for the Olympic Games and were used (along with other adaptogens) for the first time at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Cordycepswas used by Chinese athletes during the 1993 Olympic Games in Beijing and rhodiola was used by Swedish athletes.
Russian scientist and adaptogen pioneer Israel Brekhman formulated a product called Prime One. This product consists of several adaptogenic herbs from Russia, including eleuthero,schisandra, rhaponticum, rhodiola, and licorice. The success of this formula in the United States came in 1996, when it was used at the summer Olympic Games in Atlanta by more than 150 American athletes.
Useful Adaptogens for Athletes
All adaptogens have antistress qualities that provide stabilizing effects on the neuroendocrine system. All adaptogens help to modulate and enhance the immune system. All adaptogens provide antioxidant nutrients. The following adaptogens are especially useful for athletes:
Eleuthero is used to increase energy and is one of the best adaptogens for athletes under stress. It increases endurance and stamina, enhances mitochondrial activity, speeds recovery, and prevents immune system depletion from excessive training. It can be combined with cordyceps, rhodiola, or schisandra to enhance athletic performance.
Rhodiola increases mitochondrial activity, muscular ATP and creatine levels – resulting in enhanced physical strength and endurance. It also increases blood supply to the brain and muscles.
Asian ginseng is used in traditional Chinese medicine to restore energy.
Lycium can be eaten daily to strengthen weak muscles and ligaments.
Shilajit provides energy and, translated from Sanskrit, means “conqueror of mountains and destroyer of weakness.”
Read more about adaptogens in Adaptogens.

Adaptogens - Experimentation
It is so important to begin taking adaptogens on a daily basis that you need to start now. Here is why it is important and how to begin:
ALL adaptogens:
  • Have antistress qualities that provide stabilizing effects on the neuroendocrine system.
  • Increase the body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional and environmental stressors.
  • Help to modulate and enhance the immune system.
  • Provide antioxidant nutrients.
  • Are non-toxic (unless abused).
How to experiment
Read about adaptogens and choose one or several to experiment with. Then, take the recommended dose (or less) of quality adaptogens daily for at least 2 weeks. After each week evaluate if you noticed a change. If you noticed no change you can stop for 3 days and then re-evaluate. This test may not be entirely reliable for many reasons. One reason is because some adaptogens have a cumulative effect and keep working after you discontinue use. Your dose can be adjusted after one week up to double the recommended dose. You can also combine adaptogens and take many at the same time.
Because adaptogens are tonics and can be potent, I suggest picking a time to take them on a regular basis. If possible take on an empty stomach or 20 minutes after a meal. Here are some suggested adaptogens and best times:
Early Morning: rhodiola (begin with a small dose)
Day: holy basil, eleuthero, schisandra, ginseng, astragalus, shatavari (women)
Day or night (including before sleep): cordyceps, reishi, ashwagandha
Tea (any time): holy basil (tulsi), Jiaogulan
There is one reliable manufacturer of quality adaptogens that I recommend – Planetary Herbals. Their price is reasonable and the product comes in tablets. Just open a bottle and smell – you can smell the freshness.
NOTE: These are informational suggestions only. Please consult a qualified health professional for medical advice. Do not experiment if you are pregnant or have a serious ailment.
Read more about adaptogens in Adaptogens.

More Interest in Adaptogens the Past Two Years
Since the book ADAPTOGENS was published in April 2007, there has been a wider interest and influence of these important rejuvenating herbs.
More beverages are including adaptogens – such as Zrii; more supplements are including adaptogens for stress relief and adrenal balance; and more people are learning about these ancient herbs.
Is this enough? I am a believer that we need to be taking adaptogens every day. If purchased from the right manufacturer (such as Planetary Herbals), the cost is reasonable and the quality good.
The dosage should be high enough to provide a therapeutic benefit and can be divided and taken at different times during the day including upon waking and before retiring at night.
Here are a few suggestions of cooling adaptogens for warmer weather: amla (Emblica officinalis) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). My favorite adaptogenic tea isTulsi (holy basil) tea which can be chilled.
Maintaining balance is so important that the opportunity to include adaptogens in our daily routine should not be missed. Clinical studies have shown that adaptogens enhance the ability to cope with the stress of sudden changes.
Read more about adaptogens in Adaptogens.