Acupuncture in a bottle? Too busy to see your acupuncturist weekly but love the way you feel when you can? You can help your body adapt to stressors in your life by using adaptogenic herbs. These ancient plants have been around for thousands of years and you can find them prepared in capsule-form to help your body adapt to stress.
Stress? What stress?
I don’t care who you are, if you are a woman in the 21st century, you have stress!
It could be stress from working full-time and raising a family, it could be stress from a bad relationship, it could be biochemical stressors from an unknown food allergy, gut infection, environmental toxin or inflammation somewhere in your body. Or, it may even be self-induced stress from your own stories you tell yourself.
Wherever your stress is coming from, adaptogenic herbs can help to calm the stress response in your body and help you feel like yourself again!
Acupuncture in a Bottle
As an acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine herbalist, I have often referred to adaptogenic herbs as “acupuncture in a bottle”. These herbs have specific qualities that modulate the effects of cortisol and adrenaline – our stress hormones. Cortisol rises in response to any stress, real or imagined, and sets off a cascade of events in our bodies. Adaptogenic herbs parallel the response of the body to acupuncture – a reboot of your overwhelmed operating system.
Effects of the stress hormone, Cortisol
Symptoms of high cortisol can be irritability, insomnia, abdominal weight gain, difficulty losing weight and high testosterone. After being chronically stressed for years, a single traumatic event or the death of a loved one, cortisol tends to decrease and your body cannot seem to squeeze any more out. This is the point many women feel exhausted, depressed, can’t stay asleep, have achy muscles and joints, as well as blood sugar instability and sex hormone imbalances.
Adaptogenic Herbs for daily mind-body balancing
Mind-body activities like acupuncture, meditation, yoga and Tai Chi can help to
balance cortisol to more healthy levels. But for immediate, daily balancing- I often recommend adaptogenic herbs.
The definition of an adaptogen is a “nontoxic plant extract that can increase the body’s ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning”.
Some of these herbs are specifically used for low cortisol or high cortisol but all of them work to balance stress hormones to help you feel more grounded, have good energy and respond to stress better.
Here are some of my favorite Adaptogenic Herbs:
Ashwaganda: One of the most popular and well-researched herbs in Ayurvedic medicine, it is most well-known for its restorative benefits.
- helps combat the effects of stress
- improves learning and memory
- calms anxiety and depression
- stabilizes blood sugar
- improves Libido
Holy Basil (Tulsi plant): an Ayurvedic herb used for thousands of years in India, has antioxidant properties that help reduce the effects of stress, and most known and powerful against colds/flu and bacterial infections as well as protective against radiation and chemotherapy.
- good for the lungs & asthma
- a headache
fights against colds & flu
* not for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
Rhodiola Rosea: A Russian and Scandinavian traditional tonic, it’s of the most reliable herbs for reducing fatigue (next to ginseng) and improving symptoms of stress.
- improves brain function
- protective against toxins
- increases serotonin in depression
*avoid taking at night as it may interfere with your sleep
Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng): Thought of as the most superior adaptogenic herb in Chinese Medicine, this herb has been studied more than any other herb.
- dampens stress response
- strengthens memory
- sustains energy throughout day
- boosts immune system
Panax Ginseng ( Asian Ginseng): As the most well-known herb world-wide and over 5,000 years old, this Chinese Medicine herb is often used for stress reduction and and it’s anti-aging affects, .
- combats fatigue
- lowers blood sugar
- lowers cholesterol levels
- boosts immune system
- good for asthma
- boosts memory
- boosts libido
Maca root: This Peruvian plant helps to relieve tension, anxiety and boost energy, mood and libido. Research has shown its ability to balance hormones.
- boosts libido
- helps calm hot flashes
- balances hormones
- increase stamina
- combat fatigue
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): Discovered 2,000 years ago, this herb is part of the mint family and native to the Mediterranean, it is calming and used most frequently for anxiety, sleep disturbances and digestion When used in aromatherapy, it is specifically helpful for bronchitis, insomnia and anxiety.
- heals cold sores
- helps with sleep disturbances
- antioxidant activity
- reduces anxiety
- can be helpful in hyperthyroid
- assists chronic fatigue
- helps gas and bloating