I can remember a time in my life when I absolutely could not handle one more bit of stress. I was in my late twenties and my roller coaster of emotions could be set off with the slightest let down–traffic, being 5 minutes late to work or even just someone interrupting a conversation. I was working three jobs, not eating properly, drinking too much caffeine, exercising too much and letting every little life issue get under my skin. On top of this, I didn’t have a healthy family network of support. This was a recipe for health disaster and ultimately lead to what I like to call a “burn out.” I later found out during my time studying nutrition there is a proper name for what we call, “crashing, exhaustion or burn out.” In the holistic world this period of “meltdown” is known as adrenal fatigue. In in this post, I explain the importance of adaptogens for stress and depression + my top three!
Adaptogens for Stress & Depression
There are solutions found in nature that help to alleviate and balance the stress we exhort on our body, sometimes without even knowing. These solutions are called Adaptogens: herbs found in nature that equip the body with resistance to stress, allowing it to adapt to the physical, emotional and environmental circumstance. Basically, adaptogens are plants that have evolved with time and adapted to their environment and continue to thrive and prosper. I wish I had known about these powerful herbs in my youth, especially during my personal bout with depression and anxiety, so this is exactly why I am sharing them here.
More about Adaptogens…
Adaptogens not only help the body adapt to stress and exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. Even greater, these herbs help the body cope with external stresses, such as toxins in the environment and internal stresses like free radials, impaired digestion and depression.
Ashwagandha…my Favorite Adaptogen!
Ashwagandha has been traditionally used to treat diseases associated with nerve tissue damage related to the harmful effects of free radicals, and because of this researchers have theorized the herb may have antioxidant properties. Ashwagandha contains many useful medicinal chemicals, including withanolides (steroidal lactones), alkaloids, choline, fatty acids, amino acids, and a variety of sugars. While the leaves and fruit have valuable therapeutic properties, the root of the Ashwagandha plant is the part most commonly used in Western herbal remedies.
More benefits of using Ashwagandha…
This amazing herb can reduce anxiety and depression, combat the effects of stress, increase stamina and endurance, lower cortisol & bad cholesterol, reduce brain damage, stabilize blood sugar, boost immunity, treat adrenal fatigue and improve the thyroid. Moreover, it offers anti-inflammatory benefits, and enhances sexual potency & fertility for men and women. Last, but certainly not least, it has anti-tumor effects, making it helpful with cancer too! Dr. Axe sites, “A case study reported a 57-year-old woman with non-classical adrenal hyperplasia. She was treated with ashwagandha for six months, and after her treatment she saw improvements in four adrenal hormone markers, including corticoosterone and 11-deoxycortisol, which decreased by 69 % and 55 %. This hormonal improvement was also accompanied by a noticeable reduction in hair loss.”
Almost every ancient culture in Eastern Europe and Asia have used rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) for medical treatment or more specifically, for physical and mental strengthening and development. The Greek doctor Dioscorides was the first to document the benefits of rhodiola in 77 A.D. Later the Vikings were found to use this medicinal herb to increase their stamina and physical endurance. Other cultures that have used this herb include the Chinese, people of central Asia, Mongolian physicians and more recently, The Soviet Union. Collectively these groups have used rhodiola for numerous reasons including the following: improving work performance, insomnia, enhancing memory, fatigue, increasing the body’s resistance to toxins, improving the immune system and reducing stress.
More benefits of using Rhodiola…
This adaptogenic herb is not only wonderful for increased stamina and energy, but is also cancer preventative. Its antioxidant compounds prevent free-radicals from forming, hence anti-cancer, but this also makes it great for anti-aging. And because rhodiola increases energy, it is equally wonderful for fat burning, athletic performance and improving brain function. In fact, rhodiola is amazing for fighting depression because it aids in the transport of serotonin precursors in the body and also increases sensitivity to dopamine. Both serotonin and dopamine are two neurotransmitters that increase focus, mood, pleasure and memory. Dr. Axe’s website sites the following study for rhodiola:
In a clinical trial with 150 individuals suffering from depression, participants were given rhodiola rosea for one month. At the end of the trail two-thirds of the group had full remission of depression symptoms and daytime weakness had also greatly improved.
This herb, also known as Tulsi, comes out of ancient Eastern culture and Ayruvedic medicine. It is a member of the mint family and is considered a holy herb. Known in India for promoting relaxation and aiding the meditation practice, it is said to increase and support spiritual growth, provide clarity to the mind and promote longevity.
More benefits of using Holy Basil…
Holy Basil has amazing properties and is best know for relief of anxiety, reducing depression, balancing the adrenals (i.e. adrenal fatigue), helping hypothyroidism, improving digestion, boosting the immune system, aiding acne and balancing blood sugar. And just like ashwagandha and rhodiola, holy basil also contains high levels of antioxidants, which help to protect the body from free radicals that could potentially lead to cancer and other disease. Additionally, herblist.net reports,
Holy Basil reduces unclear thinking and mental fog. It is for these reasons, it has been used to treat ADD and ADHD and depression. It balances the hormones and helps maintain healthy cortisol levels.
A great way to utilize the calming effects of holy basil and incorporate it into your daily routine is to have a cup of holy basil (or tulsi) tea. Another great brand that also offers holy basil tea is Organic India, which is certified organic and offers an array of aromatic flavors like sweet rose, honey chamomile, masala chai and turmeric ginger. I love to drink a cup before bed or on an especially stressful day, along with a teaspoon of magnesium powder to ensure my adrenals are calm and supported.
Overall, adaptogen herbs offer an amazing array of health benefits–both mental and physical. Incorporating just one of these special plants would greatly enhance optimal health and create lasting wellness. It is important to note, when choosing your adaptogen herbs whether tincture, capsule or tea, make sure to purchase organic whenever possible to avoid harmful chemicals. Read the label and follow suggested dosing and consult with a healthcare professional if taking prescription medications, pregnant or breast feeding.
In divine health,
*All information, content, and material of this blog is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.
Karta, P., Singh, K., & Tierra, M. (2008). The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs: Ashwagangha. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press
“Ashwagandha Benefits Thyroid & Adrenals.” Axe, J. Food is Medicine. retrieved from https://draxe.com/ashwagandha-proven-to-heal-thyroid-and-adrenals/
Kalani A, Bahtiyar G, Sacerdote A. Ashwagandha root in the treatment of non-classical adrenal hyperplasia. British Medical Journal Case Reports 2012, 10(1136).
Herb Wisdom. “Rhodiola Benefits.” retrieved from http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-rhodiola.html
“Rhodiola Benefits: Burning Fat for Energy & Beating Depression.” Axe, J. Food is Medicine. retrieved from https://draxe.com/rhodiola-benefits-burning-fat-for-energy-and-beating-depression/
Brown R, Gerbarg P, Ramazanov Z. Rhodiola rosea: a phytomedicinal overview. HerbalGram. American Botanical Council. 2002; 56:40-52.
“Holy Basil Balances Cortisol and Hormones.” Axe, J. Food is Medicine. retrieved from https://draxe.com/holy-basil-benefits/
Herb List: A Guide to Medicinal Herbs: Holy Basil. (2011) retrieved from http://www.herbslist.net/holy-basil.html