Chinese Medicine, Herbalism, Women's Health
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The Ever-So Supportive Adaptogens


It seems like everyone is talking about (and taking) adaptogens. Perhaps you have heard of Rhodiola? Or Eleuthero? American Ginseng, Panax Ginseng, Oplopanax and Eleuthero are well-known adaptogens from the Araliaceae family and have been used for a long time. Holy Basil or Tulsi is another popular and very tasty adaptogen that I see all over the place.

Adaptogens are not just an herbal or health fad or even a trend; I think they will continue to be utilized as more people experience their restorative actions. I have written a few entries featuring adaptogens in the past; here’s one on Astragalus, a bit about Tulsi, and this one about Ashwaganda and Kidney yang tonics.

The interesting thing about adaptogens is that, like many other herbs, they are both specific and broad in action. Specifically, each herb of course has a local history and usage for a certain body system or process, and broadly as a whole they increase our body’s ability to deal with the stress of life. Eleuthero is known to address exhaustion, but it also “improves reproductive capacity and uterine health” (Mary Bove, Medicines from the Earth lecture notes, 2011). Schisandra is a red berry and like many pigmented herbs is is an antioxidant. It induces Phase I liver enzymes, and supports glutathione during phase II detoxification of the liver.

Ashwaganda is generally neuro-protective and has a marked endocrine effect through modulating the thyroid, blood sugar, ovarian function and of course supporting the adrenal glands.

There are three phases of stress: alarm phase, resistance phase and phase of exhaustion. Adpatogens are known to increase the phase of resistance, but I think they can regulate our alarm response and can be helpful in recuperating while in exhaustion.

Clinical researchers explained adaptogens as:

“herbal preparations that increased attention and endurance in fatigue, and reduced stress-induced impairments and disordered related to the neuro-endocrine and immune systems” – Panossian, A. Wikman, G. Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Current Clin.Pharmacol. 2009, 4, 198-219.

Sounds pretty good, eh? Who doesn’t need increased attention and lessened fatigue?

I had an order for my shop for a to create a tincture blend to support and balance the reproductive hormones and reduce stress. This was a perfect time to mix Vitex, White Peony, Dang Gui, with the adaptogens Shizandra, Eleuthero, Shatavari and Ashwaganda. Vitex supported by Shatavari and Ashwagands addresses the ovarian and pituitary hormones which orchestrate menstruation, dang helps the production and movement of blood, schizandra calms the spirit and with Eleuthero regulates the HPA axis (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis) and tonifies the Kidneys. The “K” in Kidneys is capitalized because I am referring to the concept and function of the Kidneys in Chinese medicine, not the physical organ called your liver in Western medicine. Some of the functions of the Kidneys relate to the adrenal glands in Western medicine.

When stress effects the menstrual cycle and hormones, it is good idea to investigate the a Liver component . Chai hu/bluplrurum was my herb of choice in this blend to address that component, as it is acrid and promotes helps the Liver flow freely. Liver Qi stagnation is common in women and can upset menstruation or contribute to PMS symptoms of irritability, breast tenderness, cramping or symptoms which get worse with stress. Bai Shao/White Peony is sour and through the sour, condensing flavor, sedates an excessively active or constrained Liver which then can overact on the organ it controls, the Spleen. Bai Shao tonifys Blood, too, and can regulate menstruation, and blends nicely with Chai Hu/Bluplrurum.

Have I ever told you home much I love herbs? Or how amazing I think Chinese Medicine is? Look at what these plants can offer (and graciously so).

Yes, I am in love.


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