Ask the Herbalist: Adaptogens...What Are They?

Ask the Herbalist: Adaptogens

Certified Herbalist - Paige Hill

If you are familiar with Herbalism, you have probably heard the term "Adaptogen" used here and there to describe the properties of certain herbs, such as Ginseng, Rhodiola, and Schisandra. If you are unfamiliar with herbs, you are probably asking yourself "What the heck is an Adaptogen??".
We are very fortunate to have our small herbal clinic as part of our building and business. Having practicing herbalists "on staff" has allowed our customers to gain the answers they seek to common problems that we all face every now and then. Our herbalists help to give us better insight on the products that we manufacture and we will often turn to Mo or Paige for advice; asking for their personal experiences with herbs and how they would benefit a new salve, tea blend, or formula.
We took a moment to interview one of our practicing herbalists, Paige Hill - Certified Herbalist and owner of Oak Leaf Herbal, to gain her perspective on Adaptogenic herbs:


Adaptogens…what are they?

Adaptogens are plants and other substances, which change the way our bodies respond to stress. They shift us out of the "fight or flight" mode and into "rest and relaxation," revitalizing energy levels, reducing stress related problems, and supporting overall wellbeing.

What herbs fall under the category of adaptogens?

The herbs that fall into this category exhibit a generalized rejuvenating effect on the whole body. Ginsengs are a common example of Adaptogens; including American Ginseng, Asian or Red Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthero), Woman's Ginseng (Spikenard), and Poor Man's Ginseng (Dang Shen or Codonopsis). Many mushrooms used in herbalism are also adaptogenic; such as Reishi, Cordyceps, or Chaga. 

How do you use adaptogens with your clients?

I use adaptogens when a client has high or prolonged stress that is taking a toll on their overall health, or when a client has fatigue that is getting in the way of them living their life. These herbs are also helpful for recapturing and maintaining youthful energy in older clients.

What are some indications that would make you want to use adaptogens?

If you are stressed, overworked, overextended, or fatigued, and you can't seem to get the rest you need, Adaptogens may be worth a shot.  

Is there one specific adaptogenic herb that you would recommend for everybody to take?

Though all Adaptogens are helpful for stress and fatigue, each one has a slightly different specialty. Schisandra is best when you also have urinary issues, Astragalus when you have a weak immune system, Devil's Club with joint health, and Rhodiola for heart problems. Do some research or talk to an Herbalist to find the right one for you.

Is there any reason someone would want to NOT take or AVOID adaptogens?

Adaptogens are not advised during an acute infection, like the onset of a cold. In the same way they give you energy, Adaptogens can invigorate viruses and bacteria, making an infection much worse. After the acute phase has passed, and you are now in recovery, Adaptogens can help get you back to feeling normal again. Also, be sure to talk with your local healthcare provider if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking any medications, before taking any adaptogenic herbs.

Other comments:

These herbs are generally very safe, and overall fun to take. Experiment with a few and notice how each herb has a somewhat different effect on you. One might give you more energy, while another makes you more happy, and another gives you better sleep. Maybe start with Eleuthero, Gynostemma, or Reishi and see which one you like best.

1 comment

  • Lindsey Walton

    I’ve got chondromalacia patellae in both knees. I love to be active. I stretch daily, and try to eat as healthy as I can. Lately hasn’t been great, I’ve been eating alot more sweets and seeing the repercussions of it. My right knee is at a grade 3 and left knee pushing a grade 3 in the chondromalacia. Im looks g for some help in herbal tinctures that would help in inflammatory and possibly tissue repair. Thank you for your help. Lindsey

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