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Adaptogens in general

 
pollinator
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I am very curious about adaptogens in general.  When I first learned about them I was still nursing my youngest so played it safe by not trying them out.  

Now, with the guidance of a chiropractor/nutritionist I have been supporting my overworked adrenals with various adaptogens.  I used one supplement tablet for over a year which contained skillcap, licorice, ashwagandha, and Korean ginseng.  Now it seems that I need a different supplement which contains schisandra, bacopa, eleuthero, and rosemary.  

While I don't believe that everything listed are adaptogens, I am curious to know more about them to see if there is a pattern or trend with the two groups since they do not overlap at all.  I have not gotten around to digging into it myself, but I thought I would take tge opportunity to see if anything stuck out to someone as knowledgeable as Dr. Tilgner or anyone else who reads this post.
 
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Hello Ghislaine,

An easy way to think of an adaptogen is as something that decreases damage from physical or mental stressors with little toxicity.

Here is my longer rendition of what an adaptogen is: An adaptogen augments resistance to stress and conserves energy; when faced with a wide spectrum of stressors of different physical, mental, emotional natures. Adaptagens enhance general resistance and normalize the body when under stress by acting in a non-specific manner. They help keep the body in a balanced state of health by a variety of physiological coping mechanisms. Adaptogens have a normalizing effect on the body by counteracting or preventing disturbances brought about by a stressor or harmful factor. Ultimately they are thought to restore function and bring about inner balance.  

You asked about a pattern or trend with this group of herbs. In my opinion, they are all working to support mitochondrial activity and this is what they share in common. There are drugs, pathogenic disease, environmental caused disease that are all causing mitochondrial dysfunction. Depending on the genetics of a person, their nutritional status and other healthy aspects, depends on how they react to these and other stressors.  Mitochondrial (mitochondria create energy for the cell) dysfunction is a result of extreme stress on the person. This has caused a similar picture of chronic fatigue and dysfunction in the people with this issue. People are diagnosed as having chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalitis or fibromyalgia or chronic lyme etc.  In my opinion, they all have a similar picture as they all have mitochondrial dysfunction as the unifying problem. Adaptogens appear to all be supportive of mitochondrial function as the main mechanism of action. A person needs to completely change their life usually when they have mitochondrial dysfunction and it can be complicated but adaptogens are often part of their healing process.

You will hear people talk about adaptogens as adrenal supportive herbs, and indeed they are, and that was how these herbs use to be viewed largely, but we now see a bigger picture. The adrenals need the  mitochondria to function properly and the mitochondria react to stress quickly. If stress goes on for quite a while they are terribly affected. When the mito are affected, all organs feel the pain. Ultimately they all get their energy from the mitochondria who are the first to be affected by stress. I won't go into this more as it is a huge topic and I could write a book about it. I hope to get an article up on mitochondrial dysfunction on my website in a few months.

Although, long term research is missing for many of them, Adaptogens have been considered to be safe  and generally without side effects. Some of them are known to have side effects, that have shown up in the scientific literature, or in the clinical setting. There are not enough toxicity studies undertaken on these herbs and those that exist are usually on animals and need to be undertaken on humans. There is a short list of herbs that most herbalists will agree are adaptogens. They don't all agree on them usually either.

Examples of adaptogens:

• Ashwagandha - Withania somnifera
• Bacopa - Bacopa monniera
• Bupleurum - Bupleurum chinense
• Dang shen - Codonopsis pilosula
• Ginseng - Panax spp.
• Holy basil - Ocimum sanctum
• Licorice - Glycyrrhiza glabra
• Linden - Tillia spp
• Oats - Avena sativa
• Reishi mushroom - Ganoderma lucidum
Rose root (stonecrop) - Rhodiola rosea
• Schisandra - Schisandra chinensis
• Siberian ginseng - Eleutherococcus senticosus
• Turmeric - Curcuma longa


 
pollinator
Posts: 1981
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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There are 2 types of reactions to stress.
Could you please say which adaptogenes are for people still in sympathetic activation, and those that are for people who have arrived at the parasympathetic vagus freeze? That would be like for people who are too active/cannot rest and a tendency to anxiety Vs the ones who have reached burn out or depression.

I know very well the ANS but I am curious about the correspondance with plants use and how to take it into account.

 
Sharol Tilgner
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Hello Ghislaine,

It is illegal for me to prescribe specific herbs for you. I can loose my license in Oregon for doing that. This is why I give general answers to questions. You are thinking that adaptogens are for very specific physiological activities, but they are actually very broad acting and act more in a supporting manner which helps the body itself better react to a stressful situation.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Are all in  the list of adaptogen plants useful in all cases of ANS activity?
Does the type of nervous state have nothing to do with the choice of an adaptogen?
(I had read about some people having bad results with ashwaganda because of their low thyroid...)
 
Sharol Tilgner
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Hello Xisca,

The adaptogens all help to normalize the ANS. All of them. The more research that comes out, the more it looks this way. This is probably due to their activity on the mitochondria.

Ashwagandha is one of the adapatogens that have been shown to increase thyroid hormones in people who are hypothyroid. Not much research on it still though. It was found by accident originally during a study for something else. Is that what you are talking about. People are warning folks who are hyperthyroid not to take it in case it will raise the hormones in them also. However, we do not really know that. People are simply being safe in case that takes place.
 
Ghislaine de Lessines
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Thank you for your reply Dr. Tilgner!  It's interesting that they all seem to work so similarly!
 
Sharol Tilgner
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I don't want  you to think they are exactly alike, it is simply that to be listed an an adaptogen the herbs have to do some very similar things to be in this private club. This is also why the list of adaptogen is very small. Compare lists of anti-inflammatories with a list of adaptogens and you will see what I mean.

Herbalists list herbs in categories of actions and properties which helps people when they are learning about herbs and how to use them. So when you look at a list of these various categories, you will note that adaptogens is a very short list. In my book, "Herbal Medicine From The Heart Of The Earth", I list all the actions and properties of herbs alphabetically and then give examples. For most herbs, I simply give a list of some of the more common herbs in that category. However, with adaptogens, I listed the ones that most herbalists agree upon, which was only 11 herbs. This is why I say it is a small and private club.
 
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