A CASE FOR HERBAL ADAPTOGENS
If we live in a world where the only constant is change, then adaptability is one of the single most central qualities to a life of balance. Stemming from the Latin word adaptare, meaning “to fit” or “to join”, cultivating adaptability essentially allows us to take our place in the world: “to join” in. Self-care upholds our adaptability and allows us to join the world despite its potential for being a sometimes turbulent, stressful place.
So how do we support our own adaptability? A diverse approach is always a resilient approach. Carving out time for stillness, time for exercise, time in nature, time with loved ones, etc. are all essential. As is cultivating healthy boundaries; learning when to turn the screen off or when to say “no” so that we are fully charged and ready to say “yes” to life in general. Another complementary approach lies in a class of plants referred to (not coincidentally) as adaptogens.
Adaptogens are considered herbal superstars because of their unique ability to support a healthy stress response*.
In what can sometimes feel like the barrage of the modern era, these plants stand beside us fostering grace and balance while offering their generous hand of support.
What’s even more impressive about adaptogens is that we’re not just talking about resilience to the occasional stress of the modern demands of work, family, etc. They may also support our body’s response to environmental stressors like pollutants in our water, and chemicals in our body products*. These too pose a challenge unique to the times we are living in.
Interestingly, adaptogens don’t have one specific way in which they act. Instead, they act as harmonizers. Their diverse chemistry helps balance our diverse chemistry and supports the stability of our neuroendocrine and immune systems (aka how we perceive and respond to mental/emotional and environmental/chemical stressors)*. Science has identified some of the ways in which adaptogens do this, but due to their broad-ranging mechanisms of actions, every aspect of how they work has yet to be clearly defined.
Adaptogens are, by definition, considered appropriate for long-term use*.
THEY INCLUDE SOME OF HERBALISM’S FAVORITE PLANTS LIKE TULSI, ELEUTHERO, ASHWGANDHA, ASTRAGALUS, REISHI, AND RHODIOLA.
Best adopted as daily tonics, they build our resilience over time. They are not an instant fix, and they do not stand alone as a replacement for other forms of self-care. Instead they stand firmly behind us, supporting lifestyle changes that promote resilience in this wild world*.
With self-care and adaptogens at our side, we can restore our ability to be actors in our worlds. We can orient to action, rather than reaction. The world is indeed a crazy place, and yet we still belong to it. Lean on your plant friends when the going gets rough and you notice that you’re having a hard time adapting or finding balance. They make pleasant companions and reflect back to us how to welcome ourselves home no matter what is happening around us.