Hi, I’m Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, an integrated
medical physician and herbalist. You know, if somebody was to ask me “what would be
the most important group of plants for modern times?” I’d probably say the
adaptogens. Adaptogens are plants that help our bodies adapt to stressful
environments, to a changing environment, and they do this in very
nonspecific ways. You know, the first adaptogen that was ever really
investigated was ginseng, and in the 1940s and 50s, Soviet scientists
were researching ginseng trying to figure out like, why is it such an
expensive herb and why does it have all these claims behind it that people
thought it was just this amazing plant? And these researchers found that ginseng
seemed to have a normalizing effect when you gave it to animals or to people.
Didn’t matter sort of what was out of balance it brought it back into balance
in this very gentle way: That was where the term ‘adaptogen’ was actually coined,
was from original from Soviet researchers. Since that time we’ve
learned a lot about ginseng and other plants that have this normalizing effect,
this sort of protective effect on the body. Today, you know, so many the people
that come in to see me are feeling the effects of stress: they’re feeling
the effects of worry, and stress, and long hours at work, and you know, and not
to mention things that they can’t really control a lot of the environment. You
know, the quality of the air, or air pollution, or noise pollution, light
pollution, many of the things that are just sort of surrounding them. And it
causes the body’s physiologic homeostatic mechanisms to become
challenged, or out of balance. Adaptogens, and there’s a number of them, rhodiola,
ashwagandha, you know, maca, ginseng, eleuthero, there’s a number of these
adaptogens that have a normalizing effect on our physiology. Some are quite
stimulating. Rhodiola, for example is quite stimulating when you give it to
individuals they feel very energized. So people who feel, you know, really tired
and they feel a lot of just you know fatigued rhodiola can be a wonderful
adaptogen for them. For somebody like me, rodeo is way too stimulating, right? So
I’m more drawn to ashwagandha for myself. Ashwagandha is the most calming or
relaxing of the adaptogens that comes to us from the subcontinent of India, and
it’s been used in their system of medicine in Indian medicine (Ayurvedic
medicine) for a very, very long time to sort of nourish and strengthen the
nervous system. So, I think many people benefit from ashwagandha today. Ginseng
is another interesting one. We have an American ginseng and then there’s an
Asian, there are a number of Asian species of ginseng as well, ginseng is interesting. I learned about panax ginseng or Asian ginseng and when
I was doing martial arts many, many years ago and they would make the tea like in
a double boiler and in the top they would make they would take the root and
cook it until it was sort of a golden yellow, and they would drink it. And they
would drink it to really strengthen the “chi” or really strengthen the body.
Contrary to what most people think in the United States, ginseng was not
typically used for young warriors, it was often used for people who were
convalescing, people who were getting older, who were feeling kind of weak. So
when I think of adaptogens and I think of modern living, I think this is a class
of herbs that could be so beneficial to us in our lives. There is no
pharmacologic equivalent. We do not have a tonifying group of pharmaceuticals
that you sort of take to normalize your physiology. I think there’s a tremendous
amount of interest in adaptogens, I think we’re learning much more of how they’re
used, and I would invite you to consider adaptogens in your own
life to find the one that might work for you. You don’t have to take adaptogens
all the time, adaptagens are not necessary to take all the time. Many of
us take them you know for a four six week period, maybe eight weeks when we’re
feeling sort of tired or really stressed. I take mine during the holiday season
when I know that I’m gonna be very busy, and we’re going to be inundated with
family and friends, and nobody’s going to get a lot of sleep. Those are the times
when I use it to sort of just give my immune system and my nervous system
and all of my physiology just a little extra added protection. So, there are a
lot of good books. David Winston has an excellent book on
adaptogens that I highly recommend if you want to learn more about it. And, of
course, I talk about adaptogens in my own book, Healthy at Home. Wherever you
are, whatever you’re doing, I’m telling you there’s a lot that
you can do to help yourself thrive in these modern times. From my house to
yours, in good health.