Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could take something and become resistant to the effects of stress? Stressful situations are part of everyday life, and the hormonal imbalance caused by chronic stress contributes to all chronic diseases and aging.

Though we generally consider stress something to be tolerated, when stress becomes ominous, many people turn to prescription drugs. Pharmaceuticals do work on a certain level, but conventional drugs are associated with, well, “drug-like” effects and often accompanied by side effects.

If we were going to design the ideal, herbal alternative for stress resistance, it would not have the targeted effect of the pharmaceuticals available today, but it would have an overall normalizing effect on all systems of the body. Fortunately, Mother Nature is way ahead of us; many natural substances already exist that fit this description. Collectively, these natural substances are referred to as adaptogens.

What Are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens, by definition, are substances that have a very low potential for toxicity, do not have targeted effects on any one organ system, but have an overall balancing or normalizing effect on all the functional systems of the body. There are many natural substances from around the world that fit this definition and most have been used by humans for thousands of years. We know a lot about many of the natural adaptogens from several sources.

Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, traditional medicine in India, have been observing and recording the use of natural adaptogens for thousands of years. More recently, the Russians during the Cold War conducted an extensive science experiment in search of supplements to increase energy, endurance and enhance athletic performance. Their scientific documentation of substances classified as adaptogens from around the world is quite extensive and thorough.

Possibly the most well-known and studied natural adaptogen is ginseng. Ginseng is mildly stimulating, but unlike caffeine, invigorates production of energy in the body, instead of expending it.

My favorite natural adaptogen is ashwagandha. Native to India and Africa, ashwagandha is derived from the root of a plant distantly related to the tomato. This mildly sedating adaptogen is particularly useful for unraveling hormonal imbalances associated with stress.

Russian research, looking for natural adaptogens that occurred closer to home, found eleuthero and rhodiola to offer powerful immune-enhancing properties in the face of stress. For just about any stress-related condition there are natural adaptogens and other medicinal herbs that Mother Nature has provided to fit the need.


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Vital Plan was founded by Dr. Bill Rawls to increase awareness about chronic illness and offer his personal journey through Lyme disease and fibromyalgia as an inspiration and learning experience for others.