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Welcome to another installment in my multi-part series, where I am discussing adaptogens and how I am using them to help me on my healing journey. You can read about my journey to health here. If you’re just tuning iintothis series, you can read the following articles on the subject of adaptogens:
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Vitality – An Overview
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Vitality – American Ginseng
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Vitality – Schisandra Berries
- DIY Adaptogenic Tea Blends
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief: A Book Review
DISCLAIMER: Due to the FDA and FTC laws on health claims, I need to make this very clear. None of the information in this post is to be construed as medical advice. I am not a doctor or certified medical practitioner of any sort. I am simply sharing my own personal experiences, as I travel the long road to optimal health. Statements/products discussed have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease or illness. Every person is different and you should always consult your own certified health care practitioner before making changes to your current diet or before beginning any herbal or vitamin supplement regimen or exercise program.
Before we start, I want to share a few things.
- No matter how much one can learn about herbs on their own, through books and the Internet, there is always a TON of value in working with a trained herbalist. The more I learn about herbs, the more I realize the importance of working with a professional. A quick Google search for an herbalist in your city will most likely yield a ton of results. Since trained herbalists are working with a variety of patients, they are able to bring a lot of experience and insight from their practice that we do not otherwise have access to. That’s not to say you can’t get started at home, on your own. There is a ton of value in that, and that is where I’m at right now as I get my toes wet. But, if you’re like me and dealing with some specific health issues, working with a professional might be just the thing your wellness journey needs!
- I have been using a method called “simpling”, where you focus on using one herb over an extended period of time. While most herbs work synergistically with other herbs, there is value in simpling as well. Herbalist Brigitte Mars, says that the art of simpling allows you to “deeply connect with all the aspects of a plant’s power and to learn more about the unique flavor and properties of that individual plant.”(1) A local herbalist her in Denver always brings up the issue of compliance. The hardest thing is to get people to actually start using the herbs, so if simpling makes incorporating herbs into your life easier, then go for it!
- Not all herbs are suitable for all people, as we are all unique individuals. The herbs that I have selected for this specific series are herbs that all fall into the “generally regarded as safe” category. That does not, however, mean they are safe for everyone. It’s always best to check with your doctor, naturopath, etc., before introducing new things into your diet or supplementation regimen. If you are pregnant or nursing, it is strongly advised that you speak with your doctor prior to incorporating any new herb into your diet.
Eleuthero Root (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Chris Kilham with Eleuthero Root, Northeast China. Photo used with permission of Chris Kilham and Medicine Hunter
Many of you may not be familiar with the name Eleuthero (also called wucha), but you may have heard of Siberian Ginseng. Eleuthero was called Siberian Ginseng up until 2002, when the Ginseng Labeling Act banned the name in the US. This plant is not truly part of the ginseng species.(2) This plant is native to Siberia, Northern China, Northern Japan, and Korea. It has been adapted to grow in the damp regions of Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since around 190 AD.(3)
The taste/energy of Eleuthero is sweet, slightly bitter, and slightly warm. Just like all of the other herbs I’ve featured, I did try a tiny bit of the dried root plain. Call me weird, but I felt like I needed to try each herb on its own in its natural state. Unlike the other herbs I have featured, this had no taste to me at all. It just tasted like I was chewing on a toothpick.
Similar to American Ginseng, the plant takes awhile to reach maturity — 7+ years. It is a shrub that can reach heights of 9 feet. TCM uses Eleuthero to improve sexual function, boost energy, bring the body into balance, and enhance immunity. It is one of the most important herbs in TCM.(4)
The Medicine Hunter website (which I highly recommend checking out) says:
Despite the lack of a thorough understanding of wucha’s adaptogenic powers, a few things are known with respect to its specific immune-enhancing effects. Two polysaccharides in wucha display specific immune-enhancing power by promoting phagocytosis (the means by which protective cells engulf harmful microorganisms, damaged cells and foreign particles), and the promotion of protective B lymphocytes, which are protective agents manufactured by the immune system. Further studies show that wucha helps to defend the body against some bacterial and chemical toxins. Pharmacological evaluation conducted in both China and Russia on the various compounds in Wucha have determined that Wucha’s stimulation of sexual and adrenal functions is due to its various sterols; its sedative activity is attributable to coumarins; its beneficial effects upon the cardiovascular system are due to flavonoids; and its anti-tumor activity is an effect of polysaccharides. Listed in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, Wucha is used traditionally and clinically in the treatment of cancer, leukocytopenia, hypertension, hypotension, atherosclerosis, nervous fatigue and other diseases.(4)
Eleuthero may be one of the most studied adaptogens, and because of this, there is a lot of information and data showing the benefit to human health. Russian scientists were the ones who coined the term “adaptogen” to describe Eleuthero and its effects on human health.(5) Studies on human performance in both China and Russia have shown that Eleuthero increases a person’s ability to handle a wide range of external stress factors (like heat, noise, etc.). It has also been shown to (with regular use) help increase endurance, mental alertness, work productivity, and athletic performance. In cases of low libido, eleuthero can help boost desire in both men and women.(3) Russian cosmonauts used eleuthero root to combat space sickness.(5) Clinical studies have shown that it can help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as be used to treat the arteries and help treat stress induced (white coat) hypertension (something that I suffer from) when combined with other herbs.(2) Other health benefits may include:
- Strengthening the immune system with regular use over a long period of time
- Increase bone marrow and white blood cell counts for those going through chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments (based on one clinical study)
- Protective against bacterial and chemical toxins
- Help those who have Type-A (high-stress) personalities relax
- Improves quality of sleep and reduces nighttime waking
- Normalizes immune and adrenal function
- Reduce effects of stress, including the production of cortisol
- Protective benefits during times of oxygen deprivation
- Improves recover time from illness
- Help with glaucoma and myopia
There is a great video interview of Chris Kilham of Medicine Hunter about Eleuthero. They have embedding turned off, so click here to watch it. Then, below, there is another short video with Chris where is discusses Eleuthero and shows us the plant in its natural habitat.
How is Eleuthero Root Used?
David Winston and Steven Maimes say:
As an adaptogen, eleuthero is mild and is equally appropriate for men or women, young people or the elderly. It is unlikely to cause overstimulation and can be taken over long periods of time.(2)
Remember that every person is different and unique, so there are going to be some herbs that don’t agree with you. In rare cases, it has been found that eleuthero can overstimulate sensitive people and can also interfere with certain medications. The most common ways to use eleuthero are:
- Fluid Extracts
I have been using eleuthero in my teas, and I have a tincture that is not quite ready to use, so I’ll experiment with that as well. The reason that I chose eleuthero is because it is generally considered very safe and is appropriate for people of all ages. It can also be safely used over an extended period of time. In addition, was curious to see how it would help normalize my immune and adrenal function, as well as help with quality of sleep. So far, I have noticed that I am feeling more stable and consistent throughout the days, so I do plan on continuing to use it, as well as play around with dosages and the forms that I take it in.
Supporting a Your Stress Response, Adrenals, Thyroid, and Whole Body Through Herbs
When it comes to supporting overall wellness, herbs are a great tool to have in your toolkit, especially those who may be dealing with chronic illness of some type. Since 2009, when I started this site, I have met thousands upon thousands of people through my work and by far, the #1 health complaints are:
- adrenal fatigue (or adrenal dysfunction of some sort) (click here to read all of my adrenal health articles)
- thyroid disorders (hypo-, hyper-, or autoimmune) (click here to read all of my thyroid health articles)
Because of this, I wanted to add in a section into this post about the benefit of using herbs with chronic illness. Adaptogens are by far one of the most used herbs when it comes to working with people who have low energy, fatigue, and overall imbalance in the endocrine system (thyroid, adrenals, and blood sugar).
While the benefits of adaptogenic herbs extend far beyond just supporting that one system, this tends to be one of the main reasons people turn to adaptogenic herbs in the first place. That said there are a lot of other herbs out there that offer amazing support for the body, especially those dealing with chronic illness which is why I wanted to share this section today.
If you are dealing with any type of chronic illness, I’m sorry to break it to you, but caffeine may not be your best friend. 🙁 While you can find lots of info online in both the pro- and the anti-coffee camps, the fact of the matter comes down to the fact that are a lot of people dealing with chronic illness, especially thyroid and adrenal problems, that simply cannot tolerate coffee and caffeine.
While those with sluggish adrenal glands tend to feel run down and in need of a regular pick-me-up (like coffee and other caffeinated beverages), in the long run, caffeine can do more harm than good while you are healing. I go into the “whys” around caffeine and your adrenals in this detailed post here. In addition to the caffeine, there are other constituents, molds, and mycotoxins that can show up in coffee that some people find they react to and can further exacerbate the toxic load on the body.
When I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease and adrenal fatigue, one of the first things that had to go was coffee. In addition to dealing with these issues, we suspected that I was having some detox pathway sluggishness so we wanted to also focus on supporting the liver and lymph systems. Most people who are dealing with chronic illness are also going to have issues with detoxification of the body, which is why herbs can play such an important role.
To be honest, I never drank coffee because of the caffeine. I drank coffee for the taste and aroma, as well as the emotional experience I felt to my morning cup of joe. For me, it was a ritual that I looked forward to every day (and sometimes multiple times a day). Whether I was brewing it at home or going to my local coffee shops, the experience was one that I clung to tightly.
But, when I was faced with new health struggles, I knew I had to do whatever I could to support my body and give it the tools it needed to heal. Giving up coffee and caffeine was one step in this direction.
And it sucked.
I turned to the coffee substitutes on the market in a desperate attempt to recreate the ritual I had grown so fond of, but nothing ever tasted the way I wanted it to. Nothing ever gave me that same experience that my cup of “real” coffee did. I knew there had to be something better, but I simply could not find it on my health food store’s shelves.
Necessity is the mother of invention so that is why I created my own coffee substitutes. They were made with organic, sustainably harvested herbs with zero grains, zero gluten, and zero caffeine. Just herbs.
Herbs that not only tasted delicious but supported my body’s function, like liver detox, bile production, digestion, etc. All of the herbs used in my “coffee” blends have been used for thousands of years to support the body’s normal functions and help everything work a little better — something we all need in today’s toxic world! (psst, dandelion is one of the herbs!)
When it came to creating these blends, if I could get something to not only tasted amazing (and helped me recreate my dearly loved ritual), but also did amazingly supportive things for my body, then it’s a no brainer!
I sold these pre-made blends on Etsy for awhile and the demand was more than I could keep up with. People literally LOVED these blends and were stunned at how much like coffee they actually tasted. Customers who had been dealing with a variety of chronic illnesses had given up coffee to heal their bodies, but like me were deeply missing their morning cup of joe ritual.
After careful consideration and work with some highly experienced advisors, I decided to stop selling the pre-made blends and instead share my proprietary recipes in the form of an eBook. That way I could arm people with the knowledge and recipes they needed to make their own caffeine-free, gluten-free, grain-free blends in the comfort of their own home.
That is why I created the best-selling DIY Herbal Coffees eBook: A Complete Guide To Making Delicious Herbal Coffees to Support Healing & Stress Relief.
Now in its second edition, this ebook features:
- All of my proprietary herbal blend recipes to you can craft a homemade herbal cup of “coffee” at home.
- A ton of researched information about coffee’s impact on the health of those dealing with issues like adrenal fatigue, blood sugar dysregulation, autoimmune disease, thyroid disease, and any other chronic illness.
- Information about all of the herbs used, why I selected them, how to source them, how to prepare and store you “coffees”, and much more.
- Access to your own personal coffee shop where I show you how to recreate your favorite coffee shop drinks and pastries with wholesome, nourishing real food ingredients. No junk here. Only real food.
This book truly is a comprehensive guide to supporting your health, reducing your stress, and bringing a little something special back into your healing journey. You can learn more and download your own copy of this revolutionary wellness guide here, or simply click on the image below.
If you are looking for more info on adaptogenic herbs, I HIGHLY recommend this book, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. It is one of my all-time favorite herb books and probably the one I reference the most. Find it on Amazon here.
Basic Herbal Preparations
If you’re new to herbs and are feeling confused about all the different preparations for them, don’t be! Let me help you out with this Basic Herbal Preparations post. You can also watch the videos below to learn more about a couple herbal preparations and about my favorite source for organic, sustainably harvested herbs.
Ready to Learn More?
Stay tuned for more herbal profiles! I will continue writing about the specific adaptogens that I am using in my healing journey. There are a lot of adaptogens out there, but the key is finding ones that work well for your needs. If you like what you’ve read here, please keep in touch! You can subscribe to my semi-monthly newsletter or subscribe to email updates so you never miss a new post. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. Have a question? Contact me here.
If you’re interested in learning more about herbs and would like to know who I recommend, check out my Resources page.
1. “The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine: The Ultimate Multidisciplinary Reference to the Amazing Realm of Healing Plants, in a Quick-study, One-stop Guide”, by Brigitte Mars. Basic Health Publications, 2007.
2. “Adaptogens Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief”. David Winston and Steven Maimes. Healing Arts Press, 2007.
3. “Schisandra Berry Root and Powder Profile“. Mountain Rose Herbs.
4. “Eleuthero“. MedicineHunter.com
5. “Eleuthero Root“. Tree of Light Publishing.
I LOVE eleuthero! And what a fantastic pic from the medicine hunter – thanks for sharing that with us!
Thanks Lori! I was excited that he let me use it! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂
Where can you buy eleuthero root products? All the links on the Medicine Hunter’s site “didn’t connect.” 🙁
Hi Judy – I buy all of my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs. They have the best quality of any brand I’ve tried: https://www.deliciousobsessions.com/Mountain-Rose-Herbs. I’m not sure why you were having problems with the Medicine Hunter site. I just tested all of the links and they are all working fine. It must have been a temporary glitch. Cheers!