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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 in to this 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
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Vitality – Astragalas Root
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Vitality – Eleuthero Root
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Vitality – Holy Basil
- 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.
Herbs have been playing a major role in my journey to health. I have always believed in the power of herbs in healing, but I never used many herbs, other than you common ones like echinacea, ginger, chamomile, etc. Once I embarked on my healing journey, I quickly learned how important the family of herbs known as adaptogens are.
Adaptogens help our bodies regain balance (homeostasis) and handle stress. I discuss the function and value of adaptogens in-depth in my overview post.
I have found that no matter how much one can learn about herbs on my own, there is a lot of value in working with a trained herbalist. They are able to bring a lot of insight from their practice that we would not otherwise have access to.
In my research, I have seen over and over again the importance of knowing that many herbs work synergistically with other herbs. That is definitely something to keep in mind, should you start incorporating herbs into your life.
That said, I have been practicing what is called “simpling”, which is the art of using a single herb for an extended period of time, so that you really get a feel for that herbs properties.
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)
While some people may not agree with this approach, my friend Lori, a clinical herbalist, says that the most important thing is for people to start using herbs and start becoming comfortable with them. You have to do that in a way that makes it easy for you. Some will prefer simpling, some will prefer more complex methods, but you will find what fits your own personality as you experiment.
Keep in mind that not all herbs are suitable for all people — we're all different, and we can all have different reactions to different herbs. All of the herbs that I am discussing in this series will fall into the “generally regarded as safe” category, but that does not 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.
Image used with permission of Oasis Advanced Wellness
Amla Fruit (Emblica officinalis)
Amla fruit was a new herb for me when I started researching adaptogens. It is also known as the Indian gooseberry. It's native to India, Myanmar, Southern China, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. It is very commonly cultivated in India in areas where the elevation is below 3,000 feet.
Amla is harvested by hand in autumn and the berries have a greenish yellow hue (see image at the top of this post). Amla has long been used for a variety of health benefits in a variety of traditional cultures and was consider sacred to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. It is a staple in traditional Ayurvedic medicine and the herb is used alone and in conjunction with other herbs.(2,4)
Amla's taste/energy is sour, sweet, cool, and dry. For each herb that I am featuring in this series, I tasted it on its own, just out of curiosity. This plant was definitely sour, but when added to my adaptogenic herbal tea blends, it blends in nicely.
The fruit is typically what is used of this plant. It is rich in antioxidant polyphenols, as well has large amounts of vitamin C. In modern Hindu practice, this plant is sacred and regular use is believed to prolong life, prevent memory loss, and promote youthfulness. Other traditional uses included helping restore appetite, relieve nausea and stop vomiting, as well as cure liver dysfunction.(3)
Today, amla is still a very commonly used herb in alternative medicine. There are hundreds of claimed uses and benefits of this one plant. Are they all true? Who knows, but some of the most common health benefits may be:
- Preventing and/or treating connective tissue disorders (like rheumatoid arthritis)
- Preventing and/or treating autoimmune disorders
- Nourishing the eyes, including age-related and diabetes-related eye problems
- Nourish and strengthen capillary health
- Prevent tooth decay
- Speed up the healing of broken bones
- Improves strength of hair and nails
- Protects against radiation damage
- Supports healthy blood sugar levels
- Aids in liver detoxification
- Protects against carcinogen damage
- Protects against certain toxins
- Lower LDL cholesterol levels (based on a study in 1988)
- Enhances digestion
- Enhances immune function (based on animal studies)
- Supports adrenal health
How is Amla Fruit Used?
Amla is high in tannins, which can interfere with mineral absorption, as well as affect certain prescritption medications, but overall, it is considered a very safe herb. If you are pregnant or lactating, it is advised that you consult with a trained herbalist before using. It is recommended to avoid this herb in cases of diarrhea and dysentery.
In traditional Indian medicine, both the dried and fresh fruits are used, and in some schools of Ayurveda, the entire tree is used. The dried fruit is very high in vitamin C, which is critical for adrenal health. The most common uses of amla are:
I chose to experiment with amla for a few reasons. The primary reason was the high vitamin C content and adrenal supporting abilities, but also for the suggested ability of this fruit to help with autoimmune diseases. I personally have been using amla in my adaptogenic tea blends and it blends nicely with other herbs. As with all of the adaptogens, I have not noticed any specific effects due to this one single herb, but I am happy that it is helping me get some additional vitamin C into my diet, which is a nutrient that anyone with adrenal problems needs a lot of. Since it is a very safe herb, I will be using it regularly in my teas and may try tincturing some to experiment with as well.
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 Preparation
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.
- “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.
- “Amla Herb and Fruit Profile“. Mountain Rose Herbs.
- “Adaptogens Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief”. David Winston and Steven Maimes. Healing Arts Press, 2007.
- “Facts on Amla Extract“. LiveStrong.com