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I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about adaptogens.

Q. Dear Terry, “I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about adaptogens. I’m a little confused about what they are and when you should take them. Can you help?” — Mohammad A., Midland, TX

A. Dear Mohammad,  Adaptogens are a special group of herbs. They seem to do exactly what we need them to do. An “adaptogen” simply means that it provides the appropriate support needed at a given time, whether that means stress relief, more physical or mental energy, or a calmer outlook. Adaptogens have profound impacts on many, if not all, of our body systems through their stress and immune modulating properties.

Two of my favorite adaptogens are ashwagandha and rhodiola.

Ashwagandha comes from the Sanskrit word used to describe the smell of a horse, referring to the scent of the plant’s roots after harvesting, but also to the feeling of strength and vitality that many of those using the herb experience as well. Traditionally, ashwagandha has been prescribed for many things: calming nerves, reducing inflammation, and increasing both libido and stamina. Aside from these more psychological effects, ashwagandha is a well-known traditional therapeutic for arthritis and joint pain, so it is an excellent all-around herbal medicine for just about anyone.

I prefer root-only ashwagandha extracts that are standardized for withanolide content. Withanolides, along with sitoindosides and other compounds, account for much of ashwagandha’s strong effects.

Like ashwagandha, rhodiola has a long history of traditional use that, in more recent years, has become validated by clinical and scientific studies. Native to northern Europe and Asia, rhodiola figured prominently in the medicine systems of the arctic, Siberian, Mongolian, and other cold-climate cultures. In traditional medicine, rhodiola has been used for fatigue, illnesses, infections, altitude sickness, and sexual health.

Important constituents of rhodiola include salidrosides and the compounds rosavin, rosin, and rosarian. It is primarily these compounds that are responsible for the cognitive, stress-reducing, and energizing effects of the herb.

I would look for a rhodiola that is standardized for those key compounds.

By definition, adaptogens are non-toxic, which means you can safely take them on a daily basis. They can be used short-term or long-term. I would take ashwagandha and rhodiola at least once every day. 

Healthy Regards!

Terry . . . Naturally

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