Adaptogens - A Once Upon A Time Kind Of Story
Long ago, in the land where herbal medicine was birthed, the Chinese were reported to be the first to discover the powerful benefits of adaptogens.
The truth is, adaptogens have long been beloved by many cultures around the world. India, Russia, and even the Vikings were some of the many cultures who delighted in their benefits.
Before we dive deep into their history, you might be wondering: what exactly is an adaptogen?
An adaptogen is an herb with therapeutic effects that increase resistance against physical and mental stressors without containing any long term side effects. Adaptogens are non toxic, non addictive, and also non specific.
One of the most famous adaptogens originates from the Araliaceae family, also known as Ginseng.
The first recorded use of Ginseng dates back almost 2000 years in China. Read that again, recorded. The discovery may have happened long before this date, and it’s even more possible that it’s origins actually began in Korea. Oh the subjective nature of history.
Years later, in the 20th Century, the Soviets wanted to develop a product that would increase the performance of their elites. They were also the ones who came up with the term “adaptogens” - but that’s a whole story for another time.
During World War II, they observed how amphetamines caused burnout in their soldiers. Knowing deep within there must be a better solution. They realized the answer could not be found in a lab. It can only be found in nature.
They searched far and wide until they stumbled upon the Asian Ginseng. Their only problem was: it didn’t grow in Russia. It’s not like the Soviets' nature to ever give up on a challenge, and so they introduced the Siberian Ginseng - the Asian Ginseng’s Soviet-twin.
Ginseng has been shown to reduce inflammation, increase brain function, protect against stressors, boost immunity, induce a feeling of calmness, and even decrease the risks of certain types of cancer.
Although the Ginseng Family might be the most famous, the real star of the adaptogenic kingdom is Reishi. Also known as the mushroom of immortality.
The ancient Chinese texts refer to Reishi as “the elixir of immortality”, as they believe it holds the secret to anti-aging. Reishi mushroom (lingzhi) was discovered in China more than 2000 years ago. Today, it’s use is commonly found in different cultures around the world.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Millennials and Gen Z’s report the highest rates of anxiety and depression. Making suicide the second leading cause of death among individuals between 10-34 years.
Preliminary studies show a significant improvement for both anxiety and depression, as well as improving the overall quality of life. Research also shows Reishi has the power to reduce stress, lessen fatigue, improve oxygen utilization and vital organ functioning.
Reishi might literally be the elixir of immortality after all.
Needless to say, the Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions were ahead of the times by discovering the power of nature long ago.
And lastly, the legendary Cordyceps.
Asian folklore states Cordyceps as neither plant nor animal. As it’s technically a fungus that lives on certain mountain caterpillars. Yes, you read that correctly. Caterpillars. Nature is fascinating and full of surprises.
Cordyceps is a traditional Chinese medicine that was exclusively available to the emperor’s family in ancient China. Cordyceps benefits range from improving energy and performance, to easing respiratory disorders, to improving tolerance and quality of life of people undergoing chemotherapy.
Adaptogens are powerful healers provided by our beloved Mother Nature. They are endless teachers with ever-unfolding benefits and stories. Just like humans, they too form mutualistic relationships with other organisms, bacteria and plants. They work miracles when they’re blended together. They understand that connection is the ultimate elixir of life.
And as all stories do, the ending eventually comes. Except for Mother Nature herself. She is the story that never ends. She was here long before us and will be long after we leave. She is, and always will be, the exception. The exceptional.
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