Ask The Herb Lady

With Cathy Schram

What Are Adaptogenic Herbs?

Q: I have been stressed out more than usual. A friend said I should take an adaptogenic herb. What does that mean?

A: There is a class of herbs known as adaptogens. This means that by taking them, they allow your body (mainly the nervous system) to adapt to any and all situations. They have been shown to greatly reduce the impact of stress on our health. They do this by modulating the signals that are sent from the hypothalmus and pituitary glands which then causes a reduction of adrenaline and cortisol. This helps to break the fight-or-flight reactions that cause chronic stress. You might want to think of these herbs as a thermostat. When things heat up, the temperature comes down; when it is too low, it goes up. Adaptogens calm you down and boost energy without over-stimulating. Herbs that are included in this category are: ginseng, eleuthero, ashwaghanda, astragalus, schizandra berries and rodiola rosea.

A good thing to remember is that even your nerves need nutrition. Good quality fats such as coconut oil, butter and nuts are good along with omega-3 essential fatty acids. A good B-complex and vitamin C are also important as these vitamins are depleted when you are under stress.

Q: I recently had a sore throat and my friend told me to take slippery elm tea. Several days later I had an upset stomach and diarrhea. Once again, I was told to take slippery elm. How can it work for both of these symptoms?

A: Slippery Elm is what I call the “smart” herb, meaning it actually helps you if you are having diarrhea or are constipated. It is in a class of herbs called “demulcents”. Demulcents are high in mucilage and create a mucus that soothes and protects the mucous membranes inside the body. In addition to slippery elm, there are other demulcent herbs: marshmallow root, mullein, plantain, aloe leaves and fenugreek seeds. When these herbs are applied topically, they are known as emollient. So, you can see why these types of herbs are useful in many different situations.

This herb information is for health education purposes only. It is not intended to replace the services of licensed health practitioners. Consult with a physician for any condition that requires professional care.

Do you have questions about herbs or vitamins? Send them to Cathy Schram, CNHP and Certified Herbalist. Write to: Herbs & More, 16021 Manchester Rd., Ellisville, MO 63011.