Now that we are well over halfway through Spring and on our way to Summer Vacation, let’s aim to boost our immune systems to their highest potential. June, July, and August should be spent on the beach or hiking through the mountains, so there’s no time to catch a cold or to have lackluster energy. With the Rebounding and Tibetan Rites tips from my previous two posts, your energy and lymphatic systems should be clean and turbo charged. So for today, welcome this final tip — trust me, it’s the icing on the cake! Embrace this one and your Spring Clean Regime will be 100% complete.
Are you ready to open your mind to understanding food from a new perspective?
I wholeheartedly agree with David Wolfe, who views food as belonging to 3 different categories:
1. Food as food
2. Food as your insurance policy (supplements and vitamins)
3. Food as your medicine
With juices, fruit plates, fresh green salads and extra B12 boosters incorporated into your daily routine, Categories 1 and 2 are covered, but, what about category 3? Category 3 involves the all-important arena of herbalism. Herbs help give us
immune strength. If we have strong immune systems we can better adapt to the daily stresses of modern life and pursue
our goals with more vigor and determination. While there are roughly 13,000 herbs and over 100,000 herbal recipes
recorded in the ancient literature, for the sake of today´s post, I will keep it simple by concentrating on one particular type of herbs – Adaptogenic Herbs. Without further ado, let’s demystify 3 of the most popular adaptogens.
Astragalus has been one of the most popular tonic herbs used in the Orient for over 2,000 years. It is a great tonic herb for increasing day to day energy (Qi) and supports the immune system, lungs, and spleen.
Astragalus is said to strengthen the primary energy of the body, metabolic, respiratory, and eliminative functions. It has many strengthening affects especially to the musculature. Astragalus is said to be beneficial for those who are physically active and require an abundance of physical energy, giving this herb it’s reputation as an energizer. It also helps to alleviate fatigue too.
The plant saponins in Astragalus are similar to the ones found in ginseng. These saponins (astragalosides) differ in chemical structure and have different properties. The Astragaloside IV has been studied and shown to be the most active constituent in Astragalus, with some indication to protect telomeres. Telomeres are the bindings at the end of our chromosomes that hold our DNA in place. The degeneration of the telomeres over time is an indication of aging. This saponin has also been shown to be neuroprotective to brain cells.
Astragalus root contains a high amount of polysaccharides which have potent immune enhancing properties. These polysaccharides are similar to those found in the medicinal mushrooms reishi and maitake.
Instead of starting off your day with a cup of coffee, try some schizandra berry supplements to wake up your mind. And if you’re too stressed at night to sleep, don’t stay up watching late night television; take some schizandra berry supplements to calm you down. How can a single item have such apparently contradictory effects? According to thousands of years of traditional Chinese medicine, schizandra is an “adaptogenic” herb.
In 1958, Russian holistic doctor I.I. Brekhman and his colleague I.V. Dardymov coined the term “adaptogenic” to refer to any herb that “usually has a normalizing action irrespective of the direction of the pathological state.” In other words, it doesn’t matter whether you’re too sleepy or too nervous; either way, schizandra will redirect you from an extreme to an ideal, balanced state. Schizandra may also provide additional medicinal benefits.
Around 2,000 years ago, Shen Nong first referred to schizandra as a valuable adaptogenic tonic. Since then, it has remained one of the most popular adaptogenic herbs in China, where it is taken to promote mental function, strengthen the sex organs and beautify the skin, according to Off the Shelf Natural Health by Mark Mayell.
In Herbal Medicine, Healing and Cancer, Donald R. Yance Jr. lists many of schizandra’s uses, which include increasing mental and physical exercise capacities, as well as improving adaptability to darkness and other environmental stresses. Yance points out that, unlike caffeine, schizandra stimulates the central nervous system without creating an excitatory effect. Schizandra provides a mental boost without the jitteriness caused by caffeine.
This exotic herb has powerful antioxidant properties that protect the brain and nervous system. Premature aging associated with chronic tension on the nervous system is related to increased oxidative stress. This stress increases lipid peroxidation while decreasing critical antioxidant enzymes catalase and glutathione peroxidase. One amazing animal study showed how powerful ashwagandha is at reducing tension and stress on the nervous system. Animals exposed to chronic stress had 85% of their cells showing signs of chronic degeneration. When ashwagandha was administered to another group of chronically stressed animals, the number of damaged cells dropped by 80%. This herb has been shown in studies to have as strong an anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effect as leading name brand medications. Ashwagandha has been shown to support the regeneration and reconstruction of nerve cells and synapses. This suggests that ashwagandha could help reverse states of brain and nervous system degeneration. This makes it a potent defense against dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
No matter where you are, from a sweltering hot sub-Saharan desert retreat to a treeless tundra in Northern Russia (or simply in your home or office managing your daily to do list!) these herbal treasures are essential, and thankfully, they are becoming easier to source not only in their pure forms but also key ingredients in unique teas, herbal beverages, and chocolates (I am head over heels for Gnosis Chocolate´s Super Counselor bar that contains Ashwaganda along with the medicinal mushroom reishi!).
Adaptogenic Herbs are literally foods graced with the power to bring your body into a state of harmony with the environment while simultaneously stimulating balance on cellular, systemic and chemical levels. So, have at it…whip up this berrylicious smoothie from the dynamic duo at Vimergy to keep you clean and adaptogenically charged and if you are feeling super-inspired to take your immunity to even high ground, give this kundalini kriya a whirl – ¨Surround Yourself With Protection¨.
Adaptogenic Wild Blueberry-Coconut Smoothie
- 2 cups coconut milk (home made or store bought – the drinking/cereal kind, not canned coconut milk)
- 1 cup frozen or fresh wild blueberries
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds only
- 1/2 tsp gynostemma extract powder
- 1 tbsp raw honey, coconut nectar or coconut sugar, or 5 drops stevia (use more sweetener as desired)
- If you are making your coconut milk you’ll need 2/3 cup organic coconut flakes or shreds and 2 cups water. Blend them together in a blender for one minute. Then strain the liquid thorugh a fine mesh strainer or nut milk bag to remove the coconut pulp. Throw the pulp away or use in another recipe.
- Place the coconut milk and other ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Taste and adjust sweetness as desired. Serve and enjoy.
Peace + Love + Herbs