Astragalus; Adaptogen Herb for Stress and Balance

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are herbs that help us adapt to changes and stress caused by physical, biological, emotional, and environmental factors. They can assist in restoring balance within the body and help us defend against both chronic and acute stressors.

One of my favorite adaptogens is astragalus.

Astragalus (Astragalus Membranaceus)

Astragalus is an adaptogenic herb often used in Chinese medicine. It is calming to the Central Nervous System (CNS) and has antimicrobial properties. Astragalus helps support respiratory functions making it useful in times of infection and useful for allergies and asthma. This herb thought to boost the immune system, increase energy, and address fatigue associated with chemotherapy and chronic illness.

Due to it’s antibacterial and antiviral properties, along with its immune-boosting capabilities it may be useful in preventing and decreasing the severity of common colds and respiratory infections. Astragalus may also be used with herbs such as milk thistle to help prevent damage to the liver and kidneys caused by other medications.

Precautions: There are no known contraindications although it may have interactions w/ immunosuppressant drugs.

Culinary Uses:

Incorporating adaptogens into your routine is quick and easy with this Adaptea recipe. Using adaptogens as part of your diet is a great way to get all the amazing stress-busting, and healing benefits of adaptogens without having to take another supplement.

Try this tea and let us know what you think!

Adaptea Recipe

8 grams Astragalus ( 2 slices)
1 tbs Cat Nip
2 tsp Lemon Balm
1 tsp Nettles
1 tsp Red Raspberry Leaves 3 dried Stevia Leaves

Bring astragalus and 4 cups of water to boil and simmer for 20 mins. Turn off heat and add in remaining herbs. Steep covered for 5-10 mins. Strain. Add an additional 4 cups of cool water and allow to cool. Serve over ice.

To serve hot:

Bring astragalus and 8 cups of water to boil and simmer for 20 mins. Turn off heat and add in remaining herbs. Steep covered for 5-10 mins. Strain.

Adaptogens for Holistic Healing

Adaptogens are herbs that help us adapt to changes and stress caused by physical, biological, emotional, and environmental factors. They can assist in restoring balance within the body and help us defend against both chronic and acute stressors.

Documentation of the use of adaptogenic herbs exists throughout history. Many were used in traditional Chinese medicine and in Ayurveda for possibly thousands of years. This class of herbs gained attention in the 1940s in Russia as they searched for a substance that would provide strength, stamina and physical superiority. The term adaptogen was coined by Nikolai V. Lazarev, a Soviet scientist, medical doctor, and pharmacologist. According to Lazarev, an adaptogen is an agent that allows an organism to counter adverse physical, chemical, or biological stressors by raising non-specific resistance towards such stress, allowing the organism to adapt to stressful situations.

1. non-toxic

2. produce a non-specific response in the body

3. increase our bodies non-specific adaptogenic response

4. must have a normalizing influence on physiology

5. must be able to both stimulate a hypo-functioning system

6. calm/relax or stimulate a hyper-functioning system

In order for an herb to be considered an adaptogen, it must meet all the qualifying criteria but there can be confusion about what actually qualifies a specific herb for the designation. Herbs may be made into tonics which are nutritive and can be taken to help strengthen one system with limited harmful side-effects but are not necessarily an adaptogen. An herb may also be rejuvenating or restorative, but that doesn’t mean it fits into the classification of an adaptogen because they do not meet all the particular criteria that are required to be considered an adaptogen. Adaptogens aren’t tonics for one system of the body. They work to restore overall balance and strengthen the functioning of the body as a whole without impacting the stability of an individual organ or body system. To be an adaptogen, the herb must be able to facilitate changes by a wide range of actions, rather than one specific action, like balancing particular hormones or improving digestion.

Many adaptogens are also anti-inflammatory and reducing overall inflammation will increase energy, boost immunity, and increase cognitive function. All of these are affected when the stress response is induced.

What can adaptogens do for our bodies?

  • support adrenal function
  • increase tolerance of stress both physical and emotional
  • minimize the harmful side effects of toxins
  • work on a cellular level to protect from oxidative stress

Adaptogens may also help:

  • produce energy on a cellular level regulate glucose
  • support metabolic functions
  • slow aging
  • play a role in psychoneuroimmunology by regulating the brain and nervous system
  • help restore the balance of the endocrine hormones
  • modulate the immune system
  • play a role in emotional and physical health
  • help maintain homeostasis in the body

Many adaptogens help improve focus, support immune system functioning. They provide some other broad-spectrum normalizing influence on unbalanced physiological processes. They create change in the body because of their ability to stimulate and balance several systems. They have a normalizing effect on the body by toning down a hyper-functioning system and strengthening the action of a hypo-functioning system. The mechanisms of action for these herbs are still not well understood. A great way to think of how adaptogens impact our bodies is that they are the positive mirror to the harmful effects of stress.

Now all this sounds wonderful, like a magic solution even, but our bodies are not meant to live under continued exposures to stress so while this class of herbs can help you reduce the effects of chronic or acute stress, in order to truly break out of the cycle, it is necessary to find the root causes of your stress and address them. Adaptogens are not meant to be taken years on end; they are made to assist our bodies as we work on implementing healthier lifestyle habits, or in times of situational stress. Many times, when we find ourselves taking a bunch of supplements and nothing is working; it’s because there is something more profound at play, and more often than not its a combination of the before mentioned factors.

In addition to the changes caused by physical, biological, emotional, and environmental factors as well as their ability to reduce inflammation which will increase energy, boost immunity and increase cognitive function, adaptogens may also help to improve blood sugar imbalances, anxiety, depression, arthritis, and adrenal fatigue to name a few.

Cold and Flu Natural Prevention & Protocols

The cold and flu are viral infections that infect the respiratory tract.

Viruses are the smallest microbe which infects human. The discovery of viruses are relatively new in medical history; it wasn’t until the 1930-40’s that there were microscopes powerful enough to see viruses. Since then have been over 30k different viruses identified.

Viruses are not living, and it’s really important to stress here, antibiotics are completely ineffective in addressing viral infections. In fact, they will actually make a viral infection worse by killing off the beneficial bacteria you need to help fight the infection.

Antibiotics negatively impact our gut health on an average of 18 months after each use and also increases your chances of recurrent infections 

Certain botanicals can actually inhibit viruses from replicating by deprogramming the viruses so that once they penetrate a cell they can’t overtake and reprogram it, halting the progression of a disease.
Other herbs can attack the spikes on the outside of a virus so it can’t attach to the cell, others may prevent a virus from the penetrating a cell. Our botanicals can work on multi-levels to help us prevent or shorten the duration of these illnesses.

For illnesses like the cold and flu self-awareness is really important. 

This is the where we may have had an exposure of some kind of indication that we may be coming down with something
It’s the early warning signs where we need to amp up our prevention methods.

One botanical we can use for a multi-level prevention and treatment option is elderberry.

Elderberry works by actually inhibiting viral replication, so it is best taken at the first sign of symptoms to stop the progression of the disease.

This is treating at the root cause. We are not addressing symptoms with elderberry. You may add other botanical to your protocol to address symptoms but we are really looking at inhibiting viral reproduction here.
In a 2016 study evaluating cold symptoms among travelers, elderberry supplementation was compared to placebo.
The elderberry treatment group experienced less total sick days, they also experienced less severe symptoms on a rating scale. Here they are taking elderberry as a preventative when their exposure is higher.

Where people often run into issues when using natural remedies, is dosing, frequency and consistency.  As an herbalist and aromatherapist, it is one of the biggest mistakes I see when people find their natural remedies not working.