As many of you know I’m a nature lover. Even though I grew up next to the beach, it’s taken me moving to the city, having a garden of my own and living with all four seasons for me to observe the wisdom and playfulness of the earth around us.
In the past few years, as part of my holistic and sustainable lifestyle, I’ve also been incorporating more plants into my daily medicinal routine. I get so many questions from friends and students. Do they even work? Aren’t they just dirt?
And after two years of using them consistently I can confidently say they do work.
Word of warning though, they aren’t a quick fix. And just like any asana, you can’t do it once and think that you’ve got all the benefits from that experience. It all takes time. Adding healing plants into our day is a practice, one that changes with the seasons, our cycles and activities.
But since I started adding Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs and roots into my morning and evening routines, I feel more present and connected with nature, my sleep is better, I handle stress with more ease, I have more energy, my digestion is consistent, my skin has gotten more radiant, my hair and nails have gotten stronger, I feel overall more balanced, and I might jinx myself with this one, but I haven’t gotten sick once!
For those of you interested in adding Adaptogens (or plants that help us adapt to everyday stress), I’ve compiled a list here explaining a little bit about the ones I use most frequently. As always, feel free to reach out if you have questions, or if you have suggestions of your own!
Gelatinized Maca - The gateway adaptogen. I first started adding maca to my smoothies over ten years ago and noticed almost immediately the increased energy and aphrodisiac nature it offers. (woohoo!) It is incredibly powerful for balancing hormones and giving a little bit more spring in your step. I start adding it around the end of my luteal phase, when my energy starts to drop right before my period. And I have had many women going through peri-menopause who have reported a drastic decrease in hot flashes when taking some form of Maca. I recommend the gelatinized form over the raw Maca as it is easier for most to digest.
Ashwagandha - The one everyone loves to say. This powdered root comes from India and it’s known for helping relieve adrenal fatigue from chronic stress. We live in difficult times, and there is stress everywhere. Since stress is everywhere, and as my scientist sister likes to point out, stress is something we need in our lives...it’s still important to have all the tools we need to is combat over-working and over-fatiguing our systems. There’s something about just saying it….Ash-wah-gahn-dha...that when I add it to my morning elixir, I start to slow down a bit and get more grounded.
Rhodiola - The Greek cousin to Ashwagandha. If the previous adaptogen is difficult for you to digest, this one is a great alternative. This is also known for boosting our brain functioning and increasing energy, so it is said to help burn fat. I’m not so sure about that last claim personally, but it’s a great alternative to ashwagandha, if you're looking for it.
Schizandra - The Berry which heals the Liver. Full disclosure, I have no idea how to actually pronounce this one, but it’s a powerful little minx. These berries can often be found dried and in powder form. And it is known to help cleanse and heal the liver. As we know the liver helps us metabolize fat, cleanses our blood and aides in hormonal balancing (since all hormones are created in fat cells). I’ve even heard of this berry helping with motion sickness!
Eleuthero - The Little Shrub that Could. This one which can be found in both powder and tincture form is known to increase energy, balance cardiac functioning and regulate insulin reception, if you’re susceptible to sugar. If you’re a fan of Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee Blends, I believe this is in each of their blends because it’s such a powerful favorite.
Mucuna Pruriens - The Dopamine Bean. This one is legit magic because this bean can connect with our the L-Dopa receptors in our brain to help our bodies create Dopamine...aka the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure and mood elevation. This is a big one because countless studies have linked dopamine levels to addiction, depression, ADHD, and Parkinson’s to name a few. I can feel a visceral shift in my mood when I take this one, it’s simply magic.
He Shou Wu - The Life Force. I was originally exposed to this beautifying herb from Cap Beauty. After their healing facials each guest is offered a “house tonic” which includes this potent and tonifying Chinese herb. It is known and revered for its ability to increase our life force, or qi, especially the areas of the body connected with sex drive and stamina. It is wonderful for the endocrine glands, our main hormone system and can assist in helping the body digest stress and reduce cholesterol.
The Mushroom Suite:
Now we enter the wonderful world of Mushrooms. These Fun-gis are such a good time you definitely want to invite them to the party...see what I did there?
Cordyceps - The Anti-aging Energy fighter. Most fungis are parasites living off of other organisms. These are found living on caterpillars, in the Himalayas. Yum! It was originally observed that the animals who ate these long, red mushrooms had more energy and basically just looked better. They are known to fight inflammation which can lead to many uncomfortable ailments like leaky gut.
Chaga - The Immune Booster. This one grows on Birch trees in very cold climates. This summer as I was traveling through the Adirondacks I happened upon a beautiful herb store that had a supply of localing foraged and harvested Chaga Mushrooms! Success!! This fungi is known for boosting the immune system and helping fight and cure cancer. How wicked is that?!
Lion’s Mane - The Energizer Bunny. As a person who is highly sensitive to caffeine. This one is a no joke energy enhancer. The first couple times I took a normal dose of 1 tsp, it gave me jitters like a cup of coffee would. Again, I’m super sensitive. But this is a great additive for people who are looking to wean themselves off caffeine, but still have their energy boosted. Four Sigmatic makes a wonderful blend that easily mixes with water.
Reishi - The Mushroom of Immortality. It was originally explained to me that this woody mushroom transforms death into life. It grows on rotting trees in hot and humid climates and it’s healing properties are vast and astounding. It acts mainly on our white blood cells, which is the part of our body that helps us defend against foreign diseases. It has also been known to help fight cancer and other illnesses through improved detoxification. Pretty wild right?!
Tocos - The Non-Dairy Creamer. This is another addition to the yummy CAP Beauty Tonic. Tocos is short for Tocotrienols, which is fat- soluble fibers derived from Rice Bran. It is really high in Vitamin E, which makes it a booster for our skin, hair and nails. I add it to my morning tonics as a way to boost flavor. For more, check out this awesome article on Healthyish!
Pearl Powder - The One that Makes Me Feel Like a Baller. Yup, you heard it right...this one is a preparation of crushed pearls. I originally heard of this from Moon Juice Creator, Amanda Chantal Bacon’s food diary in the muchly publicized Elle article. I was super skeptical, calling it snake oil and hog wash and all those things of quakery. But like a good skeptic, I did some research and wanted to try it myself. Naturally. So what I’ve noticed, as a person who is chronically low in calcium, that this incorporating pearl into my elixirs cyclically has improved the quality of both my nails and skin. One of it’s main claims is that it helps the body naturally synthesize collagen and has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries to calm anxiety and restore energetic balance. I think it’s a great addition to my morning routine, plus there is something extravagant and luxurious to it that feels oh so good as well.
And there you have it!
My guide to Adaptogens...so far.
I'll continue to learn more about the power of plants and pass the good word on!