Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

Front Cover
Inner Traditions / Bear & Co, Mar 22, 2007 - Health & Fitness - 324 pages
The definitive guide to adaptogenic herbs, formerly known as “tonics,” that counter the effects of age and stress on the body

• Reveals how adaptogens increase the body’s resistance to adverse influences

• Provides a history of the use of these herbal remedies and the actions, properties, preparation, and dosage for each herb

We all deal with stress every day, and every day our bodies strive to adapt and stay balanced and healthy. In Adaptogens, authors David Winston and Steven Maimes provide a comprehensive look into adaptogens, non-toxic herbs such as ginseng, eleuthero, and licorice, that produce a defensive response to stress in our bodies. Formerly known as rejuvenating herbs or tonics, adaptogens help the body to “adapt” to the many influences it encounters. They increase stamina and counter the normal effects of aging and thus are becoming important tools in sports medicine and in the prevention and treatment of chronic fatigue and other stress-related disorders.

Winston and Maimes present the historical uses of these herbal remedies in India, Russia, China, and the Americas and explain how they work and why they are so effective at combating stress-induced illness. Monographs for each adaptogen also present the latest scientific research and include the origin, traditional use, actions, properties, preparation, and dosage for each herb.

What people are saying - Write a review

Just the Book I Needed

User Review  - csrussian55 -

I was doing a paper for school on adaptogens and needed information. I looked everywhere library bookstores online Overstock had a book! It was the only one I could find with as much information as I ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

informative but, where are the formulas so that I dont mix energizing with cooling herbs making the mix useless?


Part OneHerbal Adaptogens
Part TwoMateria Medica
Part ThreeHerbal Adaptogens in Use
Books of Related Interest

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

from Chapter 6

Health Benefits of Adaptogens

"For every human illness, somewhere in the world there exists a plant which is the cure."
--Rudolf Steiner

When compiling research on the health benefits of adaptogens, the amount of data is almost overwhelming. This is due to the large number of studies and the fact that adaptogens have such a broad influence on the entire body.

The reality of adaptogens is that they are effective tonics and can be taken daily for overall health. In fact, throughout the world millions of people are using these products on a daily basis.

Many of the adaptogens that are commonly used today have a history of use that goes back hundreds and thousands of years. Over that time, a vast amount of experience has been gained that has gone toward understanding their therapeutic applications.

Adaptogens can greatly increase the effectiveness of some modern drugs, including antibiotics, anxiolytics (anxiety relief), antidepressants, and hypoglycemic agents. They also can reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the side effects of some drugs. They have a proven record of being safe, efficacious, and quite versatile in their treatment of many conditions.

This chapter will provide information about specific adaptogens that can be used for many conditions, including aging, cancer, elevated cholesterol levels, decreased immune-system function, fatigue, stress, and weight management. The disorders have been arranged alphabetically to assist readers in locating the conditions that most interest them.


The adrenal glands mobilize the body''s response to every kind of stress. Adrenal fatigue is caused by adrenal insufficiency that occurs when the glands cannot adequately meet the demands of chronic stress.

In adrenal fatigue the adrenal glands function, but not enough to maintain normal, healthy homeostasis. Their output of regulatory hormones has been diminished by overstimulation. This overstimulation can be caused either by a very intense single stress or by chronic or repeated stresses that have a cumulative effect.

People suffering from adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas, and other stimulants to get going in the morning and keep themselves going during the day.

With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in the body is more profoundly affected. The body does its best to make up for underfunctioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price. Many people who feel fatigued and exhausted eat more to provide additional energy. Thus, adrenal fatigue also can promote obesity and its inherent risks.

Adaptogens for Adrenal Fatigue
When a person is under stress, more stress hormones are released and manufactured. Adaptogens help the adrenal glands respond more effectively and efficiently to the excess in hormones. When stress stops, adaptogens help the adrenal glands shut down more quickly. Adaptogens also support adrenal function by allowing cells access to more energy and preventing oxidative damage.

The following adaptogens provide adrenal support: American ginseng, ashwagandha, Asian ginseng, cordyceps, dang shen, eleuthero, holy basil, jiaogulan, licorice, reishi, rhaponticum, rhodiola, and schisandra.

Adaptogen Notes
* American ginseng is an endocrine amphoteric and adaptogen useful for mild to moderate depletion of the HPA axis and adrenal glands.
* Asian ginseng and licorice can be used together for adrenal exhaustion (Addison''s disease) along with conventional therapy.


Arthritis (inflammation of the joints) produces pain, loss of movement, and sometimes swelling. It is caused by tissue injury or joint disease. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Fibromyalgia often is considered an arthritis-related condition, but it is not a true form of arthritis because it does not cause inflammation or damage to the joints. According to the Arthritis Foundation, nearly one in three adults has arthritis or chronic joint symptoms, and arthritis is the leading cause of disability among Americans older than age 15.

Adaptogens for Arthritis
Adaptogens can help reduce inflammation and as a result reduce the pain associated with arthritic conditions.

The anti-inflammatory action of the following adaptogens makes them useful for relief from arthritis: amla, ashwagandha, Asian ginseng, cordyceps, eleuthero, guduchi holy basil, jiaogulan, licorice, reishi, rhodiola, schisandra, and shilajit.

The following adaptogens are useful for relief from rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease): amla, ashwagandha, cordyceps, guduchi, licorice, and reishi.

Adaptogen Notes
* Amla is used to prevent and treat damage associated with connective tissue disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
* Ashwagandha is used to treat fibromyalgia and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and polymyoseitis.
* Guduchi is used to modulate excessive immune response in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. It can also enhance uric acid excretion and relieve arthritis with accompanying gout.
* Holy basil oil is used topically for arthritis.


Many people suffer from insomnia and related sleep problems. Stress can disrupt the regular circadian (time-related) secretion of cortisol and can be a major cause of sleep problems. Cortisol normally obeys the body''s inner clock and responds to light and dark, morning and night. Cortisol levels are highest in the early morning, lower in the afternoon, and lowest at night. Cortisol helps to synchronize activity, patterns of eating, and patterns of sleeping.

Adaptogens for Improved Sleep
Adaptogens regulate the production of cortisol, reducing stress. A relaxed body allows for better and more rejuvenating sleep.

The following adaptogens aid the body in sleeping: American ginseng, ashwagandha, eleuthero, jiaogulan, rhaponticum, rhodiola, and schisandra.

The following adaptogens help relieve the symptoms of jet lag, which is caused by a disruption of the body''s circadian rhythms: American ginseng, Asian ginseng, eleuthero, jiaogulan, rhaponticum, and rhodiola.

Adaptogen Notes
* American ginseng helps people with insomnia that is associated with chronic fatigue syndrome
* Ashwagandha is a calming adaptogen traditionally used for insomnia and nervous conditions.
* Eleuthero improves sleep quality and prevents nighttime waking.
* Jiaogulan is a calming adaptogen appropriate for anxious or agitated people with unstable hypertension, stress headaches, and anxiety-induced insomnia.
* Rhodiola is used to regulate sleep disorders and improve sleep quality.
* Schisandra is reported to relieve insomnia and dream-disrupted sleep.

[sample monograph]

Botanical Name: Panax quinquefolius
Family: Araliaceae
Common Names: Sang, seng
Taste/Energy: Sweet, bitter, slightly cool, and moist.
Parts Used: Root and leaf
Location/Cultivation: American ginseng is native to the eastern United States and Canada, from the Catskill Mountains of New York and the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, north into Ontario, west to Iowa, south to Arkansas and Kentucky, and east through the highlands of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. American ginseng requires rich soil with humus and full shade, and it prefers deciduous woodlands, especially those with tulip poplars. It takes a minimum of seven years to grow a mature root from the time of germination. Due to this plant''s endangered status, wild plants should be left alone, and you should avoid purchasing products labeled "wild American ginseng." The best American ginseng on the market is grown organically in the woods.
Safety Rating: * * *
Properties: Adaptogen, antioxidant, bitter tonic, mild central nervous system stimulant, mild demulcent (soothes mucous membranes), hypoglycemic agent, and immune amphoteric.
Constituents: The active constituents include triterpene saponins such as the ginsenosides and panaxosides. The bitter taste comes from its sesquiterpene content.

Daniel Boone, in Kentucky, made his fortune trading ginseng, although he is remembered as a fur trader. It is reported in a book called Woodland Nuggets of Gold that George Washington wrote to Boone, "The war effort needs money, bring ginseng." American ginseng helped support the revolutionary war effort, and the most valuable cargo to leave New York by ship in that time period was in the Empress of China, which was carrying American ginseng to the Orient.

The plant is best known for its purported benefits to male libido and sexual performance and its ability to enhance energy and relieve fatigue. To this day, it is not uncommon for mountain people in North Carolina and Tennessee to take fresh ginseng roots and put them in a bottle or cask of corn liquor to set aside for a while. After steeping for six months or a year, the ginseng "cordial" is ready for use. It is believed that a shot of this "mountain medicine" is good for what ails you--every now and then.

Modern Uses
Modern research confirms that t

Bibliographic information