Eight Herbs for Vitality and Healthy Aging
I'm sure you've heard that ginseng is great for energy. Let's explore some of the other benefits of ginseng for vitality and healthy aging.
|Herb 1: Garlic
Herb 2: Ginkgo Biloba
Herb 3: Ginseng
Herb 4: Green Tea
Herb 5: Bilberry/Blueberry
Herb 6: Turmeric
Herb 7: Tribulus
Herb 8: Echinacea
Stress may be the number one cause of disease in our modern world. We can get stressed physically, mentally, and emotionally and it throws our body out of homeostasis. Homeostasis is a dynamic balancing against internal and external stressors. Your body responds by adapting to, and then increasing its resistance to stress. An example of this marvelous balancing act is sweating when you get too hot; the sweat cools you down and you come back into balance, not too hot, not too cold, just right.
Stress affects your body in three main areas according to Dr. Hans Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome. Dr. Selye was the first person to take the engineering term stress and apply it to how our bodies function under duress.
First, (though not necessarily in this order) stress affects you by lowering your immune response. This means you get colds and the flu easier and you're more susceptible to infections and chronic, degenerative diseases.
Second, your stomach can become affected. It becomes more likely that you'll have digestion problems, acid reflux (GERD), or even get ulcers.
Third, your adrenal glands don't work like they should. The adrenals help your body mediate stress, help with fatigue, correct blood sugar problems and make anti-inflammatory hormones. Also, if you take care of your adrenal health by reducing your stress and practicing proper nutrition, they will balance your sex hormones, which is extremely important in helping you get through menopause with fewer symptoms.
There are also three stages of response to stress. First there is the adaptive phase when you get under stress and your body corrects the problem and you're back to normal. You need to pass someone on the highway, you step on the gas, the car responds, and you return to the normal speed limit when you've passed them.
Then there is the resistance phase. When you get under stress, you respond to the stress, but then your body stays in the responding phase too long. It's like needing to pass someone so you give your car a lot of gas. That's great because you are able to pass them, but then if you leave your foot on the gas too long, and you end up speeding and are now at a higher risk for getting in an accident.
Exhaustion is the third phase. You've over taxed the body so long that you no longer have the reserves to respond to stress
and to life. You're fatigued, you get sick easily and for longer times, your “get up and go got up and went”. In our car analogy, when you press on the gas, the car doesn't have enough fuel and power to overtake the car in front.
The best way to know which phase of adrenal health or depletion you are in is an Adrenal Stress Index test (look under Tests and Panels). Dr. Khalsa can help you determine if this test would be beneficial to you.
Ginseng is one of the herbs that can aid your body in handling stress gracefully and help you rebuild your reserves in the adrenal glands. When the adrenals (and you) reach the exhaustion stage, Korean (Panax) Ginseng boosts adrenal function and eliminates severe fatigue. It is especially great for the kind of fatigue that is accompanied by depleted reserves.
Taken along with Rhodiola, Ginseng will quickly increase your energy and is great for emotional stress, travel stress and altitude sickness. Taken properly, the combination will give you the boost you're looking for without crashing afterwards like caffeine and “power drinks” can do.
Ginseng can help improve your physical performance including your endurance. It can also help your mental performance for tests and work deadlines. And because it helps to rebuild your reserves, Ginseng can help you recuperate from stressful events like surgery, an accident or a severe infection.
As you go into menopause, your estrogen levels decrease. Ginseng gently stimulates your body to make estrogen to alleviate the menopausal reduction in estrogen. For men, decreased circulation can lead to erectile dysfunction and impotence. Gingko helps increase circulation and Korean Ginseng can help increase sexual stamina.
A cousin of Ginseng, though not truly a Ginseng, is Eleuthero. Commonly know as Siberian Ginseng, Eleuthero is said to be effective for endurance (athletics), concentration (attention deficit disorder), the immune system (can be used in chemotherapy support), and stress and fatigue.
Both Korean Ginseng and Eleuthero are excellent for helping you out of the exhaustion stage of stress. Withania (also known as Ashwaganda) is best for the resistance stage.
In relation to healthy aging, both Korean Ginseng and Eleuthero are being investigated for their abilities to help prevent cancer. Studies have found decreased cancer rates in Ginseng users. Smokers especially benefited from Ginseng in reductions of lung, lip and throat cancers. There is improved 5-year survival rates in gastric cancer patients who underwent surgery and chemotherapy.
My thanks to Angela Hywood, ND, Assoc. Professor Kerry Bone and Dr. Janet Lang for much of the information in this newsletter. Research references are available upon request.
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