Adaptogens - the true story

So Gwyneth Paltrow talked about adaptogens, and suddenly they are the answer to everything. And it’s true that they turn up in probably four out of five herbal prescriptions. An adaptogen is a herb that helps you function at an optimal level; it supports your vital energy, so that a lot of problems fall away.

As a practitioner, it’s my experience that you can go a lot further by using herbs like these, rather than focussing on the presenting symptoms. Yes, there may be a hormonal imbalance, or irritable bowel, or panic attacks, or whatever you may have identified as ‘the problem’, but if you simply try to treat it at that level, you may well be missing an opportunity to replenish your depleted reserves, or help your exhausted adrenal glands to cope when they are tired after years of dealing with stress, or ‘feed’ your liver so that all its many functions are improved.

There are adaptogenic superstars that everyone has heard of: herbs like Korean and Siberian ginseng, and the famous Chinese tonic herbs like Cordyceps, Chinese Angelica and Liquorice. And there are many, many more that have been quietly doing their job for hundreds of years, that will probably never hit the headlines: herbs like Vervain, Dandelion root, Hawthorn and Calendula. They work best in companionship with other herbs, helping each other to do their jobs better, and often there is no single constituent that can be identified as the magic ingredient. There is no money to be made from turning them into products, or glamorising them because they come from exotic places or are rare and expensive.

So beware of the latest celebrity fashions; they will come and go, but these humbler herbs that grow wild all around us will continue to offer us their blessings, just as they have always done.

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