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Adaptogenic herbs.

"Adaptogens are an ideal choice for people with symptoms of chronic stress, as an adjunctive treatment for any endocrine condition or immune disorder and as a general daily tonic," writes Michael Friedman, ND, author of the text Fundamentals of Naturopathic Endocrinology. Adaptogenic herbs help the body adapt to stress. They balance adrenal function, slowing overactive glands (and decreasing hormone excretion) and boosting underactive glands. The health and balance of the rest of the endocrine system, as well as the immune system, depend upon how well the adrenals function. Dr. Friedman profiles several adaptogenic herbs including Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Licorice, (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Golden Root (Rhodiola rosea), North American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), and Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) in this text.

Although each adaptogen helps balance adrenal function, these botanicals are not interchangeable. Each has specific qualities. Ashwagandha, for example, is used to treat sexual debility, memory loss, and other signs of aging in addition to signs of adrenal fatigue such as fatigue, debility, and nervous exhaustion. Licorice increases Cortisol levels and raises blood pressure. (Consequently, people who are taking corticosteroids or have a history of high blood pressure need to exercise caution when using licorice.) Siberian ginseng is commonly used for exhaustion and depression. Rhodiola is another adaptogen that relieves depression; it is also a recognized immune system stimulant. North American ginseng, "a gentle tonic to be used over a long period of time," relieves nervous dyspepsia and nervous exhaustion from overwork. Astragalus, an adaptogen used in Chinese medicine, also promotes lung and spleen function.

In addition to choosing adaptogens according to their specific actions, Dr. Friedman discusses other considerations when prescribing these herbs. Unlike some medicinals, adaptogens are usually prescribed for an extended period. Consequently, adaptogens must be readily available, affordable, and in a form that the person will agree to take over a long period. Some people prefer capsules, especially if the tincture tastes extremely bitter. Others may prefer a pleasant-tasting tea made from dried herbs. Educating the patient about the long-term benefits of adaptogens also helps compliance. "Adaptogens can protect us from and strengthen us after serious illness," Dr. Friedman writes. "These herbs can help to optimize our physical and mental potential. They as the rest of the plant community are a great gift to be appreciated and used respectfully."

Friedman M. Adrenal metabolism disorders. Fundamentals of Naturopathic Endocrinology. Toronto, Ontario: CCNM Press Inc.; 2005:122-132.

briefed by Jule Klotter
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Title Annotation:Shorts
Author:Klotter, Jule
Publication:Townsend Letter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2008
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