Traditionally, herbs have been the prime medicinal agent, both in the East and West. However, when we look at their use in the East (primarily India and China), we see one particularly notable difference. In much the same way as the pharmaceutical industry, the focus on research and application of herbs in the West focuses primarily on the treatment of symptoms. When we look at the Eastern approach, we find the use of herbs in every day life to strengthen the biological, mental and spiritual systems in their entirety, as well as to increase longevity. This use of herbs for fortification, resistance to stress and elevation of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing is now being adopted by the mainstream west. In Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine they are called rejuvenating herbs, qi tonics, rasayanas or restoratives. In the west they have been coined “Adaptogens”. They literally increase your adaptation energy and therefore also play a key role in disease prevention.
So.. how do adaptogens work? "the explanation that has been most discussed by researchers says that adaptogens act by stimulating the body's nonspecific stress response via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sympathoadrenal system".. scientists are still unsure the exact mechanism of action, but what we do know is that "various active constituents found in herbal adaptogens work to stimulate the neuroendocrine and immune systems via multiple metabolic pathways. They affect the brain, nerves, endocrine glands (pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, thymus, pineal, pancreas, ovaries, and testes), and immune system by helping re-regulate, normalise, and enhance function."1 The beauty is that we don't need to solve the mystery to reap the benefits. The ancients have known for thousands of years the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual benefits of these plants.. and we need them today more than ever.