Our society seems to value work, exercise, and less sleep, often to the detriment of self-care and adrenal health.
Throw into that mix the added obligations and financial concerns of the holidays—shopping, traveling, parties—and the holiday season can mean stress overload and burnout.
If you’ve been overwhelmed by holiday stress in years past and suspect this year will be no different, you can start nourishing your body now to help build resilience, energy stores, and stamina, while lessening the effects of stress.
Look no further than what’s in your cup.
A green smoothie, full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is a good place to start. But, consider adaptogens to really boost your body’s ability to fight stress, balance cortisol, stay healthy and resist colds and flus.
Adaptogens, or adaptogenic herbs, are medicinal plants that exist in all traditional healing cultures across the world, including Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, and indigenous South American and Siberian groups. These hardy plants survive and resist harsh growing conditions (extreme cold or drought), developing adaptive qualities that are then passed on when consumed as herbal remedies.
Adaptogenic herbs are generally defined by three characteristics: they (a) increase the body’s ability to adapt to or resist stress; (b) have a normalizing effect on the body, regardless of which direction imbalance may occur; and (c) are universally non-toxic. As a result, they are generally safe for widespread consumption, though individual herbs should be researched and you should always check with your doctor before using any herbs along with prescription drugs.
While the actual effects vary based on the herb, and to some extent person-to-person, the common benefits of adaptogens are:
> reduced stress response, and better cortisol balance
> improved resistance to pathogens and viruses (while normalizing immune function)
> quickened recovery from stress, fatigue, and tough workouts
> protection of the HPA Axis (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenals) from stress breakdowns
> easier relaxation, higher libido, and less insomnia
Many of these benefits build up over time and that’s why it’s useful to start consuming adaptogens now before the holiday season is in full swing.
While most adaptogens are available as a supplement in capsule or pill form, liquids are more easily and quickly absorbed and don’t need good digestion to be effective. Plus, there’s something both relaxing and healing around the ritual of sipping a hot cup of tea.
Personally, I’m easily overwhelmed by the busyness of the holiday season and especially being surrounded by so many people at parties and other holiday gatherings. But one of my favorite ways to reset and reconnect is to fill a mug with hot water and a couple of my favorite adaptogens (like small handful of schisandra berries and a pinch of eleuthero. Then, I find a quiet place and just sip that hot, re-invigorating drink for a few minutes. After that I feel refreshed and ready for the festivities.
Among the adaptogens that make a pleasant tea are tulsi, jiaogulan, licorice, and schisandra, and their beneficial constituents are water-soluble. You might even consider making tasty combinations such as spiced licorice (mixing licorice with tulsi, ginger, and cinnamon), or a schisandra and licorice blend (with ginger, honey, and optionally, eleuthero, another adaptogen). These recipes in their entirety are found in the book Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief by Winston and Maimes.
When preparing an infusion of these herbs, one tablespoon per eight ounces of water is considered a medicinal dose, whereas one teaspoon is more for the taste. The woody, tougher herbs need hotter water and longer steeping times than leaves and vines.
If sipping hot beverages isn’t your cup of tea, you can make a decoction (by simmering the herbs), then use the liquid as a base for juices, smoothies, soups, or stews. Tinctures or concentrated infusions can be used the same way.
With the holidays just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start sipping teas of adpatogens to build up immune function, adrenal health, energy, and endurance, while enhancing your body’s ability to resist stress.
Author: Toffler Niemuth
Image: Chris RubberDragon/Flickr
Editor: Katarina Tavčar