The Other Dreaded “S” Word

I have been in serious transition mode.  Yes, I moved AGAIN.  For those of you who know me well, you know that this has been a recurring event in my life during the last two years.  I’ve had a little string of  difficult living situations, but am hopeful this one will stick.

Every time I go into the first stages of moving mode, I think it will not be that big of a deal.  However, then I get back to reality, start packing, realize how many things I have acquired, how few I’m willing to get rid of, and how much packing and unpacking that requires.  Then I realize and remember how much work it really is to move and how truly draining it is, physically, energetically, and spiritually.  A very wise man pointed out that moving even forces us to change the patterns or physical pathways we are used to taking every day through our living space.  All of this adds up to a lot of change.  Change usually results in one big bad ugly “s” word.  “Stress,” whether it be positive or negative, is hard on the body.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  Anything new, any change can cause stress.  I tend to forget this, then wonder why I’m feeling weird, worn down, and not sleeping well.  These thoughts have led to me a curiosity and research on adaptogens.  In a previous newsletter I shared a link to a conversation on adaptogens by Maine Herbalist, Gail Faith Edwards.  You can find the article on her website, Blessed Maine Herb Farm.

Gail describes adaptogens as, “… natural substances that help the body adapt to stress, whether physical, chemical, biological, emotional or environmental. They support the normal metabolic processes of the body and help to restore balance. In order to meet the criteria as defined by the word adaptogen a substance must be non-toxic, produce a nonspecific response in the body which boosts the ability to resist multiple stressors, and exert a normalizing influence on physiology. Adaptogens strengthen the immune, nervous and glandular system, increase metabolic efficiency and reduce susceptibility to illness and disease.”

Currently I have two favorite adaptogenic herbs I’ve been experimenting with, eleuthero (or siberian ginseng) and tulsi (or holy basil).  I have been including both of these in daily tea blends to help me chill out and keep my immunity at a steady level while many people around me seem to dropping from various ick.  As an added bonus, they both protect the body from the effects of radiation and environmental toxins.  Of course there’s other lifestyle changes we can make that will help a lot, but first the herbs.


Eleuthero used to be called siberian ginseng because it has many of the same health benefits as the other ginsengs.  Thought it is in the same family, it is not a true ginseng, meaning it is not in the panax genus.  Eleuthero, or eleutherococcus senticosus, has been tested with amazing results.  The root of the plant is the part that is usually used.  It is made, by the decoction method, into a tea.  I especially like roots because they are extra grounding, and being a Pisces with a Libra rising, I need as much grounding as I can get!  Even if you don’t believe in that astrology stuff, we could probably all use a little more grounding in this quick moving world.

Tons of studies have been done on eleuthero with amazing success.  It has been shown to increase athletic performance, decrease flu cases, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, increase productivity, and immune system function, and more.  Eleuthero is even believed by many to promote longevity.  It is mild and considered to be safe for regular use and all age ranges.  Of course, always check with your Herbalist or health practitioner before starting an herbal program if you have any health concerns, are on medication, are pregnant or breastfeeding, etc.

Tulsi (holy basil)

Tulsi, ocimum sanctum, alternately called holy basil and a member or the mint family, has been a part of Indian ayurvedic therapy for around three thousand years.  It also has a multitude of uses and is revered in India as being sacred to the god, Vishnu.  There’s a whole load of benefits offered by tulsi including stress reduction, lowering blood sugar, preventing allergy symptoms, increaseing brain circulation, mental clarity and memory, fighting viruses, and boosting immunity with its powerful antioxidants.  Tulsi mainly grows in India.  Its leaves are used in a tea infusion.  Putting a tulsi plant on your doorstep or wearing its stems made into a mala (beaded necklace) is supposed to put you under Vishnu’s protection.  There are conflicting reports of the safety of tulsi for pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant, but otherwise it is considered very safe over long periods of time.

Other things you can do to help manage stress, though they seem obvious, are often difficult because they’re lifestyle changes.  However, as I’ve noticed, they can make me feel a lot better and that’s a huge reward.  I try to look at it, not as giving something up, but doing something to honor myself.  Some of these things include decreasing or cutting out caffeine consumption, at least coffee and sodas which have the most immediate and severe effects as opposed to tea which is absorbed more slowly and more gentle to the body.  Regular aerobic exercise is great for decreasing stress, along with more meditative practices like yoga, tai chi, deep breathing, and various forms of meditation which help to quiet the mind.

There’s a lot of information out there on adaptogens, just do a search on the internet for more.  Also, definitely read Gail Faith Edwards article (link above) and the book Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief by David Winston and Steven Maimes is a great one.  In this ever-faster paced world of ours, we could probably all use a little help adapting.  My favorite health maintenance practice is at least one big cup of therapeutic tea every day, blended personally for me by me.  Drink up and stay healthy!  And let me know what your favorite stress reduction techniques are.


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Brook said,

    This is great. I’ve had some bad stress-related issues recently and I also have a bottle of Eleuthero tincture sitting on my desk for my low blood pressure. Perfect :).

  2. 2

    rose said,

    I love tulsi tea, though I’ve not *yet* had luck growing holy basil. Alas, I shall persevere!

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