Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

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An updated and expanded edition of the definitive guide to adaptogenic herbs

• Includes a Materia Medica with monographs covering 25 adaptogens, including eleuthero, ginseng, rhodiola, schisandra, ashwagandha, licorice, shatavari, reishi, and holy basil, as well as complementary nervines, restorative tonics, and nootropics

• Explains how adaptogens increase the body’s resistance to adverse influences, increase energy and stamina, and counter the effects of age and stress on the body

• Details the actions, properties, preparation, and dosage for each herb and their uses in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine and as remedies for animals

Every day our bodies strive to adapt and stay balanced, energized, and healthy, yet chronic stress and the resulting elevation of stress hormones such as cortisol have been shown to be major factors behind not only fatigue and weight gain but also many chronic and degenerative diseases. In this updated edition of the definitive guide to adaptogenic herbs, clinical herbalist David Winston and researcher Steven Maimes provide a comprehensive look at adaptogens: non-toxic herbs such as ginseng, eleuthero, and ashwagandha that help the body “adapt” to the many influences it encounters and manage the stresses it experiences. They also increase stamina and energy, boost cognitive function, restore the immune system, and counter the effects of aging, especially when used in appropriate combinations.

Beginning with a history of the use of adaptogens, including in Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and Russian medicine, the book examines how these herbal remedies work and why they are so effective at combating stress-induced illness and ailments. The extensive Materia Medica includes monographs on 25 adaptogens, including eleuthero, ginseng, rhodiola, schisandra, ashwagandha, shatavari, reishi, and holy basil, as well as complementary nervines, restorative tonics, and nootropic herbs, such as milky oats, astragalus, St. John’s wort, and ginkgo. Each monograph presents the latest scientific research and details the origin, traditional and clinical uses, actions, properties, preparation, and dosage for each herb. The book also includes guidance on adaptogenic remedies for our animal companions.

Aimed not only at herbalists but also those interested in natural health, this guide to adaptogens will allow you to safely and effectively use these herbal remedies to enhance your health and improve your chances of living a longer, healthier, and well-balanced life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620559581
Publisher: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
Publication date: 09/17/2019
Edition description: 2nd Edition, Updated and Expanded Edition
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 110,736
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

David Winston, RH(AHG), is an herbalist and ethnobotanist who has practiced Cherokee, Chinese, and Western herbal medicine since 1969. He is the president of Herbalist and Alchemist, Inc., a company that manufactures over 300 herbal products, author of Herbal Therapeutics and Saw Palmetto for Men & Women, and coauthor of Herbal Therapy and Supplements and Adaptogens. He lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Steven Maimes, the former owner of an herbal products business in the San Francisco Bay Area, is a researcher, freelance writer, and principal of SALAM Research in Rochester, New Hampshire.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 6. Health Benefits of Adaptogens

When compiling research on the health benefits of adaptogens, the amount of data is almost overwhelming. This is due to the large number of studies and the fact that adaptogens have such a broad influence on the entire body.

Many of the adaptogens that are commonly used today have a history of use that goes back hundreds and thousands of years. Over that time, a vast amount of experience has been gained that has gone toward understanding their therapeutic applications.

Adaptogens can greatly increase the effectiveness of some modern drugs, including antibiotics, anxiolytics (anxiety relief), antidepressants, and hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) agents. They also can reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the side effects of some drugs. They have a proven record of being safe, efficacious, and quite versatile in their treatment of many conditions.

All adaptogens have antistress qualities that provide stabilizing effects on the neuroendocrine system, especially the HPA axis. All adaptogens help to modulate and enhance the immune system. All adaptogens provide antioxidant nutrients.

This chapter mentions highlights from both research and tradition. The listed benefits and uses of adaptogens are based on all available information, including modern scientific research, records of their use in traditional medical systems, ethnobotany, and clinical observations made by practitioners. The disorders have been arranged alphabetically to assist readers in locating the conditions that most interest them.


The brain is part of the nervous system, along with the spinal cord, nerves, and sensory organs. The nervous system responds to chronic stress in multiple ways. Some people may develop stress headaches, and others suffer from insomnia, anxiety, or depression. Over long periods of time, cortisol can cause neuro-inflammation and elevated cortisol levels have been linked to increased risk of migraines, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. Research indicates that high cortisol levels also promote degeneration and death of nerve cells along with decreased memory function.

Adaptogens for Improved Brain Function

Adaptogens have multiple effects on nervous system and brain health. They normalize neurotransmitter levels in the brain, inhibit cortisol-induced neuro-inflammation, and upregulate neuropeptide Y (NPY). High levels of NPY are found in the amygdala and hypothalamus areas of the brain that are essential for regulation of emotions and our response to stress. Increased NPY reduces anxiety and inhibits sympathetic activity, which slows the heart, reduces blood pressure and decreases cortisol production by the adrenal glands. Furthermore, adaptogens have the ability to increase both the amount of mental exercise a person can carry out as well as the quality of that work.

The following adaptogens enhance brain function and mental clarity: American ginseng, ashwagandha, Asian ginseng, eleuthero, holy basil, rhaponticum, rhodiola, and schisandra.

The following adaptogens are neuroprotective: ashwagandha, Asian ginseng, holy basil and rhaponticum.

The following adaptogens support the central nervous system: Asian ginseng, rhaponticum, schisandra, and shilajit are stimulating; and ashwagandha, cordyceps, jiaogulan, and schisandra are calming.

Adaptogen Notes

Rhaponticum and schisandra enhance reading comprehension, aptitude, and speed.

Rhodiola enhances a person’s ability for memorization and prolonged concentration. Regular use can lead to improvements in learning and memory retention.

Schisandra has an unusual dual effect on the nervous system. It enhances focus, work performance, and mental clarity. At the same time, it is calming and helps relieve mild anxiety. Holy basil, in addition to being a probable adaptogen, is also a nootropic, anxiolytic, and antidepressant

[Sample from Monograph section]


Botanical Name: Eleutherococcus senticosus (synonym: Acanthopanax senticosus)

Family: Araliaceae

Common Names: Ci wu jia (Chinese), wu jia shen (Chinese), Siberian ginseng, ezoukogi (Japanese)

Taste/Energy: Sweet, slightly bitter, slightly warm

Parts Used: Root and stem bark

Location/Cultivation: Eleuthero grows throughout Siberia, northern China, Korea, and northern Japan.

Safety Rating: ***

Properties: Mild, non-stimulating adaptogen, antioxidant, hypocholesterolemic, immune amphoteric.

Constituents: The active constituents are believed to be a group of compounds known as eleutherosides A to G.


The historical use of eleuthero in Chinese medicine is more than a bit confusing. It, along with several other plants, is known as wu jia (five leaves). Included in this group is what is now called ci wu jia (E. senticosis) and wu jia pi (several species of Acanthopanax, especially A. gracistylis, as well as a totally unrelated plant, Periploca sepium). All of these plants are used for treating with “wind/damp” conditions. Wind conditions are spasmodic, erratic or involve numbness, while dampness correlates to swelling and edema.

Modern Uses

Eleuthero is used in China to strengthen the qi and the Chinese spleen and kidneys. Symptoms of deficient spleen qi include fatigue, listlessness, lack of appetite, and abdominal bloating. Using this herb, along with digestive herbs and other stronger tonic herbs, helps to relieve these symptoms.

As an adaptogen, eleuthero is mild and can be used for men or women. It is most appropriate for younger people (15-40 years old) who have their vital force (jing) intact but are experiencing greater than normal stress. It is unlikely to cause overstimulation and can be taken over long periods of time.

Eleuthero also strengthens the immune system, and regular use will reduce the incidence of colds and other common infectious diseases. Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy often develop bone marrow suppression and decreased white blood cell counts. In one clinical study, eleuthero was able to reverse these conditions in many patients (Kupin, et al, 1987).

Athletes can benefit from using eleuthero. It increases endurance and stamina, enhances mitochondrial activity, speeds recovery, and prevents immune-depletion from excessive training. It can be combined with cordyceps, rhodiola, or schisandra for enhancing athletic performance and for improving alertness and cognitive function when under severe stress or when working long hours. Physicians with long shifts who get little sleep, those with flex shift jobs, and students pulling “all nighters” will likely feel better, perform better, and recover more quickly when using these adaptogenic tonic herbs.

Table of Contents



Part One: Herbal Adaptogens

1 Herbal Medicine around the World

2 Adaptogens: An Overview

3 History of Adaptogens

4 Actions of Adaptogens

5 Adaptogens and the Stress Response

6 Health Benefits of Adaptogens

Part Two: Materia Medica

7 Monographs on Adaptogens

Well-Researched Adaptogens
American Ginseng • Ashwagandha • Asian Ginseng • Cordyceps • Eleuthero • Rhaponticum • Rhodiola • Schisandra • Shilajit

Probable Adaptogens
Cistanche • Cynomorium • Holy Basil • Morinda • Shatavari

Possible Adaptogens
Codonopsis • Guduchi • Horny Goat Weed • Jiaogulan • Licorice • Maca • Manchurian Aralia • Prince Seng • Reishi • Russian Devil’s Club • White Bryony

8 Nervines: Complementary Herbs for Adaptogens
Betony • Blue Vervain • Chamomile • Fresh Milky Oat • Hawthorn • Lemon Balm • Linden • Mimosa • Motherwort • Passionflower • Skullcap • St. John’s Wort

9 Nootropics: Complementary Herbs for Adaptogens
Bacopa • Bhringraj • Chinese Polygala • Ginkgo • Gotu Kola • Lavender • Rosemary • Shankhpushpi • White Peony

10 Restorative Tonics: Complementary Herbs for Adaptogens
Amla • Astragalus • Bee Pollen • Chyawanprash • Goji Berry • Nettle Seed • Processed Rehmannia • Saw Palmetto • Suma

Part Three: Herbal Adaptogens in Use

11 Clinical Use of Adaptogens

12 Adaptogenic Herbs in Combination

13 Adaptogens and Restorative Tonics as Food

14 Adaptogens for Animals Resources




What People are Saying About This

Paul Bergner

"This is a much needed book, an important update to the materia medica of North America, and constitutes important continuing education on a wide variety of new herbs entering into the North American herbal marketplace.

James A. Duke

"Adaptogenic herbs can be most useful in the quest for health in our stressful society. David Winston and Steven Maimes explain and champion the use and benefits of these important herbs."

Christopher Hobbs

“With Adaptogens, David Winston and Steven Maimes have finally made this important healing concept accessible to a wider audience. We need adaptogens—gentle remedies that, over time, have the powerful effect of restoring and protecting our health on many levels. David Winston’s vast clinical and practical knowledge of herbs adds tremendously to the value of the book.”

Rosemary Gladstar

“Brilliant! Fully researched, full of information not readily available, as well as being practical and easy to digest. The authors have managed to blend the traditional and recent scientific information into a fully comprehensive and informative text. This will become a classic, a definitive work on this most important group of medicinal plants.”

Marjorie Tietjen

"There is so much valuable information packed into this volume that I am grateful to have my own copy and will keep it close by as a very handy reference

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