Adaptogens in Chinese Medicine

Background

Throughout ancient Chinese History and Chinese Medicine, there are keys to slow down the aging process and to also enhance brain function. In order to achieve longevity and clarity of thought, herbals were sought out and utilized for perhaps centuries. Certain herbs are often utilized after a person has past a certain age. It was wisdom in understanding that in the aging process, one needs to take tonics in addition to regular sources of food to slow down the aging process. In Chinese Medicine, they classified these herbs as “superior” herbs, meaning that when there is very little rick of overdosing. We will take a look at 6 common ones below to get a general understanding of their functions and how they work.

Benefits

By studying what was consumed in herbal formulas in China and other cultures, we can see a big correlation between healthy aging and longevity to adjusting for a more nutrient dense focus on consumption of foods and supplementing the diet. Those with wisdom that the human body utilizes natural substances to remain strong and function over a long period of time, seem to do best. Even modern research has demonstrated that Chinese herbal formulas have a positive effect on telomere length to slow the aging process. The Taoists in China also had this knowledge, allowing them to live way beyond 100 years with vitality and perfect memory. They knew that taking herbal tonics and elixirs regularly would extend their lives. Elixirs are usually herbs steeped in some alcohol medium. Some of these elixirs are often combinations of adaptogens which does a few fundamental things.
Functions of Adaptogens in the Body:

  • Increase blood circulation
  • Increase Antioxidants in the body
  • Increase Adrenal Function
  • Increase Immune function
  • Decrease stress on the body

The functions of course is just a small list, and varies depending on the blend of herbs used to target different organs and systems of the body.

Examples

Let’s move on a look at a list of 6 important adaptogens commonly used in herbal formulas and blends and can benefit the brain.
Ginseng – Ginseng is a qi tonic so it has long been prized for its ability to give energy and increasing vitality. It offsets the effects of stress on the body by increasing the bodies ability to inhibit free radical formation as well as increase mental cognition. Taking ginseng increases the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which can stimulate an increase in adrenal hormone secretion. It also counteracts the shrinking of the adrenal gland caused by corticosteroid drugs.There is also scientific evidence that shows that ginseng improves the immune system.
Cordyceps – High in anti-oxidents, Cordyceps has been used for thousands of years. Cordyceps has also been used to increase lung oxygen absorption for physically demanding activities. It has immune boosting properties and the ability to enhance energy. Recent research has shown that cordyceps can reverse some of the effects of aging in mice as well as enhanced the memory of rats as an extract.
Rhodiola – This herb is used by atheletes to to improve energy and performance. Rhodiola helps manage stress on the body. It has a calming effect and plays a role in normalizing heart rate after stress or exercise.
Turmeric – This herb has been utilized in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has been shown to protect against alzheimer’s disease when paired with vitamin D. It is utilized to promote circulation, relieve aches and pains, reduce inflammation, can prevent certain cancers , and the liver.
Fo-ti – Or called He Shou Wu is a Chinese herb, which translates to “black-haired Mr. He”. This name references the folk story of an old man called Mr. He who consumed fo-ti and regained his black hair, youth and vitality.  Fo-ti is traditionally used for fatigue, immune dysfunction and address premature aging. The added benefit is restoration of darker hair. It has also been shown to be anti-tumor capable. Also because of the ability of this herb to reach the top of the head, it can help other brain type nutrients to gain access to the head.
Ginko Biloba – This herb is utilized to improve circulation and can be used to protect against alzheimer’s disease and other conditions involving cognition. It has also been shown to be effective in artery type diseases.

Conclusion

As we take a look at just these 6 adaptogens, we see that they all have similar functions or rather their functions overlap in some way. When utilizing theses in a balanced formula, one can enhance brain function as well as get a overall anti-aging effect much like the Taoist sages and gain back some of that lost youth. Until, the next article, see if you can add some of these herbs into your life somehow, whether by adding it into food or by taking a supplement.