Happy New Year! It’s 2024, and the beginning of this year feels refreshing. One thing that fascinates me about healing is that there is no cookie-cutter approach, and in that, there’s beauty in discovery tools for each person’s journey. This blog is about another tool, but this time, it is from nature. Previously, we’ve discussed the helpfulness of a holistic approach that includes food. Today, we deepen our exploration of nature’s gift for healing trauma.
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a class of herbs found in natural habitats that are well-known for their positive impact on mitigating the stress response. They help the body adapt to stressors, maintain balance, and return to homeostasis. In other words, they are natural anti-anxiety helpers mainly derived from plants.
Why Adaptogens for Healing Trauma?
A hallmark of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is exposure to stressors that impact an individual’s thoughts, feelings, actions, and bodily responses. In complex PTSD, this impact becomes chronic, leading to an ever-present fight or flight response and the continuous release of cortisol. The continuous release of cortisol is connected to increased fatigue, high blood pressure, headaches, irritability, weight fluctuations, and even adrenal fatigue. Adaptogens are essential for trauma survivors because they help your body adapt to the stress response rather than be impacted by it. Lastly, most adaptogens come from the Earth, which, for BIPOC folks, is a return to our ancestral traditions of seeking healing from nature.
How can Adaptogens Help Trauma Survivors?
Adaptogens are known for their ability to modulate the stress response in the body. They are thought to help regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the production of stress hormones like cortisol. The HPA axis is the home of the fight or flight response, also known as the stress response. Adaptogens help ease this response, thus relegating to the secretion of stress hormones.
One of the defining characteristics of adaptogens is their non-specific action. They are believed to help the body respond to various physical, chemical, or biological stressors. Their non-specific action protects from stress and helps the body return to homeostasis.
Adaptogens are often described as having a bidirectional effect, meaning they can either calm an overactive system or stimulate an underactive one, depending on the body’s needs.
The primary goal of adaptogens is to enhance the body’s resilience to stress. This may include improving energy levels, supporting immune function, and promoting overall well-being.
Some well-known adaptogens include:
- Primary Uses: Rhodiola Rosea is frequently utilized to combat fatigue and enhance mental performance. It’s known for its ability to help the body adapt to stress in a non-specific way and to increase resistance against stressors.
- How it Works: The adaptogenic properties of Rhodiola Rosea are primarily attributed to its bioactive compounds like rosavins and salidroside. These compounds are believed to influence key neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, which play significant roles in mood regulation and cognitive function.
- Research and Applications: Numerous studies have indicated that Rhodiola Rosea can improve cognitive functions like memory and concentration, especially under conditions of stress and fatigue. It’s also being explored for its potential to improve physical endurance and reduce recovery time in athletes.
- Primary Uses: Ashwagandha is renowned for its calming effects and is often used to manage stress and anxiety. It is also used in traditional medicine to strengthen the immune system and improve overall vitality.
- How it Works: The active compounds in Ashwagandha, such as withanolides, are believed to have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties. They may help in regulating the body’s stress response by moderating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which controls stress hormone release.
- Research and Applications: Studies suggest that Ashwagandha may be effective in reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety disorders. It’s also being investigated for its potential benefits in other areas, such as improving sleep quality and managing symptoms of depression.
- Primary Uses: Panax Ginseng, often just called ginseng, is used to boost energy levels and enhance cognitive function. It’s also associated with improved physical performance and immune system support.
- How it Works: Ginsenosides, the active components of Panax Ginseng, are thought to be responsible for its adaptogenic effects. These compounds may influence hormonal balance and immune response, contributing to increased energy and improved cognitive function.
- Research and Applications: Research indicates that Panax Ginseng may improve mental functions, such as memory and mood, and physical endurance. It is also being explored for its potential anti-aging effects and its role in managing blood sugar levels.
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
- Primary Uses: Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi, is recognized for its adaptogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. Traditionally used in Ayurveda, it’s believed to help the body adapt to stress and maintain balance.
- How it Works: The adaptogenic properties of Holy Basil are attributed to its various phytochemicals, including eugenol, rosmarinic acid, and various terpenes. These compounds are thought to modulate the body’s stress response and support immune function.
- Research and Applications: Studies suggest that Holy Basil may be effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and inflammation. It’s also being researched for its potential benefits in regulating blood sugar levels and supporting cardiovascular health.
- Primary Uses: Licorice Root is thought to support adrenal function and hormonal balance. It’s often used in herbal medicine to treat issues related to the digestive system and respiratory tract.
- How it Works: The active compound in Licorice Root, glycyrrhizin, is believed to have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. It’s thought to influence the body’s production of cortisol, the stress hormone, thereby supporting adrenal function.
- Research and Applications: While research is ongoing, Licorice Root is being explored for its potential benefits in treating conditions like peptic ulcers, sore throat, and viral infections. It’s important to note that excessive consumption of licorice root can lead to adverse effects, such as elevated blood pressure and potassium depletion.
Each of these adaptogens offers unique benefits and mechanisms of action. They have been the subject of numerous studies, demonstrating their potential in traditional and modern medicine. However, it’s crucial to use them under the guidance of healthcare professionals, especially considering their interactions with other medications and potential side effects.
Incorporating Herbs into Your Holistic Healing From Trauma in Baltimore, MD
While adaptogens and other herbs have a long history of traditional use, modern scientific research on their mechanisms and effects is ongoing. Some studies suggest potential benefits, but more research is needed to fully understand their impact.
It’s essential to approach adaptogens with a balanced perspective, recognizing that individual responses can vary. If you are considering incorporating adaptogens into your routine, it’s advisable to do so under the guidance of a healthcare professional or trusted guide. The Earth is our friend and our resource. We must return to our traditional and indigenous roots using the Earth and do so with care.
- Reach out to me with questions or interest in getting started.
- Meet with me, Christina, for a consultation call to discuss your goals.
- Find true healing in the natural connectedness of body, mind, and soul.
Other Services at Revilatizing Inner Self Essence in Baltimore MD
Due to extensive and ongoing training, I have many skills to help women overcome trauma and thrive in their lives today. While I offer trauma therapy at my Baltimore, MD-area practice, I specialize in working with domestic violence and homicide survivors. And along with Mind-Body Medicine, I am trained in EMDR as a trauma therapy approach. If you are interested in getting to know more about my practice and my methods for helping domestic violence and homicide survivors, reach out to me.