Adaptogenic Herbs — Tonics of Reinforcement
By L.A. Pomeroy for Equilite.
This article is reprinted with permission from Equilite™. Visit www.equilite.com
We’d never mistake calling a Clydesdale an Arabian. Both may be horses, but each type is recognized as having vastly different skills and services. Herbs fall into different categories, too. While there are literally hundreds of herbs studied and used for nutritional and medicinal applications, the list of adaptogenic herbs is under two dozen.
What is an adaptogenic herb? The word itself is of Greek origin: adapto (‘to adjust’), and gen (‘producing’). So adaptogenic herbs “produce an adjustment,” helping the body restore its natural balance, and moderate cortisol (the hormone produced by the andrenal gland) responses to exertion or stress, without medical or external force.
Herbs fall into two categories: medicinal and tonic. Medicinal herbs treat or cure disease, with benefits and risks like any powerful drug or synthetic counterpart.
In comparison, tonic herbs can safely be taken daily, as a preventative against disease and to sustain good health. Tonic herbs are also called “super foods” because they are rich in phyto-nutrients that encourage the body to rebalance and replenish itself in times of stress or illness. This ability, by certain natural plant substances, to increase resistance and restore homoestasis, has earned tonic herbs their adaptogenic status.
Adaptogens, like the Starship Enterprise, also go where few have gone before, carrying healing to a cellular level and providing nutritional support for cells as they work to repair the immune system. Adaptogenic herbs also help normalize the andrenal glands (and the cortisol they produce) and the synthesis of dopamine and epinephrine (compounds behind the “fight or flight” response).
Some of a horse owner’s best — and safest — adaptogenic herbal friends are:
Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) is also known as Indian ginseng and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 2,500 years. Though unrelated to other ginsengs, it shares many of the same adaptogenic properties, including balancing the immune system and relieving stress and anxiety.
Astragalus (Astragalus spp.) This Chinese tonic herb has more than 2,000 years of study and use behind its reputation as an immune system strengthener and aid for defensive chi. Often added in combination with other herbs – such as Siberian ginseng, and garlic — to enhance recovery following illness or prolonged stress, and to boost vitality. This herb contains flavones, which help with circulation and blood production, enhances liver metabolism, and (like Siberian ginseng), contains polysaccharides. Astragalus helps horses that have tested positive for EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis, which strikes the central nervous system) by increasing the immune system and resistance to the protozoa responsible for the infection.
Ginseng (Ren Shen) Benefits from this beige root are as varied as its many properties, including anti-viral and detoxifying benefits. For horses suffering from Cushing’s disease, ginseng helps normalize blood sugar and cortisol levels. Pairing the right ginseng to your horse’s constitutional type can help efficacy. American ginseng, (Panax quinquefolium), is said to offer gentler, more cooling effects to hot, nervous horses, while the energizing powers of Korean ginseng are considered more beneficial for geriatric or low-vitality equine types.
Golden Root (Rhodiola rosea) This herb stimulates a moderate increase in beta-endorphins (eliciting a sense of wellbeing), decreases mental fatigue, and decreases the release of the stress hormone, andrenalin.
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra, G. uralensis), Licorice is one of the only herbs claimed to benefit all 12 meridians in Chinese medicine, and is rich in saponins, providing an anti-inflammatory response similar to corticosteroids. Licorice root also promotes or enhances immune system functioning.
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) Also known as wuweizi, this vine-like member of the Chinese magnolia family and its berries serve dual roles as an astringent and adaptogenic tonic, with ginseng-like effects on boosting energy and minimizing fatigue. Like other adaptogenics, it works at the cellular level, assisting in the utilization of oxygen within the cell. It has been shown to suppress stomach acids and benefit horses prone to ulcers.
Suma (Pfaffia paniculata) Commonly called Brazilian ginseng, suma is rich in vitamins A, E, B1 and B2; 19 amino acids (including lysine, histidine, arginine and glycine); and traces of calcium, iron, potassium and sodium. It increases resistance to stress, possesses analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that help alleviate pain, and has been shown to accelerate wound healing.
Adaptogenic herbs astragalus and schisandra can be found in Equilite Garlic+C™ All-Natural Garlic and Vitamin C Blend to support the immune system and help stressed horses, or those preparing to travel, with added antioxidant benefits. Garlic+C™ Blend can be used with or without antibiotics.