If you’re searching for the No. 1, best health product that can boost your wellness, there’s a category of herbs that I have found to be the most effective at helping just about everyone. These natural substances help the body maintain itself in good health and defend against the many stresses of everyday life.
People are always looking for the single-best product to improve their health. What is the best supplement for high blood pressure or pain? Are herbs superior to nutritional supplements? Are protein powders and bars better than beef or chicken for increasing strength? What is the best product for reducing inflammation? And the list of questions goes on. I was recently asked such questions at a seminar and it gave me moment to pause. There are so many valuable things to gain from all different types of herbs, supplements, powders and shakes. But is there a single health product that is “best”? I believe there is and I’d like to discuss it in this article.
Before I can begin to offer my pick for all-around best health product, I must define what I think of as “best.” After all, how can one say melatonin for aiding sleep is better than ginger to settle a stomach, especially if someone is experiencing neither of these issues? For me, a best product has to be one that aligns perfectly with my overall wellness concept.
Wellness is a state of being. The degree to which one is well can be measured against one’s internal “set point” known as homeostasis. When there is imbalance in the body or mind, homeostasis is disrupted and sent off kilter. This off-kilter interior state of the body creates an environment that allows the symptoms of ill health to manifest and expand. When left unchecked, these episodic symptoms can become chronic health concerns and lead to a diseased state. To re-achieve a state of wellness, one must bring the body back to homeostasis, back to balance, and not take or do something in response to negative health symptoms that will send the body’s chemistry in the opposite direction. The body must come back to, and be held in, the balanced state of homeostasis. This is the place where it can naturally and organically resist stress, disease, inflammation, pain, mood swings… you name it.
With this in mind, for a health product to be considered “best” it must not provide mere symptomatic relief — which means it cannot be an anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving product, or allergy or nausea product. It also means that it cannot boost energy or boost the immune system for only so long as one is taking the product, as this, again, provides symptomatic relief and inorganic assistance.
With this in mind, my choice for best health product is one that brings the body back to its naturally balanced state of homeostasis and promotes the body’s inherent ability to maintain homeostasis and resist stress.
Note that I did not say “reduce stress” or “boost immunity” but maintain the wellness state that allows the body to be healthy and, therefore, resist the negative effects of internal and external stressors on it. The problem is: There is no single product that does this. However, there is a category of natural herbs, plants, roots and barks that do just this. And they are known, collectively, as adaptogens.
The Mighty Adaptogens
Adaptogens are a “new class of metabolic regulators which increase the ability of an organism to adapt to environmental factors and to avoid damage from such factors.” These were first discovered in 1947 by pharmacologist A.V. Lazarev when he found the results of agents with “non-specific yet highly efficacious effects.” This discovery created quite a stir, because the medical establishment rates the effectiveness of a pharmaceutical drug as being a specific tool for treatment of a specific ailment or illness. Therefore, the discovery of something “non-specific” had no ready classification, or place, in Western scientific medicine.
Nonetheless, many such natural plants, roots, barks, fruits and other substances were found to increase the body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional and environmental stressors by balancing the body’s endocrine hormones and immune system via the DNA-dependent synthesis of RNA, their normalizing effect on the central nervous system, their cellular activation of molecular chaperones Hsp70 and other key mediators of the stress response such as cortisol, nitric oxide, stress-activated protein kinase JNK and DAF-16.
In short, adaptogens return the body to its naturally functioning state of homeostasis. When operating in homeostasis, the body is able naturally, organically and on its own, to protect against and resolve the effects of internal and external stressors resulting from disease, lifestyle choices and activities in daily living.
Although the concept of adaptogenic herbs and plants is relatively new in the West, the conceptual framework and use of these in Asia has been documented for thousands of years. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), for example, there is a category of herbals known as “tonics.” Tonics include such things as ling zhi (reishi muchrooms) and ginseng, which in Western terms are defined as natural boosters of energy (e.g., natural caffeine) and immune strengtheners (like garlic). However, even though many articles and Web sites write of Chinese tonics in these terms, they are not really correct since they try to describe and define these herbs in terms of Western nutraceutical classifications.
To the contrary, in TCM tonics are known as balancers of qi or intrinsic energy that, when at correct levels in all bodily systems, keep the body functioning in a wellness state. And like the actual definition of an adaptogenic, tonics are non-specific regulators that affect the body’s ability to naturally handle pain, illness and disease stressors and maintain equilibrium or balance. India’s Ayurvedic healing tradition also encompasses a number of adaptogenic herbs and its principles are applied in much the same way as TCM tonics.
The Best Adaptogens
I hope I have made a convincing argument that if one were to choose to take only one type of natural health product, adaptogens would be the category from which to choose your botanical. There are several sub-categories into which the many adaptogenic herbs, plants and roots can be organized. I believe the strongest and most powerful adaptogens are those found in the mushroom family, followed by the ginseng family and then the general herbal families.
Here’s a list:
Mushroom Adaptogens: Codonopsis, Coryceps, Reishi, Chaga, Maitaki
Ginseng Adaptogens: Siberian, Panax, American
Plants, Roots, Barks and Vines: Amla, Ashwaganda, Astragalus, Brahmi, Dang Quai (Angelica Root), Eleuthero, Eucommia Bark (Tu Chong), Guduchi, He Shou Wu, Holy Basil, Jiosgulan, Licorice, Lycium, Nettle Leaf, Nettle Root, Rhemannia, Rhodiola Rosea, Schisandra, Schisandra Chinensis, Shatavari, Shilajit, Slippery Elm Bark, Tulsi, Shih Hu, Rhaponticum, Milkthistle
Since all of the adaptogens work toward the same goal, you may puzzle over which to take. The right one to choose for you could be based on your symptoms, as some adaptogens offer quicker relief of specific symptoms than others while returning the body to homeostasis. I recommend looking these each up on the Internet to learn more about their symptomatic uses while keeping in mind that their goal is not symptomatic relief per se, but balancing the body.
Adaptogens restore the body to balance naturally and can be taken over the long term with no known side effects. After all, they neither stimulate nor suppress bodily functions, so even the idea of a side effect is outside the concept of their effect on the body. They can be added to your diet in food preparation, steeped in teas or taken as supplements. Balanced health and natural wellness could not be easier and more achievable than with adaptogens. They are my choice for “best health product.” I highly recommend you learn more about them and discuss them with your healthcare provider or wellness practitioner.
Filed Under: Alternative Medicine