Greetings folks, during last week’s post I proclaimed Resvitale’s Cocoa Energy Restore my little holiday secret, not only for its energizing and mood enhancing powers but also for its inclusion of three highly regarded adaptogenic herbs- Schisandra, Ashwagandha and Rhodiola. Quick study break:
“Adaptogens deliver minute shocks of mild stress that condition your physiology to respond to more major stresses in a favorable way. Adaptogens exert a normalizing effect, allowing organisms to increase healthy functions that are impaired by stress, and to decrease unhealthy responses that are triggered by stress, without any risk of ‘overshooting’ and creating an unbalanced response…adaptogens simply enhance the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis and fight age-inducing stress.”*
So, as the season of giving rolls in, I’ve been paying particular attention to how much I give in to anxiety and lack-luster energy. I haven’t researched the exact stats, but I’d venture to say that this time of year is at least one of the most marred by those annoying, albeit momentarily, incapacitating little illnesses. AND I REFUSE TO GO DOWN LIKE THAT!!! Sorry to be so aggressive in my declaration, but I am extra determined this year. Anyhoo, in my quest for efficient and cost-effective ways to stay healthy, invigorated and yet still at Level 2 (as my friends say), I’ve directed my attention to the class of nutrients most qualified for the job. Now, I admit that I tend to fall fast. Frankly, I first developed a serious infatuation with Schisandra and Ashwagandha because their names are so dog gone cool. And now, I am seeing that Rhodiola too is a genuine keeper. Let’s get started.
Rhodiola Rosea typically grows in colder, mountainous environments and has been used for centuries by natives of Central Asia and Northern Europe to combat the resulting stresses in living with the colder temperatures and higher altitudes of those regions. The root of this flowering plant has and continues to be the more studied part and is therefore most commonly supplemented. There are many healthful nutrients contained within Rhodiola giving it the ability to serve in several different capacities including antioxidant, antiviral and antibacterial. By definition, adaptogens work their magic in a number of different ways through various biological systems, but what I find most appealing and seasonally appropriate about this one is its ability to 1) reduce our production of the stress hormone cortisol 2) seemingly outwit anxiety and 3) prevent toxin induced stress to liver cells. Let’s be real, this time of year can usher in a serious case of the “I need a stiff one to take the edge off’s”, so (not suggesting a means to over indulge in unhealthy behavior) any assistance in the area of damage control is much appreciated.
Our #1 Frenemy
Cortisol is the hormone released by our bodies when we encounter stressful situations. In short bursts for brief periods of time it helps us to survive what the mind perceives to be threatening circumstances. Remember the “stress response” cycle that kicks in gear when confronted with these scenarios– rush of adrenaline, increased heart rate and blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels. It serves our survival in the short-term, but can dramatically cut our life span in the long. Frequent, repeated release of cortisol with little to no recovery time between is a consequence of chronic stress, and the dangers of chronically elevated cortisol are weight gain in the abdomen (more work for the heart), hypertension, hyperglycemia and suppression of immune function. Rhodiola confronts the stress response cycle by acting directly on,” the brain – adrenal gland system to reduce cortisol production while enhancing stress resistance…”*
So, less cortisol without losing the ability to perform and overcome stress, I’ll take it.
In studies conducted on actual human subjects (not that mice don’t have their problems too, but…), participants struggling with symptoms of general anxiety disorder-frequent, excessive worry, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, sleep disturbances-experienced significant reductions in their symptoms after receiving 340mg of Rhodiola Rosea extract daily for 10 weeks.
Ok ten weeks, taking us through the New Year and straight into the recovery phase. Something to look forward to.
The liver acts as our body’s filter. Macro and micro nutrients, hormones, supplements, medications, alcohol and an innumerable amount of other substances are processed by the liver. In many ways, our body’s health depends on our liver. As an antioxidant, Rhodiola protects the cells of the liver from damage by toxins and other stressors. It has also shown the capacity to reduce liver dysfunction and even restore the liver’s own natural antioxidants.
Whether you’re boosting your immunity with vitamins, your disposition with spirits, or your recovery with medication, you can’t go wrong caring for the liver.
And If That Weren’t Enough
Rhodiola is also known to:
- Improve physical performance by increasing oxygen intake and decreasing muscle damage
- Decrease inflammation
- Protect and restore brain cells
- Enhance immune function
- Inhibit cancer cell growth
- Slow the aging process
Rhodiola can be supplemented alone or in combination with other adaptogens. Beware of supplements that only contain extractions of the Rhodiola constituent Saldroside. Many manufacturers believe it to be the most healthful nutrient in the herb, and only supply that. Opt for the whole root extractions instead because there are many other beneficial nutrients within the Rhodiola herb. And, as with most herbs, the nutrients within are each naturally present in the most healthful amounts and balanced in a way that best compliments the other components. Choose a supplement that provides about 200-300mg of Rhodiola Rosea root extract per serving, standardized to supply the individual constituents of the herb in the amounts most consistent with the natural plant. Nature knows best. Trust in her and as always…
*Jan Whiticomb, “Reducing the Risks of High Cortisol,” LifeExtension September/October 2011: 46 and 49.