I have to admit I really love the holidays. I know it’s a crazy time of year, but I love listening to Christmas music and looking at all the beautiful lights and decorations. Watching Hallmark movies is my not so secret obsession and finding the perfect present for everyone on my list makes me super happy! Even though these things bring me joy, I know that during the month of December ’tis the season for stress! And if I am not careful, that added stress can take a toll on my immune system and we all know that’s not a good thing.
Our bodies depend on a strong immune system to fight off bacteria, viruses and pathogens. And when the immune system gets compromised, that’s when the bugs get in. So when I need to give my body a boost, I turn to my favorite adaptogenic herbs. These powerful plant based herbs help my body “adapt” to internal and external stressors. They have been used for thousands of years in India and China because of their ability to increase energy, mental clarity and strength. Adaptogens support the adrenal system by managing your stress hormones (hello cortisol) and restoring balance to almost any area of the body. In other words, they are a “superfood” that helps to make you more resilient as you cope with life in this modern world but most importantly during this holiday season!
There are many different adaptogenic herbs to choose from and you definitely don’t have to take them all. I have tried most of them over the years, and I choose different ones depending on how I am feeling. Right now I am loving ashwagandha and astragalus. I think they are my two favorites for this time of year.
Ashwagandha is perhaps one of the most common adaptogens used in Ayurvedic medicine and you know how I love Ayurveda 🙂 Ashwagandha is used primarily for reducing stress and decreasing anxiety by lowering cortisol levels. Cortisol gets released by the adrenal glands when we are under stress. Under normal circumstances, cortisol will raise and lower naturally in a “fight or flight” situation. When we are under constant stress, our cortisol levels can remain high and that wears down the adrenals which then leaves us feeling depleted. Ashwagandha is awesome at managing our stress response and our cortisol levels which is why it is one of my favorite go to herbs!
Ashwagandha has also shown promise in improving memory. There is some research that suggests this herb could reverse the effects of neurological toxins associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Raise your hand if you could use a boost in the memory department. I know I can!!
I like to add ashwagandha powder to my morning latte. I typically use tea as the base for my latte but I know that too much caffeine makes me jittery. As long as I add some ashwagandha, I have a nice energized feeling without the jitters. And my adrenals are happy too! I also like to take 1 tablet at night before bed if I have had a stressful day. It helps to calm my mind so I can sleep better.
Astragalus is another one of my favorites. It is a very famous herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Astragalus is used to boost the immune system, fight inflammation and improve longevity. It contains a substance called cycloastragenol which can lengthen telomeres. Telomeres are structures at the end of your chromosomes and the shorter they are the closer the cell is to dying. There has been a lot of research on telomeres and longevity and the theory goes that the longer your telomeres are, the longer you will live!
Adaptogens are a great way to optimize your health naturally. Generally, adaptogens are safe for most people but I always recommend consulting with your healthcare provider if you are taking any medication. Buying the herbs from a reputable source will ensure that you are getting high quality organic products. You can purchase the dried root to make a tea or add to your smoothie or you can look for supplements and tinctures at your favorite health food store. I prefer using the dried root powder which I buy in bulk at the local food coop.
There is also a wonderful tea called Spring Dragon which contains several adaptogens including astragalus. The herbs are high quality and I love the convenience of a tea bag when I am out and about and can’t make a latte. I used to buy the tea at Natural Grocers but they no longer carry it. You can order it online here.
Below is a simple latte recipe that is perfect for this time of year. It has all the wonderful seasonal spices, is easy to prepare and tastes delicious! So, if you are feeling the stress of the holiday season, pick up some adaptogens and give this recipe a try. It’s just what you need to stay strong!! Leave and comment and let me know how you like it.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
1 cup unsweetened coconut or almond milk
2 tsp pumpkin puree
1 tsp coconut butter or ghee
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cardamom
pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ashwagandha powder
1/2 tsp astragalus root powder
1. Warm the nut milk in a saucepan.
2. Transfer to a high speed blender. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.