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Adaptogens: herbal remedies

Nicola Clarke
January 4, 2019

You can't get an appointment with a Dr for AGES, what can you do in the meantime?

A couple of years ago, I needed help. I'd fallen into a deep, black, excruciating depression that went on for days and weeks, saturating me in pain, and I couldn't get myself out. I needed chemicals: cigarettes, alcohol and anti-depressants please, lots and lots of them, delicious!  I envisioned driving to a deserted crumbling shack on the edge of a cliff with the sea raging beneath the shanty floorboards. I'd slam two bottles of vodka down on the table, take one glass, a packet of cigarettes and as many pills as I could shove down my gullet whilst I watched the waves crashing into the rocks and swayed into sweet numbing oblivion.

I needed the anti-depressants, for sure. I did not need either cigarettes or alcohol, which in retrospect made my life worse, made my breath and head stink and with ironic certainty, made me more depressed. I couldn't get an appointment with a GP. For AGES. Which meant no drugs, no medical solution to a medical condition, no numbing sweetness, no crashing waves, just silent, terrifying thoughts running over and over around my sick, dangerous mind.

Anti-depressants work, they just do. I would advise that anyone who is suffering from mental illness, to seek and find a caring and experienced GP who can find the right type of medication to match you. Only, let's face it, we don't live in that reality, appointments are hard to get and when you do you might not have found the right person who can understand your needs. Keep trying, it's worth it, but in the meantime, you could try some adaptogens.

Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that help the body tackle stress. I have personally been a huge advocate of Ashwaghanda since it helped me through the shack fantasy and into a better, cooler version of myself. However, do some research, and decide if you feel it is right for you, sometimes as is the case, what works for one may not work for all. I like natural stuff though, natural stuff is good, it's clean, it's from the earth, and it's better than another drink, for sure.

  • Ashwaghanda, one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing, can be used for a variety of conditions. The most well known benefit, however, is its ability to work as a natural remedy for anxiety. Also know as Withania Somnifera or Indian Ginseng, it helps the body adapt to various emotional and physical stressors.
  • St John's Wort,  also known as Hypercium, is a herbal remedy  that  has been used traditionally  for mental health problems. It can be bought over-the-counter from health food shops and chemists as a treatment for depression.
  • Panax Ginseng, otherwise known as The Ginseng, Asian Ginsing or Korean Ginsing, (and not to be confused as Siberian Ginseng, American Ginseng, Chinese Ginseng, orPseudoginseng) helps cognitive performance and boosts energy. It can be used to combat stress-induced illnesses.  
  • Holy Basil, or Tulsi is known for it's ability to help the body cope with stress. It is especially revered in India, where it is called 'The Queen of Herbs". It strengthens the body's ability to combat neurological and chemical imbalances and reduce anxiety.
* IMPORTANT: whilst some studies have been done on the effectiveness of adaptogens, these should not be used as a substitute for prescribed medication from a trained GP. As always, you should discuss any new supplements or medications with your doctor before beginning a regimen. This is especially true with adaptogenic herbs, as several of them interact with prescription medications and are not recommended for people with certain conditions.