Adaptogens are considered the kings and queens of herbal medicine. They have a majestic ability to go into the body and trigger the response it most needs – that’s why these tonic herbs (and certain mushrooms) are called adaptogens. Adaptogens restore balance to the neuro endocrine system, to hormones, to the brain and the immune system. Importantly, they’re super powerful in supporting the body’s natural ability to deal with stress.
In Southern Africa Ashwagandha is used to treat fevers, colds, influenza, asthma, cancer, candida, inflammation and tuberculosis. It is widely supportive in women’s health issues and known to reduce anxiety and mild depression. Further qualities include anti-stress and anti-ageing, as well as memory enhancing. Notably, it is used in the recovery of chronic fatigue and modern day stress related conditions. Ashwagandha is also considered a natural antibiotic.
Both roots and leaves from the Holy Basil are adaptogenic and research shows it has pharmacological properties that help with many types of stress. Holy Basil is commonly used in Ayurvedic and Integrative Medicine and has proven anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties. It can help protect against infection, can lower blood sugar and cholesterol, ease joint pain, and protect digestive processes. Alongside its de-stressing properties, it boosts cognitive activity, and offers immune, glycemic and digestive support.
Known as the ‘herb of longevity’, Gotu Kola is commonly used in traditional Chinese, Indonesian, and Ayurvedic medicine. Believed to improve cognition, heal skin issues, and promote liver and kidney health, Gotu Kola is a rejuvenating nervine lauded for balancing the nervous system and helping the body’s inherent ability to adapt to temporary stress. It also helps the body’s neurotransmitters maintain healthy functioning while supporting a sound memory and mental alertness. Because it promotes healthy connective tissue, it contributes to strengthened blood vessels and good circulation.
Lemon balm is a particularly good herb for the nervous system and has many stress relieving qualities, quelling anxiety and soothing restlessness and insomnia. It is said to heighten mood, bringing a joyous disposition to the heart. Lemon balm is also used for digestive complaints, and is an immune supportive herb that is balancing and calming.
Mugwort can be used in various ways from a sedative to menstrual help and digestive aid. It’s sedative properties have been used to treat hysteria, epilepsy and convulsions in children. Women take mugwort for irregular periods and various menstrual problems. Historically it has been used as a herbal inhibitor for menstrual cycles and to provide relief from symptoms of menopause. Mugwort is also known as a bitter digestive that can relieve stomach acidity, dyspepsia, travel sickness and acute bowel and stomach pain. It serves as a liver tonic to promote circulation and stimulate gastric juice and bile secretion.
Commonly used in African traditional medicine as a treatment for fevers, headaches, malaria, dysentery and snakebites, Leonotis is an excellent immunity booster and a natural treatment for coughs, colds, influenza bronchitis, high blood pressure, headaches and viral hepatitis.
African Potato is commonly used to treat urinary tract disorders, bladder infections such as cystitis, prostrate problems and prostate cancer. Other uses include lung disease, tuberculosis, arthritis, and skin conditions such as psoriasis as well as symptoms of HIV and AIDS. It is an excellent overall immune booster and used topically is excellent as a cell regenerator.
Sutherlandia is considered to be Africa’s best adaptogenic plant. It has been used across the continent for centuries to treat fevers, poor appetite, indigestion, gastritis, peptic ulcers, cancer, diabetes, colds, influenza, asthma and bronchitis. Also dubbed cancer bush - as the name suggests - it is used to prevent and to cure cancer and is currently being researched for its ability to support HIV/Aids sufferers. It is also known for its effectiveness against Type 2 diabetes and TB. Its ‘bitter’ taste functions as an appetite and digestive stimulant. This miraculous plants’ adaptogenic qualities makes it effective in treating stress, anxiety, irritability and depression.
Mullien is most commonly used for respiratory complaints and is often used for chronic lung problems such as asthma and COPD. It is also helpful for colds and coughs particularly dry coughs. Mullien flowers are frequently used to make cough mixture and soothing eardrops while the root is used for lower back pain and inflammation.
Considered as nature’s best natural de-wormer and parasite cleanser, this is undoubtedly one of the wonder plants of mother earth due to its analgesic, anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, anti-malarial, anti-nematodal (certain worms such as roundworm and tapeworm), cardiovascular (hypotensive), cytotoxic, sedative and antihistamine activities. Because it can be toxic if taken for long periods of time breaking after 7 to 14 days of use is advised.
Raspberry leaves are rich in manganese and tannins which are essential for oxygenating the cells. The leaves are used as a tonic to strengthen the uterine muscles in preparation for childbirth and to prevent and relieve morning sickness. Raspberry leaf is wonderful for general uterine and menstrual wellbeing for women.
The wonders of garlic never cease to amaze as this strong aromatic herb has powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. It also acts as an expectorant expelling phlegm from the lungs and is wonderful for coughs, colds and the flu. It aids as a circulatory tonic lowering blood pressure naturally. Garlic combines well with other herbs to treat certain bacterial and fungal infections. The fresh bulb has the best anti-hypertensive (high blood pressure) and antimicrobial properties.
Camomile is a must-have in any home, it acts as a mild sedative and is an excellent gastric anti-inflammatory. It calms the nerves, settles the stomach and helps expel gas. Being an excellent nervine agent, it is also gentle enough to use when treating children and infants while teething or colicky. Added to elder flower, peppermint and yarrow it creates a perfect remedy to treat colds and flu.
The use of yarrow to slow down or stop bleeding has been well recorded throughout history. Yarrow leaves were traditionally applied to wounds to stop bleeding although it can be taken internally to stop internal bleeding. Yarrow flowers are used to treat fevers and help the body fight infection. Warm yarrow flower tea is used to induce sweat and break fever. It is also known for its ability to curtail menstrual bleeding.