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Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

Published by Healing Arts Press
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

An updated and expanded edition of the definitive guide to adaptogenic herbs

• Includes a Materia Medica with monographs covering 25 adaptogens, including eleuthero, ginseng, rhodiola, schisandra, ashwagandha, licorice, shatavari, reishi, and holy basil, as well as complementary nervines, restorative tonics, and nootropics

• Explains how adaptogens increase the body’s resistance to adverse influences, increase energy and stamina, and counter the effects of age and stress on the body

• Details the actions, properties, preparation, and dosage for each herb and their uses in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine and as remedies for animals

Every day our bodies strive to adapt and stay balanced, energized, and healthy, yet chronic stress and the resulting elevation of stress hormones such as cortisol have been shown to be major factors behind not only fatigue and weight gain but also many chronic and degenerative diseases. In this updated edition of the definitive guide to adaptogenic herbs, clinical herbalist David Winston and researcher Steven Maimes provide a comprehensive look at adaptogens: non-toxic herbs such as ginseng, eleuthero, and ashwagandha that help the body “adapt” to the many influences it encounters and manage the stresses it experiences. They also increase stamina and energy, boost cognitive function, restore the immune system, and counter the effects of aging, especially when used in appropriate combinations.

Beginning with a history of the use of adaptogens, including in Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and Russian medicine, the book examines how these herbal remedies work and why they are so effective at combating stress-induced illness and ailments. The extensive Materia Medica includes monographs on 25 adaptogens, including eleuthero, ginseng, rhodiola, schisandra, ashwagandha, shatavari, reishi, and holy basil, as well as complementary nervines, restorative tonics, and nootropic herbs, such as milky oats, astragalus, St. John’s wort, and ginkgo. Each monograph presents the latest scientific research and details the origin, traditional and clinical uses, actions, properties, preparation, and dosage for each herb. The book also includes guidance on adaptogenic remedies for our animal companions.

Aimed not only at herbalists but also those interested in natural health, this guide to adaptogens will allow you to safely and effectively use these herbal remedies to enhance your health and improve your chances of living a longer, healthier, and well-balanced life.


Chapter 6. Health Benefits of Adaptogens

When compiling research on the health benefits of adaptogens, the amount of data is almost overwhelming. This is due to the large number of studies and the fact that adaptogens have such a broad influence on the entire body.

Many of the adaptogens that are commonly used today have a history of use that goes back hundreds and thousands of years. Over that time, a vast amount of experience has been gained that has gone toward understanding their therapeutic applications.

Adaptogens can greatly increase the effectiveness of some modern drugs, including antibiotics, anxiolytics (anxiety relief), antidepressants, and hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) agents. They also can reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the side effects of some drugs. They have a proven record of being safe, efficacious, and quite versatile in their treatment of many conditions.

All adaptogens have antistress qualities that provide stabilizing effects on the neuroendocrine system, especially the HPA axis. All adaptogens help to modulate and enhance the immune system. All adaptogens provide antioxidant nutrients.

This chapter mentions highlights from both research and tradition. The listed benefits and uses of adaptogens are based on all available information, including modern scientific research, records of their use in traditional medical systems, ethnobotany, and clinical observations made by practitioners. The disorders have been arranged alphabetically to assist readers in locating the conditions that most interest them.


The brain is part of the nervous system, along with the spinal cord, nerves, and sensory organs. The nervous system responds to chronic stress in multiple ways. Some people may develop stress headaches, and others suffer from insomnia, anxiety, or depression. Over long periods of time, cortisol can cause neuro-inflammation and elevated cortisol levels have been linked to increased risk of migraines, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. Research indicates that high cortisol levels also promote degeneration and death of nerve cells along with decreased memory function.

Adaptogens for Improved Brain Function

Adaptogens have multiple effects on nervous system and brain health. They normalize neurotransmitter levels in the brain, inhibit cortisol-induced neuro-inflammation, and upregulate neuropeptide Y (NPY). High levels of NPY are found in the amygdala and hypothalamus areas of the brain that are essential for regulation of emotions and our response to stress. Increased NPY reduces anxiety and inhibits sympathetic activity, which slows the heart, reduces blood pressure and decreases cortisol production by the adrenal glands. Furthermore, adaptogens have the ability to increase both the amount of mental exercise a person can carry out as well as the quality of that work.

The following adaptogens enhance brain function and mental clarity: American ginseng, ashwagandha, Asian ginseng, eleuthero, holy basil, rhaponticum, rhodiola, and schisandra.

The following adaptogens are neuroprotective: ashwagandha, Asian ginseng, holy basil and rhaponticum.

The following adaptogens support the central nervous system: Asian ginseng, rhaponticum, schisandra, and shilajit are stimulating; and ashwagandha, cordyceps, jiaogulan, and schisandra are calming.

Adaptogen Notes

Rhaponticum and schisandra enhance reading comprehension, aptitude, and speed.

Rhodiola enhances a person’s ability for memorization and prolonged concentration. Regular use can lead to improvements in learning and memory retention.

Schisandra has an unusual dual effect on the nervous system. It enhances focus, work performance, and mental clarity. At the same time, it is calming and helps relieve mild anxiety. Holy basil, in addition to being a probable adaptogen, is also a nootropic, anxiolytic, and antidepressant

[Sample from Monograph section]


Botanical Name: Eleutherococcus senticosus (synonym: Acanthopanax senticosus)

Family: Araliaceae

Common Names: Ci wu jia (Chinese), wu jia shen (Chinese), Siberian ginseng, ezoukogi (Japanese)

Taste/Energy: Sweet, slightly bitter, slightly warm

Parts Used: Root and stem bark

Location/Cultivation: Eleuthero grows throughout Siberia, northern China, Korea, and northern Japan.

Safety Rating: ***

Properties: Mild, non-stimulating adaptogen, antioxidant, hypocholesterolemic, immune amphoteric.

Constituents: The active constituents are believed to be a group of compounds known as eleutherosides A to G.


The historical use of eleuthero in Chinese medicine is more than a bit confusing. It, along with several other plants, is known as wu jia (five leaves). Included in this group is what is now called ci wu jia (E. senticosis) and wu jia pi (several species of Acanthopanax, especially A. gracistylis, as well as a totally unrelated plant, Periploca sepium). All of these plants are used for treating with “wind/damp” conditions. Wind conditions are spasmodic, erratic or involve numbness, while dampness correlates to swelling and edema.

Modern Uses

Eleuthero is used in China to strengthen the qi and the Chinese spleen and kidneys. Symptoms of deficient spleen qi include fatigue, listlessness, lack of appetite, and abdominal bloating. Using this herb, along with digestive herbs and other stronger tonic herbs, helps to relieve these symptoms.

As an adaptogen, eleuthero is mild and can be used for men or women. It is most appropriate for younger people (15-40 years old) who have their vital force (jing) intact but are experiencing greater than normal stress. It is unlikely to cause overstimulation and can be taken over long periods of time.

Eleuthero also strengthens the immune system, and regular use will reduce the incidence of colds and other common infectious diseases. Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy often develop bone marrow suppression and decreased white blood cell counts. In one clinical study, eleuthero was able to reverse these conditions in many patients (Kupin, et al, 1987).

Athletes can benefit from using eleuthero. It increases endurance and stamina, enhances mitochondrial activity, speeds recovery, and prevents immune-depletion from excessive training. It can be combined with cordyceps, rhodiola, or schisandra for enhancing athletic performance and for improving alertness and cognitive function when under severe stress or when working long hours. Physicians with long shifts who get little sleep, those with flex shift jobs, and students pulling “all nighters” will likely feel better, perform better, and recover more quickly when using these adaptogenic tonic herbs.

About The Author

David Winston, RH(AHG), is an herbalist and ethnobotanist who has practiced Cherokee, Chinese, and Western herbal medicine since 1969. He is the president of Herbalist and Alchemist, Inc., a company that manufactures over 300 herbal products, author of Herbal Therapeutics and Saw Palmetto for Men & Women, and coauthor of Herbal Therapy and Supplements and Adaptogens. He lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Healing Arts Press (September 17, 2019)
  • Length: 432 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781620559598

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Raves and Reviews

“There has never been a time when more people at once have suffered from anxiety, sleep disorders, stress, and immune system dysfunction. Conventional medicine provides us only with tools that suppress at best, harm at worst. Yet there is another way, one that is both ancient and modern, a class of herbs called adaptogens. And who better to enlighten us on the history, benefits, and use of these herbs, trusted across cultures, than an herbalist’s herbalist, universally trusted for his knowledge of both botanical medicine history and use. In this book, David Winston provides us with a tool for resilience that we need now more than ever and that is readily accessible to all who want to welcome medicinal plants into their healing path.”

– Aviva Romm, MD, herbalist, author of Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health and The Adrenal Thy

“Here is an herbal gem! Few people know and understand the properties and actions of herbs as well as David Winston. His expertise lies not only in how herbs were used historically but in the latest scientific research as well. Melding information from many traditions, David paints a complete picture of their use and effectiveness. This updated and expanded Adaptogens is a welcome addition for anyone looking to improve their health. This book will expand your understanding of adaptogen herbs, their history, and their relevance in today’s chronic-stress society.”

– Phyllis D. Light, MA, RH(AHG)

“Authoritative, indispensable Herbalism at its best. A welcome second edition that confirms the place of this exceptional book on every herbalist’s bookshelf.”

– David Hoffmann, BSc, FNIMH, Principle Scientist at Traditional Medicinals, author of Medical Herbali

“David’s new edition of Adaptogens offers so much more than most of the herbal books available today. His wisdom, insights and experience shine through every page, guiding and inspiring the reader to find higher health and vitality and protect against the harmful effects of daily stress in a practical and clear style that is imminently accessible.”

– Christopher Hobbs, Ph.D., L.Ac., A.H.G., coauthor of Grow It and Heal It

"David Winston is one of the foremost clinical herbalists of our time. He is a beloved speaker at medical conferences due to his encyclopedic knowledge of plants and his mastery of teaching to a wide variety of audiences. He knows not only western herbs, he is adept in using herbal foundations of Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medical systems, and weaves molecular, traditional, energetic wisdom together with finesse. These varied skill sets make David a treasure trove of herbal knowledge and his books display his deep understanding and practical experience, all on a base of human kindness."

– Jill Stansbury, ND

“I consider this book essential for clinical herbal practice. It is also excellent for all serious students and home herbalists. It reduces to gentle readability the problems inherent in the concept of the adaptogen, rescuing it from both faddism and skepticism, defining it against a backdrop of related and different concepts. It then provides an apothecary of adaptogens that is comprehensive, practical, and will instill confidence in the herbalist using these important plant medicines.”

– Matthew Wood, MS (Herbal Medicine), Registered Herbalist (AHG)

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