In 1947, the Russian scientist Nikolai Lazarev coined the word ‘adaptogen’. Known for thousands of years in Ayurveda as the rasayans and in Chinese medicine as the superior herbs, Lazarev described adaptogens as a material that increased nonspecific resistance of an organism to an adverse influence. This definition seems a little vague to me, and it is, many herbs exhibit this behavior. Modern herbalists describe adaptogenic herbs as “plants with properties that exert a normalizing influence on the body, neither over-stimulating nor inhibiting normal body function, but rather exerting a generalized tonifying effect.” I love The Great Kosmic Kitchen and they do a wonderful job describing adaptogens saying, “Adaptogens (sometimes called tonics) are plants that help build up the body and bring it back to homeostasis. Those who use adaptogens over a few months time notice improved immune function, the capacity to deal with everyday stressors, and improvement to overall wellness.” Adaptogens are truly magical little plant beings!
Which plants are adaptogens you may ask? You are probably familiar with ginseng, which is one of the most common adaptogens. Others include: tulsi, astragalus, eleuthero, rhodiola, ashwagandha, reishi mushroom, among many, many more. I’m going to share a little more about two of my favorite adaptogens, tulsi and astragalus, and how to incorporate them into your daily life.
Astragalus is an incredible root that has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. This plant is perfect for boosting our immune systems. Astragalus is commonly used in broths and soups. The first time I used astragalus, I was afraid the flavor would be too intense, but it is quite mellow and indistinguishable. My favorite way to use this lovely herb, is to make an astragalus broth that I then cook some rice in! Here’s the rundown:
- First and foremost, always try to soak your rice before cooking it. It is extremely easy to do as long as you remember to do it ahead of time. The Nourishing Cook has a great article on soaking brown rice.
- To make the astragalus broth, you can use a base of water, bone, or vegetable broth. Combine 3 ½ cups of whichever liquid you choose, along with 2 tablespoons of dried astragalus root, 1 head of peeled fresh garlic cloves, and some good sea salt. Simmer this covered for two hours.
- Then, all you have to do is use the broth in a normal 2 to 1 rice ratio. That is it! Delicious, medicinal, immune-boosting food.
Tulsi, aka Holy Basil:
Tulsi, also known as holy basil, is another amazing herb that has been around for centuries. This herb is native to India and used in Ayurvedic medicine. “Daily consumption of tulsi is said to prevent disease, promote general health, wellbeing and longevity and assist in dealing with the stresses of daily life.”
I have two favorite ways to use Tulsi. I buy it in bulk and either use it as a tea or add it to a vinaigrette I make from scratch. If you have never tried Tulsi tea, you must! It is so nourishing, every time I drink a cup, I feel cleansed and calm. It is my favorite.