Updated: Oct 11, 2018
Adaptogens are herbal substances that work with a person’s body to help them adapt, esp. to stress. They are a class of my favorite herbs because as the name applies it is adaptable, to general constitutional patterns and varying stressors.
Taken moderately, it is non-toxic to the user. It influences many body systems and increases resistance-immunity to a broad spectrum of internal and external pathological factors. They have strong anti-oxidant, anti-depressant and anti-aging properties, affecting energy on the cellular level. It does this by modulating biological functions to maintain homeostasis.
There are few individual herbs that actually fit the requirements for being an adaptogen. I will be going through all of them in individual posts. To begin with, we will start with one I use frequently and can be found in many classical Chinese herbal formulas. Its name is Hou po or Magnolia bark. Classified as an aromatic herb that moves energy and transforms body fluids. If you don’t know, aromatics have the ability to promote the circulation of energy and in the case of magnolia bark it moves the energy in the large intestine, lungs, pancreas, and stomach. For symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or reflux, it directs the energy downward back to the stomach. In this way the metabolic flow continues on its normal path. Its also good for abdominal bloating and fullness from over-eating, eating when emotional or because of deficient enzymes and flora in the gut. For the latter, I typically suggest the addition of digestive enzymes and probiotics. It also dries and moves fluid to eliminate the build up of phlegm in both the lungs and digestive system.
All foods and herbs have a particular nature and flavor, which can enhance its properties. It is bitter, pungent, warm and drying. All of which, act synergistically to perform its therapeutic functions. Before we move on, it is important to recognize the property of being warm and drying, knowing this should alert you to its ability to cause dryness and should be stopped or avoided if dryness signs, for instance constipation or dry skin occurs.
Magnolia contains alkaloids, which are plant derived chemicals containing basic nitrogen; honokial, and magnonol, both lignens (or polyphenols) are isolated from bark. It acts as a antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor agent: stopping the formation of new blood vessels that form tumors, its apoptotic effects (causing cell death) can be utilized in conjunction with cancer treatments, and its anti-anxiety properties help to reduce hyper-excitement of the central nervous system. In its higher concentrated form, it is should not be used with other sedatives or alcohol (CNS depressants), should not be taken when pregnant, when taking anti-coagulants or when preparing for surgery. I usually administer hou po in its less processed form and regulate the dosage to 3-9 grams 2 to 3 times a week when used for its adaptogenic properties. If it’s used within a formula, or a mixture of other herbs, its toxicity and side effects can be eliminated, therefore it can be taken for longer based on the individual’s constitution.