I’ve recently switched to 100% natural cosmetics and makeup, and it’s got me thinking about herbal properties. I’ve been doing so much research to make natural switches. This is when I started looking in adaptogens. Adaptogens are a pharmacological group of drugs of natural or artificial origin, capable of increasing the non-specific resistance of the body to a wide range of harmful effects of physical, chemical, and biological nature.
Adaptogens can regulate the central nervous system (CNS). They can induce inhibition of major jumpy processes and, conversely, enhance their manifestation. Small doses of adaptogens, if used correctly, cause general relaxation, some retardation, reduction of general excitability. Average doses have a moderate stimulating effect, creating a sense of liveliness, a burst of energy. High doses can cause overexcitation, irritability, insomnia, excessive aggressiveness.
In contrast to classic psychomotor stimulants such as caffeine, adaptogens, even at overdose, do not cause depletion of CNS reserves. When taken for a long time, their nervous system is not exhausted, but on the contrary, it is strengthened, becoming more resistant to stress.
By their origin, adaptogens can be divided into two groups: natural and synthetic. The sources of natural adaptogens are terrestrial and aquatic plants, animals, and microorganisms. The most crucial plant adaptogens of plant origin, widely used in pharmacotherapy, include plants growing in the Far East and Siberia: Ginseng, Eleuthero, Rhodiola, Schizandra, Aralia, and others.
The leading group of biologically active compounds (BAC) in these plants are usually saponins – triterpenoids of steroid origin, ecdysteroids, and phenylpropanoids – a relatively recently isolated group of substances in an independent class. Chemical compounds of phenylpropanoids class have tonic, adaptogenic, immunostimulating, hepatoprotective, antioxidant, and other properties.
Rhodiola is a perennial herbaceous plant with a thick root. It is used as a stimulant to improve physical, mental performance, and immunity of the body.
It grows in the polar-arctic and alpine regions, in the Altai, the Urals, Transbaikalia, and the Chukchi Peninsula. In natural conditions, it grows in the north of European Russia and Siberia. In the middle zone, it is successfully grown as a medicinal plant on country sites.
The roots and rhisomes of Rhodiola pink contain flavonoids, phenolic glycosides, salidrosides, anthraglycosides, tannins (15.6%), organic acids – gallic, oxalic, amber, citric, apple and lactonic substances, essential oils and large quantities of manganese. Essential oils include phenylethyl alcohol, P-phenylethyl acetate, cinnamon aldehyde, and citral.
Rhodiola drugs normalise the activity of the central nervous system in the case of vegetative dystonia, schizophrenia, neurosis, neurasthenia, hypotension, fatigue. In overdose, the opposite effect is observed – reduced efficiency, sleepiness. Rhodiola has antituberculous and antitumor activity, which increases the oxygen content in the cells of all organs and tissues, which generally determines its high therapeutic effect.
Application in folk medicine
Folk pharmacists recommend taking Rhodiola in the form of therapeutic infusions for heart weakness, frequent colds, relieve fatigue, increase efficiency, as well as in gastrointestinal disorders, uterine bleeding, and feverish states. Outwardly, Rhodiola decoction and infusion are used for seborrheic dermatitis, swelling, acne, sweating. But most often, the gold root in Altai would be used not in the form of an infusion, but the form of water – useful and tonic tea. Gold root drink has excellent taste qualities, has a very subtle, pleasant aroma reminiscent of the smell of rose. Its flavour is slightly astringent, and its colour ranges from pinkish brown to densely scarlet.
Schizandra is a woody liana that has a general toning effect.
It mainly originates in China, Japan, and Korea. In the wild on the territory of Russia, it is spread in the Far East, Amur region, and Sakhalin. It mainly grows on drained soils rich in overgrowth. Fruit-bearing thickets are more common along river and stream banks and forest roads. Schizandra has a reduced tolerance for both excessive dryness and excessive moisture. The plant is light-loving, so it cannot tolerate strong shading and overgrows at the sites of forest fires and clearings.
The juice of Schizandra fruit contains a large number of sugars (up to 1.5%), organic acids (from 8.5-20%) – mainly citric (up to 11%), apple (up to 8%), and tartaric (0.8%) acids. There is also a high content of vitamins – ascorbic acid, thiamine, and riboflavin. Tonic substances (about 0.012% of schisandrine and schisandrol) and tocopherol (0.03%) are noted in the seeds. The bark and other parts of the plant contain an essential oil (up to 2.6-3.2%), it is highly valued in perfumery for its delicate spicy lemon aroma. The essential oil contains sesquiterpene hydrocarbons (up to 30 %), aldehydes, and ketones (up to 20 %). Fatty oil includes α-linoleic (up to 20%), β-linoleic (up to 35), oleic (up to 34), and about 4% limit acids.
Schizandra has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system for physical and mental fatigue and on the cardiovascular system, excites breathing.
The value of Schizandra in China lies in its exceptional properties – it tones the body, increases night vision acuity, gives strength and vigour, and reduces general fatigue. It is precious that when taking Schizandra products, there is no overexcitation of the nervous system accompanied by insomnia. Preparations Schizandra activates conditional-reflective activity and excitatory processes in the cortex, as well as reduce blood sugar content, expands peripheral vessels, and generally stimulate the function of the cardiovascular system. The stimulating effect of the drugs comes after 30-40 minutes, and the action lasts about 6 hours.
Preparations based on Schizandra have adaptive and general tonic properties. The therapeutic properties of Schizandra have proven themselves in gastric diseases and as a choleretic agent. The infusions and infusions of the plant also stimulate wound healing.
For some heart diseases and weakened breathing Schizandra is used as a stimulant. Aqueous infusion of Schizandra leaves and bark are used as an excellent vitamin remedy as well as a remedy against Scurvy.
Treatment of Schizandra should always be carried out under the control of your doctor. Preparations from Schizandra are contraindicated for nervous agitation, insomnia, hypertension, heart failure.
Application in folk medicine
In folk medicine, infusions and infusions Schizandra used in diseases of the central nervous system, hypotension, neurasthenia. In dysentery and gonorrhoea, a decoction is used from the stalks. Besides, Schizandra seeds are used for tuberculosis, bronchial asthma, and bronchitis.
In Chinese folk medicine, Schizandra has long been applied for the treatment of liver, kidney, gastrointestinal diseases, as well as impotence, anaemia, and bleeding. To relieve excessive irritability and tension, it is recommended to take it in small doses for women during menopause.
Aralia is a tree or shrub, reaching 3-7 meters. It is used as a toning agent for fatigue, asthenic conditions, depression, hypotension. Improves performance, increases potency. Has the property to reduce blood sugar levels.
Aralia is distributed in the Far East (Sakhalin and Outer Manchuria) in Japan and also in China. It grows in cedar-broadleaved forests, in the undergrowth, in valleys, meadows, edges, clearings, up to 700 m above sea level, either alone or in small groups.
Aralia roots contain starch, proteins, essential oils, carbohydrates, mineral compounds, alkaloids in small amounts. Triterpene saponins – aralosides A, B, and C, which are glycosides of oleanolic acid, are isolated from the roots. They have almost identical physical and chemical properties.
Aralia preparations have excellent tonic, nootropic, hypoglycemic, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic properties. They have a stimulating effect on the central nervous system, stimulate the heart, reduce the duration of sleep caused by drugs. Several excite breathing, increase lung capacity and muscle strength, have an anti-stress effect. The positive impact of Aralia is associated with the activation of enzyme systems and increased energy supply.
Application in folk medicine
People learned about the curative properties of Aralia by observing the behaviour of ungulates, which, having eaten with the appetite of leaves and branches of the plant, subsequently characterised by tireless agility.
Root tincture is recommended for colds, flu, night urinary incontinence, and the effects of radiation sickness, as a diuretic, enuresis. Aralia is also used for stomatitis and toothache.