About this Episode
Essential Therapeutics for Modern Life
In this episode, naturopath and medical herbalist Amanda Williams joins our host Sara Le Brun-Blashka, MS, to talk about some of her favorite herbs: a group of five botanicals Amanda calls the “superheroes of the plant kingdom.” This is a special subgroup of adaptogens with multi-faceted potential impacts on the human body, including pharmacological effects on the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems as well as body-wide.
What Are Neuro-Endocrine-Immune (NEI) Botanicals?
The five neuro-endocrine-immune (NEI) herbs Amanda describes in this episode have clinical versatility and trigger a wide range of intra- and extra-cellular adaptive signaling pathways (02:17). For this reason, Amanda calls this group of botanicals the “multi-taskers of the plant kingdom.”
>> Audio bookmark: “If we needed these herbs at any time in our world, it’s right now” (02:05)
What Do Adaptogenic Herbs Do?
Adaptogenic herbs are metabolic regulators that work to increase resistance to stress, therefore increasing the ability to adapt and promoting survival (05:50). In Amanda’s words, adaptogens are “agents for thriving,” known for their non-specific, normalizing action in the body and balancing homeostasis.
Amanda also mentions adaptogens as agents of hormesis. Read more.
How do adaptogens address chronic stress?
Adaptogenic herbs are known for helping in situations of chronic stress (12:46). For example, adaptogens are associated with:
- Improved stamina and reduced fatigue
- HPA axis support
- Energy and resilience
- Emotional wellbeing
- Healthy aging
The 5 Key NEI Botanicals
In this episode, Amanda introduces the five key NEI botanicals in order of historical research, but these herbs can also be rearranged and remembered by the “G.E.A.R.S.” pneumonic.
- Korean Ginseng (21:45)
- Eleuthero (30:54)
- Schisandra (52:06)
- Ashwagandha (37:48)
- Rhodiola (45:24)
Korean Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
Ginseng is one of Amanda’s personal favorites, one that she uses a lot in her practice. Ginseng was discovered thousands of years ago and is regarded in Asia as the “King of All Herbs.” As an adaptogen, ginseng is known for normalizing body function and supporting mitochondrial function.
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Eleuthero is an incredibly hardy herb that grows on a thorny bush in the forests of Siberia and Mongolia. This herb has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since about 190 A.D. Amanda calls eleuthero the “archetypal adaptogen” and describes it as likely the most well-researched herb over the history of herbal research. It is known for supporting stamina, endurance, quality of life, and immune function.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha is a classic calming herb of the Indian Ayurvedic medicine tradition. It promotes both short and long-term health, and it grows anywhere. Ashwagandha is known for supporting energy, nurturing the nervous system, and promoting thyroid health.
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)
Rhodiola is an important herb for supporting mental, emotional, and physical resilience. It produces adaptogenic and tonic effects near equally. Rhodiola is associated with:
- Immune support
- Nervous system health
- Cognitive function
- Mitochondrial support
- Cardiotonic activity
- Antioxidant activity
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
Amanda calls schisandra “the stabilizer.” This is another herb that has a calming effect on the nervous system, a nervine tonic effect more specifically. Schisandra is associated with liver support as well as use in contexts like depression, anxiety, irritability, night sweats, and hot flashes.
Overall, these five key NEI botanicals, the “superheroes of the plant kingdom,” are considered by Amanda to be essential for everyone, for everyday use. For each of these herbs, finding high-quality products from sustainable sources is vital.