Aromatic Adaptogens by Farida Irani
It is stated from various sources that majority of visits to primary care physicians are related to stress either acutely or because of chronic problems associated with stress.
Stress is any trigger, whether it be emotional, mental or physical that can throw the body’s equilibrium out of balance and put one in a fight fright or flight mode (sympathetic state).
Long term stress leads to depletion of the adrenals, therefore adrenal fatigue and other disorders. Some of these diseased states include, bowel problems, depression, cancer, autoimmune disorders, nerve disorders, hormonal imbalances and various other long term diseases. Depending on how chronic or acute the stress is and how quickly one recognises their condition to address it, one can minimise the effects of stress.
Adaptogens are usually natural substances, herbs or even essential oils that respond according to the various stresses, working on what is needed to balance the stress that is occurring at the time within the body or mind.
They also have an impact on the adrenals which give rise to changes that occur during the fight and flight primitive response we all have, connected to our Autonomic Nervous system (ANS). This happens when our cortisol levels are on a rise constantly affecting the adrenals, leading to adrenal fatigue. So adaptogens help in stabilising these stress factors and also help when the body gets into a sluggish lethargic mode by uplifting it, thereby enabling the body to use its energy more productively. It adapts and adjusts itself to bring the body into balance and therefore the term adapt is used. Adaptogens also assist in managing the body’s hormonal response to stress.
Essential oils and base oils besides when blended right create a synergy which assists in balancing the body. Through our clinical research we have seen these amazing tools of mother nature work on different levels. Depending on what the body is requiring at that point of time and the state of the mind, whether to invigorate or calm as well,they bring about an equilibrium on a physical, mental and emotional level. These adaptogens will instigate a reaction in the body that is appropriate to achieve a state of homeostasis or balance.
A potent ingredient that is widely known and researched as an adaptogen is Tulasi, the Holi Basil. Tulasi (Ocimum Sanctum) is known for its blood purification and detoxifying properties. It has a pungent and bitter taste, its potency is hot and its post digestive is pungent, so it is a very rejuvenating and activating oil but it also helps the mind to stay calm and relaxed as it brings it into focus and balance. It grounds you, thereby decreasing stress induced Vata imbalance. Tulasi is also a great decision maker, so it works on all levels and is a powerful adaptogen.
Tulasi also has an ability to work on the adrenals and again as an adaptogen balances the adrenals thereby relieving stress and adrenal fatigue. It can be used for balancing sleep patterns in as much as it rejuvenates the body.
While there is a definition of what can be called an adaptogen, being a fairly new prospective and term in Western Medicine, however in Ayurveda adaptogenic qualities of herbs are widely known but not within the defined terminology. The more research is being done on adaptogens the more we see Ayurveda herbs gain popularity within Western formulations. This includes as written above not only Tulasi but also Ashwagandha(Withania somnifera), Brahmi(Bacopa moniera) and Turmeric (Curcuma longa). Through my own clinical work, using these ingredients in their herb form but also some in topical form, we have seen some incredible results when working through various stressful conditions.
These special herbs have got what we call in Ayurveda a special prabhav or a special energetic or auric effect of the plant which gives it the ability to help the body cope more effectively with stress. Eg Brahmi as a herb while its physical effect is as a great anti inflammatory, it has the special prabhav in calming and rejuvenating the mind, at the same time it aids memory and is known in Ayurveda for dementia and also for irregular sleep patterns, anxiety and mental health conditions
Turmeric: Ayurveda talks of the Prabhav which is the special energetic or auric effect of the plant which gives it its own unique attribute and quality despite the chemistry that it holds. In India we give turmeric powder in milk or honey immediately after an accident to stop internal bleeding as well as assists where a clot could occur. It is an old grandma's recipe. Turmeric much to the disbelief of some western herbalists and aromatherapists, can be a coagulant of blood and also an anti coagulant as it stops bleeding including internal bleeding, but also, if there is a blood clot, it releases it. Therefore it virtually acts as a balancer creating homeostasis. It is a great adaptogen in that it helps to restore the body to its natural terrain, making it a potent tool in bringing body and mind to balance. My Professor in Ayurveda, Dr P H Kulkarni also calls it a well wisher of women as it can go through the minutest of channels where other herbs cannot penetrate.
I was really happy top see recently a study on Kewda (Pandanus odoratissimus ) as an adaptogen and for it to receive this recognition. I have used Kewda since the 90s in my clinic with some wonderful adaptogenic results. Not only is Kewda a soothing oil, it also is an oil of joy and can take one through ripples of sleep in a very short time and wake up, feeling very energised. This is from my own personal experience and having used it on others, I have seen the difference in them as well. It also balances hormones as it is excellent for mother and child especially for the growth of the foetus as it keeps the mother and baby happy and calm.
In Subtle Energies, as we developed from a clinic into a brand, one of our most loved formulas was our Rasayana Detox Blend. Although it is marketed for detox massage, fluid retention and cellulite, with active ingredients such as Tulasi, Wild Turmeric, Kewda and base oil of Ashwagandha the adaptogenic qualities are profound. Having a direct impact on adrenal fatigue and stress, this blend can help restore and activate the mental and emotional states, bringing the mind into focus and enhancing clarity. Working topically through the skin and via the olfactory the entire Rasayana range used in our treatments works in true and total harmony with the body.
The Rasayana formula has a fresh, energising citrus aroma, with a spicy undertone. It is beneficial for promoting energy, supporting circulation and lymphatic movement, reducing the appearance of cellulite and toning the body. Packed with a potent complex of adaptogens, this collection is able to help with stress, resistance, lethargy, fatigue, immunity support and hormonal balance.