By Dr. Jean-Luc Provost

Stress affects each of us in many ways. From the urbanites’ daily grind to weekend warriors, even to professional athletes, stress can really take a toll on our bodies. Chronic stress can lead to negative effects, such as running down our immune system, causing insomnia, weight gain, and premature aging, just to mention a few.

How are modern day athletes able to combat these effects? One way is to examine what ancient humans used to combat stress – medicinal adaptogenic herbs. Long before the Olympic Games began, ancient scientists were keeping humans strong using herbal medications that helped the body and mind “adapt” to many types of stress.

Used properly, these herbs can help athletes recover and stay strong and can help chronically ill patients recover from severe illness. For educational purposes only let’s review a few of these adaptogenic herbs.

Ashwaganda (Withania somiferum) has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 4,000 years for exhaustion and high levels of chronic stress. It’s also known to have aphrodisiac properties that could possible aid in erectile dysfunction and fertility.

Rhodioloa (Rhodiola rosea), found in the high north tundra and Arctic, it’s the herb of endurance that’s great for chronic physical and mental demands. Athletes and students may experience increased performance with the proper use of this herb.

Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) is a berry known in China for its sexual tonic qualities and ability to help with long-term stress and mental exhaustion. Berries can be eaten  as is or mixed with other adaptogenic herbs for combating stress on the body and mind.

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), popular due to the Soviet research, it’s given to Russian cosmonauts for health assistance while in space. Who knows, maybe even given to athletes at the Sochi Olympics?

Herbs are only as good as their overall quality so pay attention to where they originate, how they are harvested, which part of the plant is used as well as freshness and overall quality. There are often vast differences between quality brands and less expensive ones. Don’t buy based on price – quality needs to be your guide when working with herbal products.

Always consult your specially trained medical professional before starting any herbal products, especially if pregnancy is a possibility. It is possible for herbal medications to interact with prescription and over the counter (OTC) medications and drugs, and cause undesirable interactions.