This piece will cover the topic of cortisol, a chemical that has far-reaching effects and is activated by stressors, such as danger or stress in general (both physical and/or emotional). We are then going to detail a couple of herbal adaptogens that are effective against cortisol and stress in general. Let’s jump into it!
Firstly, an adaptogen (if you recall from previous articles I’ve written) is an herb that assists the body in minimizing stress and its effects. It is important that you keep this term in mind, as it is a tool you will need for your herbal supply kits and naturopathic aids. Stress can take the form of emotional stress that is brought about by a dangerous, painful, or uncomfortable situation we must deal with.
Dealing with stress is normal on a daily basis. Physical stress can be brought on by illness, injury, or from rigorous and/or excessive training and exercise. For both types of stress, we must turn our focus on cortisol. What is it? Basically, cortisol is produced by the adrenal cortex: part of the adrenal gland situated upon the kidneys that are also responsible for the production of adrenalin.
Since I’ve probably bored you already, let’s cut to the chase. The adrenal glands secrete cortisol (also referred to as hydrocortisone), a hormone that helps to regulate the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. “So what?” you may say. So, during times of danger, your body secretes this as part of the sympathetic-parasympathetic response to help provide you with the impetus you need to pour on the energy and speed and get away.
There’s a catch, and it returns to catabolism, a term we used in past articles to describe the process in which the body breaks down (particularly the muscles) a part of itself in order to utilize the protein and turn it into glycogen and then convert it to glucose, the primary fuel for just about all living things. When this happens to weightlifters who have gone “beyond their wall,” so to speak, the catabolism is referred to as “cannibalism,” and it occurs for every ½ hour trained beyond the wall…the max…when the body breaks down 5 to 10 grams of muscle tissue to convert it to glycogen and then to glucose to fuel the body.
That does not sound as if it’s a big deal; however, the 5 to 10 grams is fully developed muscle tissue. Also, if unreplenished? It occurs every half hour you train or exert yourself beyond your limits without replenishing your nutrients. It requires hundreds of times those amounts just to produce the muscles in the first place. The cortisol is necessary in times that a person cannot “refuel” in the form of food: it is a built-in protective mechanism that the species has to help preserve itself in times of danger, and in times of a shortage/inability to resupply.
The herbal adaptogens reduce the amount of cortisol produced during times of stress, both in a disaster and when you’re working out to the max. The two for recommendation is Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis), and Ashwagandha (Wisteria somnifera). Both of these herbs are able to be taken prior to a training event, and also on a daily basis (regularly) for the prevention of stress, as well as increasing your capabilities, such as VO2 max and power output.
Schisandra you have to cycle: 25 to 30 days on, and then 7 days off of it, to derive maximum benefits, with peaks coming between 3-5 days into the cycle if you’re training. I recommend Nature’s Way brand, with 100 capsules of 580 mg apiece. You want about 1,000 mg per day, in two divided doses. You can cycle it 25 days on, then 7 off, then another 25 days to give you an almost two month supply from one bottle. When used, it has been shown to reduce cortisol levels by up to 19%.
Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb, used in India for almost 5,000 years. We published an article about it previously. The minimum effective dosage is 300 to 500 mg per day, but cost-effectiveness and good results can be obtained by using one of these per day at 800 mg. Ashwagandha lowers cortisol levels between 14 and 29%.
You can take this each day continuously, without cycling it. Just be sure you take it with a meal, and the optimal time is in the morning, with breakfast.
You can research these two herbs as well as other supplements at www.examine.com for very comprehensive scientific and medical reviews with excellent presentations…another resource for your prepper archives.
The Schisandra will run you about $16.00 for a bottle (a two-month supply), and the Ashwagandha about $9.00 a bottle (also a two-month supply). They are cost-effective and deliver a lot for your dollars. You can stock up on them for your supplies, as well as having them on hand to use on a daily basis.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and in this case, you can blend both of these two herbal supplements into your daily routine without batting an eye. They are safe and effective with no contraindications, and readily available for your training needs in sports and exercise, as well as an excellent tool to help you prepare and also maintain yourself in tough times of disasters and emergencies. JJ out!