Burnout: Adaptogens versus TapRoot
We have been receiving an increasing number of e-mails from people recently who are talking about their burnout and use of stimulating adaptogens, wondering if we have a product for them. These are e-mails from people ranging in age from their early twenties to their fifties and sixties. Sometimes people will use the term burnout when writing into us, and sometimes I group their symptoms into this category.
The idea that burnout is a prevalent problem in our culture and the concept that plants are particularly adept at treating it is nothing new. We can look through Classic Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, other indigenous herbal traditions, and even contemporary Western herbalism to see sources and citations of this. Each system includes the use of adaptogens. It its current iteration, they were originally defined in 1947 by pharmacologist N.V. Lazarev, adaptogens are a class of medicinal herbs (plants and fungi) "that increase resistance to a broad spectrum of harmful factors (stressors) of different physical, chemical and biological natures."
This definition has since been updated, and today adaptogens are defined as "new class of metabolic regulators (of a natural origin) which increase the ability of an organism to adapt to environmental factors and to avoid damage from such factors." However, use of adaptogens, such as Chinese Ginseng (Panax ginseng) date back nearly 5000.
In popular, Western herbalism there is a large emphasis placed on adaptogens, and at times it seems that they are recommended one hundred percent of the time to treat a variety of conditions. People often talk about how they are strengthening to the adrenal glands, and that by assisting the adrenals we are able to mitigate stress and thereby promote wellness. The adrenal glands are physical structures which rest atop each kidney and are divided into different sections, the cortex being the part of the adrenal glad that deals with hormones. The cortex produces several hormones in response to stress: cortisol, adrenaline (epinephrine), and noradrenaline. The adrenal cortex also produces androgen hormones. Sensing stress, the hypothalamus secretes Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which stimulates the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from the pituitary gland, which then acts upon the adrenal glands to produce the "stress hormones," cortisol, adrenaline (epinephrine), and noradrenaline. This physiological pathway is called the HPA axis, short for the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. You might have heard about it. A shared pathway is the HPG axis, the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonad axis, responsible for the majority of sex hormone production (which we have talked about at length before).
Adaptogenic herbs act upon this axis and are thought to improve the functioning of the adrenal glands in response to stress, and in so doing so, increase the body's stress threshold--that is, increasing how much stress you can have in your life before that stress becomes detrimental to your health. Popular adaptogens include the aforementioned Chinese Ginseng (Panax ginseng), and also Maca (Lepidium meyenii), Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis), and Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), to name just a few.
Generally speaking, people seek out adaptogens (and other medicinal herbs) when a problem presents itself. With adaptogens, it is usually some symptom of stress. This might include tiredness, chronic fatigue, malaise, poor sleeping, frequent colds and other illnesses, short temper/frustration, lack of drive, weight gain, and various reproductive complaints, including loss of libido and performance. We live in a culture that is highly stimulated, with a constant focus on production and growth, were personality traits such as drive, competitiveness, energy, hyper-sexualization, youth, and strength are the most revered and rewarded. This leads many into a state early aging, leaving people completely burnt out, many times at young as in their early twenties. If you doubt society's focus on these traits, one look at the marking industry and the cultural obsession with caffeinated drinks and you will better understand.
Being that it is incredibly difficult to divorce oneself from this culture, for a myriad of reasons, most people are caught in its perpetualness. When our bodies begin to reject the overstimulation, we are attracted to substances which seem to embody what we feel we have lost. We want to perform at that level--maybe we even feel that we have to perform at that level. Enter in the adaptogens.
Adaptogens promise a lot and they have a lot to deliver. I do not mean to diminish what important plant medicines they are. However, the problem with adaptogens is that for the most part, in particular the adaptogens that are so popular in the West, they are highly stimulating. We like them because we like the feeling of stimulation and they provide that. But all too often, after the honeymoon is over, they leave us feeling just as bad, or worse, than when we started. We need a deeper understanding of ourselves, and of what herbalism has to offer, to find real solutions.
The Chinese Five Element model offers a dialectic for diagnosis and it also offers a dialectic for understanding the cyclical patterns that exists within and outside of us--on the micro and the macrocosm. When we look outside, we see how the seasons change around us, how Fall turns into Winter, which gives birth to Spring, the heath of Summer follows, and the fifth season--Harvest--completes the cycle back to Fall.
There is a constant coming and going, a cyclical, symbiotic relationship between the seasons. For instance, Fall and Winter prepare for the growth of Spring and Summer, which produces great agricultural abundance during the Harvest season and into Fall, which allows us to move back into the quieter Winter months. But in our culture we are stuck in the growth and production phase, with complete disregard to how these cycles are inherent in us just as they are inherent outside of us. The last thing our bodies need when they seem to be falling apart from all the stimulation is more stimulation--yes this is what we give them, even those interested in natural medicine and herbs rely on stimulating adaptogens.
I argue, and many others do too, for a different approach, and we are getting fantastic feedback with it. When people contact us wanting to learn more about how herbs, like Pine Pollen, may be able to help them with their reproductive complains (such as erectile dysfunction, low libido, low testosterone), they almost always include clues into the larger picture of their symptoms. I believe that for most, these reproductive complaints are the result of burnout, as I've mentioned many times before. Libido provides a concise illustration of this.
Libido, as we know, is the word used to describe sexual desire. When people talk about low or high libido, they are talking about how much they desire sex. The word desire is used to encompass all of our other desires in life--every single one of them except for sex. They are seen as two distinct things. Instead, sexual desire is a sub-category of desire. When people talk about low libido, they also talk about lack of desire in other parts of their lives, possible with work, friends, hobbies, or athletics. We need to think about desire as a bank account, and when its running low--or is empty altogether--we have no desire to spend on anything, including sex. So when we're burnt out, when stress has started to manifest physically and mentally, reproductive complaints rest within this overall complaint. They should not be seen as separate.
To find more desire in life, we need to deposit more into that bank account (and stop spending it, too, on things which do not serve us). If we want our health and vitality to return, we also need to deposit more into that bank account. Within this analogy, using stimulating herbs in this case would be like signing up for a few new credit cards or taking out a second mortgage on the house in trying to make ends meet and supporting a lavish lifestyle beyond one's means.
With our TapRoot Formula, we worked with a master TCM formulator to produce a product which addresses the underlying pathologies of stress and the deeper ways in which stress manifests itself. In terms of Chinese medicine, the formula is designed to clear Heat and Dampness while also tonifying Jing and Qi. Using the economic model above, it is akin to both paying off your debts and putting money in the bank. This formula was developed specifically for the needs of our customers.
What we hear back from people is that all areas of their lives have improved. Libido didn't just improve, but also their drive at work. People sleep better and wake up rested with less sleep needed. People do not rely on coffee in the mornings anymore. I am deeply honored to be part of such profound healing.
Here are two reviews which people have published on our website:
Reviewer: Kristian Staev from Lewiston, ME United States
Profound restoration and clearing of heat!
his is a treasure, one of the few STRENGTHENING formulas I have ever seen/used; this is one company that knows what they're doing and I would sincerely wish everyone educated themselves on it and did NOT pass it up!
I used this for 3 weeks straight, twice a day, and still have about a fifth left (which goes a LONG way)! From the first use I felt deep relaxation and clearing, very light and I could feel a DEEP nourishment happening (for anyone anxious about not getting noticeable results). I'd recommend it on as empty a stomach as possible and in larger amounts/more frequent doses if you are new to such formulas, although TIME is key; a little over time goes a long way and IS the better choice. I've had some issues resolved and have regained ACCESS to my deeper vitality and have also had a great deal of it replenished with this! It's delicious and goes great in gynostemma tea and with camellia sinensis pollen powder; try it! I hope to always have some on stand-by!
Reviewer: Anonymous Person from La Jolla, CA United States
Gives You Your Life Back
I had been through several cycles of severe burnout that affected me physically, and worse, mentally. I have tried close to $1,000 worth of products from Raw Forest, Tap Root has been by far the best at addressing this problem. I wake up naturally and fall asleep naturally. It reduced my caffeine and other stimulant use by 80%. I actually enjoy my coffee now instead of needing it immediately in the am and throughout the day. The natural reduction in caffeine dependence with no side effects or headaches is a massive benefit not to be understated.I am in a better mood, feel like working out again, and I don't feel apathetic about my massive workload. I'm sure this stuff is helping out my body too, but for me the mental changes are by far the biggest benefit. This, in conjunction with Pine Pollen and Camellia Pollen is really helping me. Thank you Raw Forest for creating Tap Root and please never stop making it. Seriously. Keep making this stuff.
In conclusion, I am writing this post, as stated in the opening paragraph of this post, to reach out to people to are suffering from burnout. Being burned out isn't a natural way to live, and either is living in our overstimulated, 24/7 culture. Breaking yourself away from that culture is no small task, but hopefully seeing where the pathology resides and finding appropriate herbs to assist you on your journey is just a little more achievable.