Answers to the mystery of immortality may already be growing in your home garden. The very same herbs that help in the healing of innumerable diseases, infections and chronic illnesses can also help us to live longer, healthier lives.
A great number of the most effective herbs are known as adaptogens, which assist the body in its natural task of maintaining homeostasis – the delicate state of balance necessary to survival and healing. A body out of balance is considered to be in “negative homeostasis,” a condition in which the restorative (anabolic) and degenerative (catabolic) systems of the body may not function properly,eventually leading to experience symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, weight fluctuation and impaired libido. But adaptogens help the body adapt to and compensate for change. In a person with high blood sugar, for example, an adaptogenic herb might help to lower glucose levels in the body; whereas, in a person with low blood sugar, the herb would help to raise them.
Because of this ability to improve the body’s stress response, adaptogenic herbs can literally add years to a person’s life. Here are a few you should know:
Believed to be a sacred incarnation of divinity by many Hindus, the holy basil plant (a cousin of sweet basil) is also called tulsi, or “the incomparable one.” This name refers to its seemingly unparalleled abilities to reduce stress, increase energy and encourage longevity. It is most often recommended for cardiovascular conditions, hypertension and diabetes. Doubling too as an insect repellent, this incredible plant is easy to grow and may be served either fresh or dried.
Known in Taoist tradition as the “mushroom of immortality” and considered by traditional Chinese medicine to be a “superior herb,” red reishi is the most common variety used medicinally. It helps to increase energy while also improving conditions of coronary heart disease, immune disorders, cancers as well as high cholesterol and arthritis. It is ideally served cooked in soups but may also be taken either in extract or powdered form.
Similar to ginseng in its chemical composition, this miracle herb is literally called “the immortality herb” by the Chinese. One of its primary features is that it increases the fat-burning rate by assisting the liver to move carbohydrates and other sugars into the muscles, rather than storing them. In addition, its effects on cardiovascular health have earned it the nickname of “herbal heart defender.” Not only does it help to regulate blood pressure and raise good cholesterol while lowering the bad; it also protects against heart attacks and stroke by helping to reduce arterial blockages. Jiaogulan is commonly served in the form of a tea.
Another of Chinese medicine’s healing marvels, astragalus has earned a reputation for its deep healing effects on the immune system. Working wonders on countless health conditions including seasonal allergies, cold and flu, fatigue, inflammation, blood pressure and circulation, heart disease, liver toxicity, diabetes, and cancer, the potent influence of this herb has grown in popularity to such a degree that even pharmaceutical companies are using parts of the plant as base ingredients for new prescription drugs. Particularly interesting is astragalus’ ability to slow the aging process by promoting the health of telomeres, which help hold chromosomes together. It is available in the form of an extract, powder or tablet supplement.
Sage stands alone on this list as the only herb not considered an adaptogen, but that doesn’t appear to diminish its ability to promote longevity. Of the nearly 900 varieties of sage known today, garden sage and Spanish sage are the two most commonly used for healing. Revered by the ancient Aztecs, this “herb of immortality” has an immediate calming and clarifying effect on congestion, making breathing easier, and even banishing headaches as it contributes to clearer thinking and enhanced memory. You may also find the quality of your sleep improves. In some cultures, those who drank sage tea were thought never to grow old. Sage oil has even demonstrated cancer-fighting, immune-boosting and heart-protecting properties.
Remember that medicinal herbs can have reactions with some medications and certain health conditions. Those who are pregnant, nursing or who have autoimmune conditions may be especially vulnerable to complications. Be sure to seek counsel from a health professional before you begin any new herbal protocol.