interview

ADAPTING BETTER: A CLINICAL HERBALIST'S TAKE ON THE ADAPTOGENIC TREND & CBD

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There is a direct correlation between my age and my appreciation of ziplock bags. What began as a love for cinnamon in my coffee, a mistrust of airport Starbucks’ stevia supplies, and a subscription to the goop newsletter has led me to my current state: a ziplock-touting woman of lypospheric vitamin C packs, mushroom coffee sachets, and ashwaganda drops. 

I know who I am. I don’t, however, know how these highly-buzzed-about adaptogens actually work in the body, or in conjunction with my CBD regime. 

I sat down with Holistic Health Practitioner, Clinical Herbalist, and Supernatural Cafefounder Rachelle Robinett to get answers. She’s dedicated 5+ years helping people release stress, ease anxiety, and optimize their digestion, energy, hormones, weight, and sleep. Here’s her take on the adaptogenic rush, and how CBD fits into it. 

Rachelle, we’re seeing adaptogens everywhere these days. What are they and what can they do for us?

Glad you asked! Adaptogens have become such a buzz-word recently – people are consuming them without understanding how they work and then feeling underwhelmed by the results, so it's so important to clarify. 

I teach entire courses on this topic - but here’s the quick and dirty. 

“Adaptogen” is a term that was coined in the 1960s during a study of some specific herbs; Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthero), Rhodiola, and Ashwaganda are the standouts. 

Adaptogens are just one classification of herbs. There are so many others, and the definition of an adaptogen is that it’s nonspecific, nontoxic at therapeutic doses, and normalizing. 

The nonspecific and normalizing points are important for people to understand, because it means adaptogens cannot be directed at a specific sort of result or symptom the way many people try to use them these days. 

Adaptogens balance the body in a more general way, helping to return our systems to a sort of homeostasis. Adaptogens are not necessarily going to push you beyond “normal.” Other herbs definitely can and do (caffeine, sedatives, antidepressants) but adaptogens are for returning to balance. If you’re looking for something with a more immediate or “punchy” effect - something that's going to calm you down or rev you up beyond your “normal,” you need an herb that is more specific than an adaptogen. Balancing the body is great, but I think people need to consider if that’s what they’re after, or if they’re trying to push beyond that

I also have to call this out: “adaptogens” is not a synonym for “herbs.” There are so many classifications of herbs beyond adaptogens. We just happen to have some very good marketing behind the adaptogens right now, which is why many folks think this category is the main medicine or miracle cure.  

Studies are showing that CBD balances the endocannabinoid system. Sounds similar to what you just described! Does this mean CBD is an adaptogen?

Even though CBD has similar benefits as adaptogens, I’m not going to be the one to classify it as such. I’d also like to point out that CBD is not an herb - it’s a specific molecule of the hemp or cannabis plant. A lot of CBD on the market today is CBD isolate. 

When it comes to CBD, I’m an advocate for full-spectrum extracts like Juna NUDE, which are going to contain the range of terpenes, phytocannabinoids, and flavonoids found in the whole hemp or cannabis plant that enhance the overall effectiveness of your CBD than if you took it in isolated form.

Can you give us some herb + CBD pairings for some of the conditions your treat most?

Anxiety: Lavender is my absolute favorite for anxiety. It's a nervine herb and contains the terpenes linalool and nerolidol, which play well with CBD in reducing pain (often a source of anxiety for clients), inflammation caused by chronic stress, and relaxing without being too sedative. Lavender lemonade with the botanical touch of Juna NUDE drops would be perfect. 

I love that lavender shares a lot of the terpenes with cannabis. This is a tangent, but it's a very cool conversation to explore the terpenes that are in other plants and that effect the endocannabinoid system as well. Terpenes are one of the most abundant compounds in nature, and as we see cannabis evolve, I think we will see more attention around terpenes for customizing therapies.

Energy: At a low dose, for some people, CBD can actually act as a stimulant. Some of my other favorite energy herbs are matcha, rhodiola, and medicinal mushrooms for endurance. Gingko, bacopa, and ginseng for brain health and mental clarity. The ginsengs often work best if you're a little later in life. 

Rosemary is also fabulous and contains BCP,  a terpene that can increase the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD. Rosemary + CBD to restore after intense exercise or hike can be a beautiful combination.

PMS: The plants that can work for PMS symptoms are pretty wide-ranging depending on what the PMS symptoms are. I definitely work a lot with diet and neurotransmitter balance (specifically serotonin), which can be affected prior to our cycles and cause a lot of cravings.

CBD + Phytoestrogens like red clover, milk thistle, and chaste can be so balancing. Add raspberry leaf and you have a powerhouse combination for cramps. Juna NUDE drops mixed with honey, then whisked into my Supernatural’s For Her tea is a favorite. 

Cacao, a central ingredient in everything from my breakfast to desserts, is awesome when you're craving chocolate or carbs, or maybe need some extra magnesium.

Maca powder works on the endocrine system that can help overall hormone balance, which includes sex hormones and stress hormones both. This, in turn, can be helpful for our mood, motivation, and raising our libido. 

Sleep: I find that CBD is really helpful for some folks’ sleep, and not for others. If it’s not helping with sleep, then we have lots of sedative herbs to do that job (chamomile, California poppy, hops, valerian - the list is long). If CBD is helpful, then a little nightcap of passionflower tea or tincture plus poppy or valerian and CBD drops could be a very reliable sleep-maker . 

We know that CBD can take about five days of consistent use to really feel the best results, is it the same for most of the combinations that you recommend? 

Super cool question. Some herbs are meant to be used long-term before you feel the effects and other herbs can be felt right away. I like to mix both of those into people's lives so that they have this sort of foundational support, and then they also have a “spot treatment” or go-tos when they need an immediate fix

For example, I may someone ashwagandha for long-term use (especially if their cortisol levels are really high and it’s causing over-reactivity). And, I'll also bring in some nervine herbs like skullcap or lavender to calm things down on the spot. My HRBLS are designed exactly that way: for long-term support and also immediate anxiety relief. 

Some of the herbs I have in my HRBL gummies are designed to work right on the spot, so you can quell the nerves and anxiety. But know that long term, you're also helping your system be better adapted to the stress. 

Above all, it’s important to realize that even with all of our stress-busting and sleep-inducing, energy supportive herbs, we are sensitive, variable human organisms. We are going to thrive by remedying unhealthy situations and addressing causes of illness or imbalance, rather than attempting to medicate every symptom. 

I hope that was helpful! Thank you so much for giving natural medicine a platform Let's keep it going. Thanks so much.

This article appears originally at juna, here.

Q&A with Herbalist Rachelle for Elanveda - ayurvedic body wellness

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Today on the blog we interview Rachelle Robinett, a wellness practitioner who uses a plant-based holistic approach to guide people on how to lead a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Specializing in Complementary & Integrative Health and Clinical Herbalism, Rachelle is a wealth of knowledge on traditional medicine (including Ayurveda), Reiki I attunement, meditation, plant-based nutrition, mindfulness, and positive psychology.

Rachelle is the founder of Supernatural – a company dedicated to real world, plant-based wellness that includes an “herbal cafe,” workshops and events, and personal health coaching—as well as HRBLS, a line of herb infused gummies. She is also a resident herbalist at CAP Beauty in NYC.

We sat down for a Q&A with Rachelle to talk Ayurveda, trends in wellness, and tips for everyday healthy living.

Q&A

ELANVEDA: Do you incorporate Ayurveda into your lifestyle? If so, how?

RACHELLE: I have a great deal of respect for Ayurveda. My approach is really global, so I look at Ayurveda for assisting myself or for clients, but I also look at traditional Chinese medicine, I look at Western herbalism, I look at nutrition… I look at a lot of different systems to draw from them as needed. So, often I’m dipping into Ayurveda, but not exclusively. I definitely identify as Vata, but I don’t always avoid aggravating it. For example, I love raw food and will continue to eat raw food! Other than that, I have also oil pulled for a very long time, and I dry brush often; I absolutely love it. 

E: Speaking of dry brushing, do you have some favorite herbal ingredients as far as skincare goes?

R: I love coconut, jojoba, honey, and fruit enzymes. If I’m doing any kind of facial exfoliation, I like to do an enzymatic refresh, and that tends to come from fruit peels. In terms of “beauty food” or “beauty herbs” I think that really comes from all the food that we eat and the lifestyle we live. But high-antioxidant herbs like rose hips or hibiscus can be really beautiful for getting the antioxidants you need for a nice glowy face—either topically or internally.

E: I know you’ve mentioned that Triphala is a staple for you. Any tips on how to incorporate Triphala into your regimen?

R: I personally like it for seasonal cleanses. My digestion moves really quickly, so I don’t use it on a regular basis. Periodically I’ll do a refresh of liquid meals and a course of triphala. I tend to recommend it to people for brief, focused periods of time, as opposed to sporadically. But I do have some clients who occasionally just need to move their digestive system more often than seasonally, if it naturally runs slower for them. The beauty of triphala is that it’s nourishing and not depleting.

E: Can you share a few go-to pharmaceutical swaps? i.e. natural alternative treatments for everyday ailments?

R: I want to start with a caveat that sometimes medication is really important, and I think there’s a place for pharmaceuticals, especially for severe mood imbalances or when we’re really sick. But if you’re looking for alternatives for the more daily aches and pains, herbs are where it’s at! For headaches you can look at white willow - that’s what Aspirin was originally made from. It can be used over time, especially for migraines. I really like cacao or 100% dark chocolate for headaches too. You get a little bit of a circulation boost and central nervous system stimulation—with only trace amounts of caffeine. Cacao is also full of magnesium and can be very relaxing.

There are so many herbs for sleep. I have an arsenal of these for my clients and can really tailor the selection based on which body system is keeping them up at night. Some of my favorites are Valerian, Chamomile and Lavender, California Poppy, Passionflower... It’s really individual as some people are having trouble sleeping because of a monkey mind, whereas others are feeling tension in their bodies, which something like rose petals can assist. I also love Skullcap, which is great for anxiety and incessant minds (I describe it as natural Xanax because it is binding to some of the same receptor sites in the brain as benzodiazepines). Kava is my favorite replacement for a glass of wine.

I definitely like garlic and ginger for colds and flus. I do use heat when treating people who are sick or trying to prevent sickness. Heat heat heat, spice spice spice, internal and out. Sweat it out.

E: Let’s talk adaptogens. “Adaptogen” is a big buzzword these days. What are your feelings on this kind of herb?

R: So, there’s a myth I’d like to bust—the notion that “adaptogen” is a synonym for “herb.” I’m starting to see that more and more, where people will say they’re taking adaptogens and then mention “chamomile” or “matcha,” but adaptogens is a very specific category of herbs, and there are lots of categories of herbs. And I don’t necessarily think adaptogens are the one that the modern world needs most; I think it’s the one that’s been really well marketed and caught on. The upside of that is that it’s opened a ton of hearts and minds to the power of plants. The downside is that there’s little understanding of what adaptogens are. The action of the adaptogen is nonspecific; it’s a broad, general effect in the body. In my experience, people are usually looking for a more specific action from herbs, be it antidepressant, or sleep aid, or something to help my anxiety or give me more energy or balance my hormones—and all of those actions come from plants that are more targeted in action. So, adaptogens are not bad, but it’s really worth understanding which herb is right for you. If it happens to be an adaptogen, great. If it’s not, great. Then it’s really important to know what dosage, what form, and when to take a break from it.

E: So, you live in New York City, and we’re based in Los Angeles. Something we often wonder is how to stay healthy living in a big, busy, polluted city when there’s so much toxicity in our environment?

R: It’s hard. I would say really focusing on the things we can control, like our water—using a good water filter—and making sure we’re sourcing our food from good places. If you have the means, then shopping at the farmer’s market is great. I think it’s a matter of inside-out. Making sure that our detoxification system—not just our liver, but remember that our skin, digestive system, kidneys, and lymph are all important in our body continuing to help us live in places like this with less damage than if it gets stagnant internally. For me, it’s eating really well and drinking really well. I’m a big fan of deep greens (vegetables and/or supplements like blue-green algae or chlorella). I think dry brushing is great, along with moving, lots and lots of sweating, staying hydrated, and just making sure we have enough roughage and hydration that our digestion is cleaning out every day if possible.

E: What’s a trend in the wellness industry you’d like to see grow?

R: Holistic plant-based wellness, meaning the inside-out, food first, regular use of plants for overall wellness, rather than spot-treating symptoms. Really building a relationship with the natural world again as our health support, whether it’s preventative or acute. Right now we’re very much in that stage of treating symptoms, putting out fires, and thinking about the “herb for this” and the “herb for that,” whereas we can think about every single bite and every single drink as an act of health. And it doesn’t mean that it all has to be “healthy.” If that glass of wine makes you happy and able to enjoy your life more fully, then please do—or birthday cake, or whatever it is. I don’t think that we need to pursue perfection, but we can think of health holistically (and even “basically”) as opposed to with a bandaging or damage-control approach.

E: What wellness trend would you like to see disappear?

R: It’s hard to say CBD or adaptogens because they’ve grown awareness of herbs and plant-based wellness so much. I think CBD is great, but it’s just one ingredient in the natural medicine cabinet along with all the other plants. It’s raising the awareness of the power of plants, and that’s excellent, but it absolutely, positively cannot compete with a diet or lifestyle that is out of balance. I see a lot of folks not adjusting diet or lifestyle and they’re distraught because they’ve started taking CBD and aren’t seeing life-changing benefits. I’m sympathetic  because a lot of the information out there suggests it’s going to cure us all. That said, there’s minimal harm in it. You have to figure out the dosage, and if it’s even the right remedy for whatever you’re dealing with. But it is a good thing if you can get good quality, proper dosage, and it’s the right plant for you. With it being so popular, there’s a lot of poor quality stuff. In the last year in New York, CBD went from being seen as sketchy to every single coffee shop, every single bodega, every single sandwich board that you walk by hollering, “CBD lattes!” “Weed lattes!” “We have weed!” It’s just everywhere, and it’s way too overblown. Over-marketing happens. CBD is great but it’s not the best, just like adaptogens are great but they’re not the best.

I think the trend, really with the human species, is this incessant pursuit of the “magic pill”—that we’re going to find the one thing: the one diet, the one herb, the one tactic that will make us live longer, make us lose weight, make us more beautiful, whatever it is that we want—and there’s this optimism that we’re going to figure it out tomorrow, like, “Maybe it’s CBD!” But we actually have figured it out; it’s just a little more involved than one food or one herb. It’s a holistic, natural lifestyle and balance that can actually make our lives better.

This interview is also available on Elanveda’s website, here.

Podcast: Supernatural Herbalism, Adaptogens, Trends, Productivity, Change + with Rachelle Robinett Herbalist and founder of Supernatural

“This was one of those conversations where I really got to know the guest during out chat. Rachelle and I met last summer at her cafe (Supernatural) where she gave me an energy ball to try. I liked her vibe and wanted to learn more about her, so I did what I always do –I asked her on the podcast! Months passed, we rescheduled about 1 million times, and then on a cold February evening I went to her amazing apartment in Brooklyn and we talked for over 2 hours. We covered her path to herbalism, her thoughts on kava, current wellness trends and dangers with that, her style (which I love), anxiety and herbs that help it, body image, heartbreak (and the ideal herbs that can help), and at the end we talk about a productivity tip that’s been extremely useful to me in the past few weeks since the episode. Hope you enjoy!”

Episode notes and more from Katie Dalebout, here.