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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.

Video: Rachelle for Well+Good on the benefits of cacao and how to make herb-infused dark chocolate (includes recipe!)

Things that have never been more popular: CBD and cauliflower—and now cacao. The superfood is a staple in healthy recipes, snacks, and desserts. But beyond the taste, are there any legitimate benefits of cacao?

Enter Well+Good’s new video series, Plant-Based, which aims to dig deep (pun intended) into all things that grow in the ground and how they impact your health and nutrition. For the first episode, we talked to herbalist and holistic nutritionist Rachelle Robinett to get the goods on all things cacao and, TL;DR, I really want to run to Whole Foods and grab some cacao nibs right now.

Cacao is not the same as chocolate. Like cocoa powder and chocolate, it comes from the cacao bean, but cacao is made from unroasted, cold-pressed beans and without added sugar. This helps it preserve a very impressive nutrient profile, says Robinett.

“Cacao is very nutrient dense,” says Robinett. It’s high in antioxidants as well as nutrients like magnesium (which can help reduce stress), potassium, and iron. Cacao is also high in healthy fats to help us stay satiated and energized, she adds.

Another perk to cacao is its alkaloid content. Alkaloids are naturally-occurring compounds often found in plants; the alkaloids in cacao, Robinett says, “interact with different neurotransmitters in our body and help us feel good.” So, yeah, there’s a reason why eating a piece of dark chocolate makes you feel so damn good.

All of this makes cacao a great before-bed snack. “I am a huge fan of cacao or dark chocolate before bed,” Robinett says. Cacao has only minimal amounts of caffeine and considering its magnesium and alkaloid profile, it’s something to try when you want to calm down, she says. Yet another reason to look forward to bedtime, IMO!

For more on the benefits of cacao, plus a delicious dark chocolate recipe straight from Robinett, be sure to watch the video above.

this story originally appears on Well+Good

A Science-Driven Guide To A Good Night's Sleep | written for Buffy

Photo by Kevin Buitrago.

Photo by Kevin Buitrago.

As a holistic health practitioner certified in both complementary and integrative health and Clinical Herbalism, Rachelle Robinett knows how sleep can impact everything from productivity to neuroprotection. While she knows the plant for just about any ailment (she’s the founder of herbal cafe Supernatural, after all), she’s the first to confirm that how we sleep at night depends on how we spend our day. Syncing circadian rhythms won’t take long with the right routine—and she has a few notes to get us started.

Tune into nature.

If the goal is to feel tired when it’s time to fall asleep, we need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system—aka our “rest and digest” state—and minimize the “fight or flight” of the daily grind. The proof is in biology: we respond to daylight and nightlight at a cellular level.

Natural light (or absence of it) triggers the release of hormones that dictate how alert we are. The hormone cortisol is like our body’s morning cup of coffee, and a tuned-in body will release it in the morning to help wake us up. Melatonin is like our evening chill pill, which we get a shot of when our body senses that the sun is setting and the day is winding down. One study found that just a few more hours of light could shift a body clock by six hours in one week, making it essential to be sensitive to nature’s rhythms.

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