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Ep 16: Demystifying Adaptogens with Dr. Tieraona Low Dog

Hosted by: MegaFood | Podcast



Ep 16: Demystifying Adaptogens with Dr. Tieraona Low Dog

runtime: 43:30


Ep 16: Demystifying Adaptogens with Dr. Tieraona Low Dog

What are adaptogens? Consumers are looking to the vast and mystical world of botanicals with increasing frequency, and adaptogenic herbs are no exception. Herbal expert Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, M.D. discusses what makes a plant an adaptogen, how adaptogens are used, and how to select ones that are right for you.

Adaptogenic herbs mentioned in this episode include bacopa, holy basil (tulsi), ashwaganda, rhodiola and maca.


If you enjoyed our discussion with Dr. Low Dog, you can learn more about her work at

Follow Dr. Low Dog on Facebook for herbal information and inspirational wisdom.

Products mentioned in today’s episode:

The effects of modern life can wreak havoc on restorative bodily processes, like sleep and relaxation. Look for some of our adaptogen-containing sleep and stress formulas, which can aid your body in achieving a greater sense of calm.

Announcer: [00:00] The statements in this podcast have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

[00:08] Welcome to Episode 16 of "That Supplement Show." Today, Abigail and Killeen are talking all about adaptogens. If you're seeing words like rhodiola, ashwagandha, and schisandra popping out more and more in your social media feed, you're not alone. The mystical world of adaptogens is on the rise in the western world of wellness.

[00:27] In this episode, we'll hear from integrative and herbal medicine expert Dr. Tieraona Low Dog on why everyone's falling in love with these age old, often hard to pronounce, plants and how to approach the use of adaptogens to benefit your own unique needs.

[00:39] Sounds pretty neat to me. Let's get ready to adapt, shall we?

Killeen: [00:44] Hey, Abigail. Long time no see.

Abigail: [00:46] Hey, Killeen. It's true. I've been MIA as of late, but I've been quite busy working on a presentation for an upcoming webinar that I'm hosting.

Killeen: [00:54] Ooh, what's the topic?

Abigail: [00:55] It's a hot one right now. As someone who's really interested in herbs, I'm very excited about it. I'm going to be talking about adaptogens.

Killeen: [01:00] It is so funny you say that. I've been doing some research myself lately in regards to today's podcast episode. You will never guess what it's about.

Abigail: [01:10] You're kidding.

Killeen: [01:11] I'm not. It's true. There is a ton of buzz surrounding adaptogens right now. It's like everybody wants to learn about them.

[01:19] Let's be honest, when it comes to our show, despite being super enthusiastic about health and wellness, I often do play the role of the novice. I'm going to be honest, adaptogens were right there in the category of things, I felt like I should know about by now, yet when it came down to it, I was still on the surface of the subject.

Abigail: [01:37] When you said that, I was hearing a lot of past tense there. Are you prepped and ready to be the adaptogen expert now? Are you going to school me?

Killeen: [01:44] [laughs] I can't call myself an expert, but I did just get the chance to talk to an expert. This is the part where I'm going to prep you, Abigail, for a few pangs of jealousy.

Abigail: [01:56] Killeen, where are you going with this? I think I know who you talked to, but if you did I really am going to be very jealous. Please tell me it wasn't Dr. Low Dog.

[02:09] It was, wasn't it? You talked to her without me?

Killeen: [02:13] Are you still going to talk to me if I say, "Yes"?

[02:16] I'm so sorry. I really am, but the opportunity arose before I had a chance to get you on the line. I didn't want to pass it up. It would have been great to have you there. You probably would have done way better than me, but here I was, the adaptogen novice, being taught by quite an expert, Tieraona Low Dog.

Abigail: [02:36] Absolutely. I'll forgive you only because I would have jumped at that chance, too.

[02:39] [laughter]

Killeen: [02:41] I do have a small consolation prize for you, which might help your webinar, actually. I had a feeling you wouldn't want to miss this conversation, and not to mention, she's an excellent presenter. Again, not trying to make you jealous here, but her passion really comes through in her voice. I recorded the conversation with her in hopes that you and I could use it on this very show.

Abigail: [03:02] That does help. I'm glad you recorded it, and for those that are regular listeners of "That Supplement Show," you've definitely heard us mention Dr. Tieraona Low Dog before, and you probably know why I'm pretty jealous that I didn't get a chance to chat with her, too.

[03:14] Not only is she this internationally recognized expert in the fields of ‑‑ wait for it ‑‑ integrated medicine, herbal medicine, and dietary supplementation, she also happens to be the formulator behind our collection of doctor‑formulated multivitamins, I can't wait to hear what she has to say on adaptogenic herbs.

Killeen: [03:32] Awesome, without further ado, let's roll the recording.

[03:35] [electronic beep]

[03:35] [phone ringing]

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [03:35] Hello, this is Tieraona.

Killeen: [03:36] Hi, Tieraona, this is Killeen calling from That Supplement Show. How are you today?

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [03:50] I'm great. Nice to hear from you.

Killeen: [03:53] I'm really excited to be talking to you today, because when we're recording our podcast, your name comes up so often, Tieraona. We know that you're a wealth of knowledge, and we thought our listeners would really benefit from your expertise. That said...

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [04:06] That's very kind. I hope I can help.

[04:09] [laughter]

Killeen: [04:09] I hope so, too. One of the things that I really like to do when I'm trying to figure out what it is people want to know about a topic, just go over to Google and start typing in. "Are adaptogens...," and see what comes up.

[04:27] When I did that, the first thing that came up was, "Are adaptogens real?" Right there, it's people are a little skeptical, and I feel like they're not quite sure of what to expect, if they're gimmicky. "Do they really work? Are they worth it?" What's your reaction there when you hear that?

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [04:48] It's an interesting position, "Are they real?" I think you'd have to step back and define what an adaptogen is so that you understand what the claims are, what they can and what they can't do.

[05:04] Adaptogens are nothing more or nothing less than plants that seem to have an affinity for the hypothalamic‑pituitary‑adrenal axis, what we call the HPA axis. This is a lot of what is involved in your stress response. When you're feeling an acute stressor, you're walking late at night, and you hear footsteps behind you in a dark street, all of us can anticipate how we would react. Our heart rate would go up. Our pupils would dilate. We would feel that fight or flight response.

[05:46] That all has to do with your central nervous system and this delicate system called the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. Adaptogens work predominantly in this system. When you use adaptogens, they tend to have a normalizing effect, a strengthening effect, a tonifying effect on this part of the body.

[06:11] For me, I look at 21st century living. I see that a lot of people are really overtaxed. They're overstressed. They're work out. They're fatigued. Many of these adaptogens may have some benefit.

[06:26] When you're talking about, "Is an adaptogen real?" It depends upon what you're saying it's going to do. If you're thinking about it as an herb that can be part of your toolkit to help you thrive in a changing environment, in a stressful environment, then I'd say that there's a lot there. If you're looking for it as the magic pill for youth, for anti-aging, for weight loss, make your hair thick...

[06:54] All of those other kinds of things that I do hear sometimes people claiming adaptogens do, maybe not, but definitely for those of us who take care of patients and who take care of people in clinical practice, adaptogens find their way into many of the treatment protocols.

Killeen: [07:13] That's such an interesting perspective. I like how you frame that. Can they be dangerous?

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [07:22] The good news is that most of the plants that are commonly sold in the United States that people are taking, they're going down to their local health food store and purchasing. Most of them actually have a pretty good safety profile. Adaptogens are no exception to that. Things like ashwagandha or bacopa, these actually have quite a good safety profile.

[07:48] The thing that you always want to remember is that if you're taking herbal medicines, or supplements, or even over the counter medications and you have an underlying health problem, or you're taking prescription medications, you're pregnant, your liver or kidneys don't work well, then if you're in one of those categories, you have to be more thoughtful about what you're taking.

[08:13] By and large, the adaptogens have a pretty good safety profile because they're intended to be taken over a period of time. I've reviewed a lot of the safety data on these plants as part of my work with the United States Pharmacopeia. Most of them have actually a very excellent safety profile for adults who are otherwise healthy.

Killeen: [08:38] I guess that would make sense. I see, like I said, if I'm online, I'm seeing so many companies popping up, advertising new adaptogen blends to be added, like I said, to a beverage or something of that nature.

[08:58] That makes me feel a little better, almost, because we put a lot of trust in a company. If somebody's selling something you say, "Hey, yeah. I'll give this a try," without really thinking about what kind of effect it could have on the body.

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [09:10] I agree. I think that you have to remember that adaptogen is a relatively new term for this. A thousand years ago, people weren't clustering these herbs together that come from all different parts of the world and saying, "These are adaptogens." Many of these had very specific uses. For physical fatigue, for convalescing. Holy basil, which is a lovely herb to drink. I grow it in my garden. I love to take the leaves and just make tea out of it.

[09:47] Holy basil was consumed in old times. 1,400, 1,500 years ago, it was taken and consumed by the Betic scholars in what is now India to sharpen their intellect and help them memorize these lengthy scriptures. Memorizing chapters of a book. They would use holy basil to help them be able to memorize.

[10:16] Holy basil has long been used to sharpen the mind, help with clarity of thought. It has a calming and relaxing effect on you. It's a holy basil. It's got an excellent safety profile. What I'm trying to say is that each of these herbs had a specific use that they were used for.

[10:37] In modern times, because of our understanding of physiology, we grouped them together as adaptogens, but each one you have to look at very individually. You have to take each plant and talk about it, and its own personality, its own constituents, its own effects on your physiology.

[10:58] Even though I said they loosely interact with the stress system, the stress response system in the body, they are unique. Each one of them has a slightly different benefit in the body.

Killeen: [11:12] That's a really powerful example, too. Thinking about a plant growing in a region where people have this super intimate relationship with it, whereas today, we can walk to the shelf and pick something up and say, "Hey, this looks good." I think that's where I was trying to go with this is, like you said this, this overarching term for all of these individual unique plants.

[11:36] It's a lot to take in. That, I think, is exactly why when I go to Google, people are asking, "Are they real? Do they work? Are they worth it?" It's really funny when you really think back to somebody, scholars, drinking a tea so that they could memorize. That's an intimate relationship versus what many of us have today.

[11:57] I was saying earlier, I have a little bit of holy basil in my garden, but I really didn't know what to do with it. [laughs] It's just because I was intrigued. I picked it up at my favorite little perennial sale and said, "Oh, I'll put this in." We just have so much learning to do. It's not always instinctual.

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [12:17] You can just harvest the leaves. Pinch back the top as it begins to flower. Pinch it back like you would a normal basil. You'll get thicker foliage, thicker leaves, and then you can just harvest it as you want it and just make tea out of it. It's a wonderful, delicious tea.

[12:34] You can get it at a lot of health food stores, natural grocers. They sell it as Tulsi. Tulsi is just an absolutely delicious tea. If you're studying, if you're working on a project, and you're just thinking, "Oh, I want something that's kind of calming, but that'll help me focus without caffeine," holy basil is a nice tea to drink.

Killeen: [12:57] Now in piggybacking off of that, we're talking about holy basil as just one of many, many plants that are grouped as adaptogens. You touched upon it earlier I think, with a term about how the adaptogen functions in the body. What else characterizes an adaptogenic plant from another herb? Is there a way to know, or is it more just knowledge that you have to accumulate?

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [13:27] As I said, this term adaptogen was coined in the 1940s when researchers first were studying ginseng. They had a terrible time trying to describe what ginseng was doing when they were studying it, both in animals and people. When they would give somebody or an animal ginseng, it seemed to have a very normalizing effect on the animal or the person that was taking it.

[13:54] If the blood pressure was a little high, it tended to bring it down. If the blood pressure was a little low, it tended to bring it up. It was very interesting. The Soviet researchers were trying to come up with some sort of term, to define this normalizing effect on our physiological systems. They termed ginseng an adaptogen.

[14:14] It was our first premier adaptogen. You have an had plants that were called Rasayanas, which were these plants that were said to strengthen the body when it was under a lot of stress. They had ones that were specific for the body when it was under a lot of stress, or for the mind when it was under a lot of stress.

[14:38] They used a different term. In western herbal medicine, a lot of these were called alternatives or tonics. The term adaptogen is a relatively new term, to describe these plants that seemed to have their nourishing effect on our nervous system.

[14:57] A very nourishing effect when the body is under a lot of stress, whether it's physical stress from laboring and work like it probably was in hundreds and hundreds of years past, but also the modern stresses that people have today. Many of these plants like Ashwagandha, comes to us from the Indian subcontinent.

[15:23] It's a very popular herb in the United States now. The studies have shown that it has significant stress protecting properties. Also, studies show that it reduces anxiety, and it helps lower cortisol levels when they're elevated. Cortisol is one of our stress hormones.

[15:44] This has been shown in randomized controlled trials, with placebos and in comparing an active to an inert placebo pill. When people take Ashwagandha, they tend to feel a sense of calm. Over the months, they feel like they're perceiving themselves as having less stress, and even their body is producing less stress hormones.

[16:10] Isn't it interesting that Ashwagandha has this long, long history in India, of being used as one of their premier herbs to strengthen the body, to strengthen the mind? Today, modern science in randomized controlled trials are finding the same thing. It's interesting. In Ashwagandha, one of the studies that was more recently done actually was giving people who were overweight, but we're under a lot of stress.

[16:40] They said that they were really stressed. They tended to eat more sugar, they had a lot of food cravings, not unlike most of us. In this study, they gave people Ashwagandha or a placebo, and then followed them out. They were using questionnaires like food craving questionnaires and stress scales.

[17:00] They also measured their weight and their serum cortisol, looking at that stress hormone. What they found was that the group that got the Ashwagandha versus the placebo, the people, they lost more weight, they felt less stress, their serum cortisol went down.

[17:18] The authors were just raising the question, could Ashwagandha help people who feel like they're under chronic stress dealing with trying to manage their weight, could Ashwagandha be useful?

[17:30] This is why I'm saying, there's a lot of interesting research coming out right now that suggests that some of these plants may be very, very helpful for us living in modern times under so much stress. That's fascinating to me.

Killeen: [17:47] It is fascinating. It's so interesting that what was once just innate knowledge of turning to ashwagandha, it seems like we lost that along the way. Now, we're at a point where we can research and find out like, "Oh, hey, we were on to something [laughs] all those thousands of years ago."

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [18:09] We were. You're absolutely right, though, because most of the time, we don't just go randomly pick a plant out of nature and just start studying it. Sometimes we do that in drug development, but that's not the way we do most research on herbal remedies.

[18:26] We look at what they were used for historically, and we start there. In some cases, it doesn't pan out. In many cases, actually, we find that there was a thread of science that was woven into their keen observations and their use of these plants for thousands of years. People don't usually keep using something that doesn't work.

[18:52] I'll give you one more example of a plant that I'm very interested and very intrigued by, and again, people call it an adaptogen. For me, I really look at bacopa, and each of these plants just themselves. Bacopa, I learned about it a number of years ago when my panel that I was on at the US Pharmacopeia, we were asked to review the safety for bacopa.

[19:20] I'm with this team of really wonderful people. We've set about looking at all the research and all the adverse event reports. The first thing I can tell you is bacopa has a great safety profile. It's been used in India, again, for a very long time.

[19:36] What is so fascinating to me is the research that is being done, showing that bacopa can help with memory, both in kids and adolescents. It can also help with older people who may be having some problems with their memory. We are beginning to study it.

[20:32] I look at this as a physician, but also as a mom, and all these children that we are treating with these medications, and I think, "Look, this is worth more research. This is worth looking at. It's got an excellent safety profile. It's safer than the medications that we're using.

[20:52] What about using bacopa with meditation and exercise, and things like this in kids who are struggling with attention and hyperactivity?" It's why I sometimes, yes, we call them adaptogens and we want to demystify them, but it's also why it's really important to think about each one of these plants on their own, because they're each so uniquely different.

[21:18] Even though they all have this impact on the hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal axis, and the stress system that whole stress system...

Killeen: [21:28] Oh, that's it. That's what it was called.

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [21:29] You see why everybody calls it the HPA axis. It's because it's easier for everybody. I think what your listeners want to remember is that, that's the part of the body that really is responsible for managing our stress.

[21:50] There's a lot of things we should do to manage our stress from eating well, getting plenty of rest, nourishing our social connections, watching that sugar and carbohydrate intake, getting regular exercise. All of those things are foundational.

[22:08] When things are maybe a little too far over, the stress is starting to really wear on you and it's beginning to show, you're feeling more depressed, you're binging more on...You're having a lot of food cravings, you're not sleeping well at night, then some of these plants, like ashwagandha that helps with stress, fatigue, and binge eating.

[22:34] All of these plants, there's a way in which they can be woven into your life. Many of these can be consumed as teas. Some of them are taken as extracts and pills. It depends upon each one. If it's really nasty‑tasting, take it in a pill or a tincture. If it's nice‑tasting like holy basil, just drink it as an afternoon tea.

Killeen: [22:59] This is such a fascinating conversation, but I have to pause for a moment for a word from our sponsor.

[23:04] When we come back, this is a perfect segue, we'll get a little more personal and talk about how we can utilize the qualities of all these intriguing and special plants to restore and balance your body maybe for specific situations, and talk a little bit more about selecting the right adaptogen for our listeners' unique needs.

[23:22] [background music]

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[23:35] It combines maca, a nourishing superfood found in the mountains of Peru with chaste tree berry, a time‑honored botanical shown to help maintain hormonal health and ease symptoms associated with menstruation.* Motherwort is traditionally used to calm occasional nervousness.*

[23:49] Mix with your favorite juice or smoothie, sip, and enjoy. Don't worry, guys. There's a maca formulation just for you, too. Just visit, and type maca, that's M‑A‑C‑A, into the search bar. Now back to the show.

Killeen: [24:02] Now that we've covered the efficacy of adaptogens, it's time to figure out how to use them. I thought, instead of asking you about some of the specific adaptogens, which we did cover a couple already. I wanted to speak to the different mind and body states that we'd like to support with those adaptogens, which we now know are all very unique plants.

[24:24] We naturally, as humans, want to categorize and compartmentalize things into some type of structure. It sounds like adaptogens need to be respected each individually for what they are. Let's start with a topic here that we know our listeners on "That Supplement Show" love, which is energy.

[24:44] I thought it would be interesting to ask you. If I'm feeling like I want to be more energized and ready to tackle the day ahead of me, is there a particular adaptogen that comes to mind for you?

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [24:58] If it's short‑term, that's one thing. If you're finding yourself chronically waking up in the morning and not feeling energized, then you're looking for an adaptogen. Adaptogens don't typically work for one day. They're intended to be taken over a period of time to strengthen the system.

[25:16] The most stimulating of the adaptogens is rhodiola. Rhodiola has actually been studied for chronic fatigue and people who have burnout. You're talking about extremes. People that are just totally burned out. They're tired. They wake up tired. They're tired in the afternoon, and it's hard to get going.

[25:40] Rhodiola is the most stimulating of all of the adaptogens, which is why I don't take it. It's too stimulating for me.

Killeen: [25:49] Got it.

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [25:49] I got plenty of energy.

Killeen: [25:51] [laughs]

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [25:51] Rhodiola would be the one, and it is the one clinically I use for people who are really tired a lot. You always want to make sure there's no anemia and other kinds of things. In somebody that's otherwise healthy who's just so stressed out for so long, rhodiola is definitely the most stimulating.

Killeen: [26:14] Interesting. That goes back to not every single one is for everybody. That's really good to know, because at the same time, we all go, "Oh, who doesn't want to more energy?" It seems like [laughs] there's a line to draw. What about more alert? I guess we've already covered this one, because you mentioned that holy basil is very brain stimulating. Are there others like that?

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [26:39] Bacopa, also. Bacopa for helping with attention and focus. Bacopa is a very nice one. You can even get some short‑term benefit from holy basil or bacopa.

[26:54] Holy basil can give you that more immediate. Bacopa, in single studies where they just gave it one time, also did help people with word recall, etc. Bacopa can help, and so does holy basil, when you're trying to enhance alertness without caffeine.

Killeen: [27:13] Now, if somebody is listening to this and they're thinking, "Yes, that's exactly what I want, is to stimulate my brain as much as possible," what's the thought on combining them? Would you use holy basil and bacopa at the same time, because you just can't get enough? [laughs]

[27:31] Are we talking about picking, choosing, and figuring out, "Well, gee, maybe one is going to work for me better than the other?" How would you approach that?

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [27:41] There are a lot of things that are blended. We do this in cooking all the time. [laughs] We want a certain flavor. We want a certain spiciness, which is using herbs like basil, oregano, and other things together. This is common. We've always done this. Plants have long been combined together for the therapeutic effects.

[28:02] Bacopa is not the greatest tasting plant versus holy basil tastes really nice. You could take them. There are some formulations that are in the marketplace that already blend them together. Bacopa is very nice. It's the one that I really recommend for people who are like a menopausal woman.

[28:26] Somebody who's going to menopause who comes in and says, "Gosh, my night sweats are doing better. I'm eating more soy and I'm doing better, but I feel like I'm in this mental fog." I'm like, "Well, why don't we try some bacopa and see how that feels." Women invariably come back and say, "Oh, my gosh, I feel like my mind is free again."

[28:49] Bacopa, really, when you're thinking about that focused alertness without being jacked up, because that's what a lot of people do in the afternoon. They just start slugging the coffee, or even the black tea but they start slugging back a lot of coffee, caffeine.

[29:07] Bacopa and holy basil can be used together. You can purchase products that already blended those, but be careful. If you're looking at a supplement, try to find those that tend to be more calming, those that are more alert, or those that are more energizing instead of finding where everything's all just been dumped together because they were adaptogens.

Killeen: [29:29] [laughs] Sure, which I'm sure happens, because this is a hot thing right now. I'm sure there's stuff out there, like, "Here's it all." [laughs] Even when I first entered the world of supplements, I was reckless because it just opened up this world to me that I didn't really realize was there for the taking.

[29:48] Iron, for example. I eat plant‑based. I'm a menstruating female. I had a child. I was on the path of somebody who might need some iron supplementation. As soon as I was taking an iron supplement, I was feeling great. You know what I did because I didn't know? [laughs] To my husband, I said, "Hey, you run, I run, take this iron. It's really making a difference for me."

[30:17] I had no idea, just was uneducated, did not know, and just really didn't think about it, logically, that he wasn't losing iron, he didn't need to replenish iron the way I did. That was very reckless. I've since learned my lesson, because it could have been really dangerous.

[30:35] It sounds like here, it's the same thing when people are getting excited about, "Oh, adaptogens, they sound like they could really make a difference in my life," where you just want to...

Killeen: [30:46] I've since learned my lesson, because it could have been really dangerous. It sound like here, it's the same thing when people are getting excited about, "Oh, adaptogens, they sounds like they could really make a difference in my life," where you just want to try them all. [laughs]

[30:45] It seems like it's good to have a plan, and that's really why I wanted to talk about all this today, is just to get people a little centered in thinking logically before they get too excited. [laughs] Now, how about feeling more calm and relaxed? We talked about being energized and...

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [31:11] Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is for the wired and tired. I'll tell you particularly for the people who, they tell me this, "Oh, my gosh, Dr. Low Dog, I have just been running all day. I'm so tired. I get home from work. I'm taking care of the kids. I'm cooking dinner. I'm trying to do all this stuff.

[31:29] I could fall asleep at seven o'clock at the dinner table. Then it's 9:30, I go lay down in bed, and it's like I got my second wind. I feel wide awake. It's hard for me to fall asleep." Being wired, that wired feeling but being tired, being fatigued and not sleeping well, that's really ashwagandha.

[31:50] That is who it's meant for. People who are stressed, tired, and maybe can't let go of things. They need something to help them in the evenings to calm and relax. Ashwagandha, Withania somnifera actually means just to induce sleep, somniferous. It's one of our most calming of the adaptogen classes.

Killeen: [32:21] I bet there's a lot of people in that wired and tired category.

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [32:28] Absolutely. I recommend ashwagandha, and putting a lot of people on that, along with herbal teas as well. Ashwagandha is the adaptogen there.

Killeen: [32:40] To wrap up our conversation today, I got to ask from a personal standpoint, is ashwagandha your favorite? Do you have a favorite adaptogen that you just get really juiced about?

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [32:50] I love each one of them because I use them in patients. When you have somebody who comes in really exhausted, burned out, and has fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. They're on rhodiola for six or eight weeks.

[33:08] They come back in, and they're like, "Doc, could this be real? I'm really feeling like I have more energy. I feel like I'm in less pain. I feel less tired." Then, you just sit there and you go, "Wow, that's amazing." Or you have somebody, like I described, who's going through menopause who takes bacopa and says, "Oh, my gosh, I feel like my mind is free again."

[33:30] Or you have a teenager that you don't want to put on some strong medication, but you talk about, "Well, there's this tea that you could drink in the afternoon. It's called holy basil. It's not unlike where you are in your life right now, that holy basil was used by those who used to seek enlightenment, those who were seeking where they were going in their lives and seeking out enlightenment."

[33:58] You said, "That's where you are as a 16‑year‑old. You're trying to figure out where you're going and you're feeling your way through your growing." Then, they look at you and they just go, one, "That's cool," because you're recommending a tea, you're linking it to something like their own personal growth and their own journey.

[34:20] They come back and say, "I really like that tea. I drink it. Is it OK if I drink a couple glasses because I really like it? Can I have it iced?" I'm like, "Of course, you can." When you ask, do I have a favorite, it's hard because I have used them so much in clinical practice over the last 35 years that it's...I remember patients that did so well with them. They're all my favorites.

Killeen: [34:47] That must feel so good to be able to help people in that way.

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [34:51] I'm so glad people are talking about adaptogens. I love that we're talking about adaptogens. You don't want to lump them all together. It's like saying all teenagers are something. They're not. They're as unique as they are as individuals.

[35:08] Each one of these plants, once you read about it, you learn about it, you make sure that it's OK for you. You know that you're not pregnant, you're not taking certain medications. Then, you can give it a try and see how you feel on it.

[35:23] Many of these plants, when they're taken over a period of time, they really do help people manage their stress more effectively. People will have more energy. They'll sleep better.

[35:40] They're not as potent as they don't act like a sleeping pill. They don't act like a psychostimulant that you take one dose and boom. They're intended to be taken over a longer period of time. Their effects are more gentle and subtle, but very powerful.

Killeen: [35:59] Huge point of clarity for me. That's huge. Somebody tries something once and they're saying, "Ugh, that didn't really do anything." Just have some patience. It sounds like if you think that it might be something that's going to work for you, just keep trying. Tieraona, this has been fascinating. I feel like I could really keep going.

[36:19] [laughter]

Killeen: [36:20] Thank you so much. This has been great.

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: [36:22] Thank you. Have a wonderful day.

Killeen: [36:24] You, too.

Abigail: [36:28] Killeen, I am so glad that you recorded that conversation. I'm jealous [laughs] that I couldn't be there for it, but I learned so much. That was phenomenal.

Killeen: [36:37] I'm glad you got something out of it. I definitely did, as well. It got me thinking, do you remember in earlier episodes when you used to quiz me on different supplement and nutrient knowledge? I thought I'd turn it around quiz you and see how you do.

Abigail: [36:53] Uh‑oh. [laughs] Let's do this.

Killeen: [36:58] Ready?

Abigail: [36:58] I'm ready.

[37:02] [background music]

Killeen: [37:02] First question. Tieraona defines adaptogens as plants that have a strengthening and tonifying effect on a very delicate part of our central nervous system that's responsible for what you and I often refer to as our fight or flight response. I had to have Dr. Low Dog repeat this system's acronym for me. I couldn't even begin to figure out what it was. Do you remember what it's called?

Abigail: [37:24] Oh, boy. Vaguely. I feel like I know the letters, but I couldn't tell you what they stood for. I'm going to let you remind me. [laughs]

Killeen: [37:35] The letters are key. I love acronyms. They're there for a reason. She was talking about the HPA, which is also sometimes called the HPAA because it's the hypothalamic‑pituitary‑adrenal axis.

Abigail: [37:50] An acronym is necessary for that one. [laughs]

Killeen: [37:55] I couldn't feel very smart while I was talking to her about that. Like, "Ugh, what was that thing again?"

Abigail: [37:59] I forgive myself for getting that one wrong. [laughs]

Killeen: [38:04] She is a practitioner after all. I did not go to medical school. Now, question two. How did the term adaptogen come to be? I felt like this was really interesting to me. What do you take away from that?

Abigail: [38:16] That's a really good one, because we toss that word around so often, but where does it come from? What does it mean? You're going to have to remind me of that one, as well.

[38:27] [laughter]

Killeen: [38:27] Tieraona was alluding to the fact that researchers were struggling to come up with a term to describe what is a normalizing and nourishing effect that a plant can have on the body. Ginseng was the first, which is they didn't know how to categorize it. It was 1940‑ish when ginseng was first coined an adaptogen.

[38:52] That's when we started grouping plants into the adaptogen category. They've belong in other places, too. In Ayurvedic medicine for example, Chinese medicine. Adaptogen was just a new term that we could use to bucket some of these plants into.

Abigail: [39:09] Boy, have we used it since then? [laughs]

Killeen: [39:13] That's why we have this podcast, because I was feeling confused. It feels like everything is an adaptogen, but I know they're not. What was the difference? Speaking of that, question three, this is going to be a three‑parter.

[39:27] I'm going to give you a condition, body state or mind state that we're in. Maybe you can recall which adaptogen according to Dr. Low Dog is the most stimulating for that effect.

Abigail: [39:40] This sounds way more in my wheelhouse.

[39:42] [laughter]

Killeen: [39:46] Abigail, you're burned out and depleted of energy. Which adaptogen according to Dr. Low Dog is the right one for you?

Abigail: [39:53] I know this one. I know this because we feature this in one of our amazing MegaFood products called Adrenal Strength, which is chock full of adaptogens. The reason that people find it so energizing often is because of the rhodiola that's in it.

Killeen: [40:08] I was intrigued about rhodiola.

Abigail: [40:17] Yes. [laughs]

Killeen: [40:21] Like her, I don't necessarily think I need it. I'm pretty energetic as it is, but still pretty neat. How about if you need to enhance your alertness and your cognitive function, what do you do then?

Abigail: [40:36] One of my favorites for that, and Dr. Low Dog's, as well, is holy basil. A beautiful, traditional Ayurvedic herb that is fantastic for cognition, focus, and alertness, so holy basil.

Killeen: [40:47] That is exactly correct. She also mentions bacopa.

Abigail: [41:00] Bacopa, as well.

Killeen: [41:01] Last one. If you are feeling wired and tired like much of our population does, what might help relax you and chill you out a little bit?

Abigail: [41:13] I mentioned Adrenal Strength earlier probably because it's one of my all‑time favorite products and totally timely for this episode of "That Supplement Show." That features ashwagandha. That's very, very balancing. To me, that's the king of adaptogens. I'm always thinking about ashwagandha. That's my guess.

Killeen: [41:31] That's the one that I'm going to maybe delve into first. I've taken Adrenal Strength, but just here and there.

[41:45] One of the biggest takeaways for me from talking with Dr. Low Dog was that it's not a one and done thing with adaptogens. It's really a build up over time. I'm going to go back to that formulation. I'm going to be a little more patient with it and see if maybe that over time effect might make a difference in my life.

Abigail: [42:07] Perfect. This was a great call for you to have with Dr. Low Dog. I'm so glad we were able to bring that recording to life in our podcast.

Killeen: [42:15] Me, too. It got me thinking, maybe for our next episode, Abigail, we could talk about some of the causes of stress and get into what does cause stress, because in talking about adaptogens and our bodies' ability to cope with stress, what these plants help with. We could maybe figure out why we might need them in the first place.

Abigail: [42:36] That's a great idea. I've got a lot to say on the topic. [laughs] Looking forward to it.

Killeen: [42:41] Awesome. Thanks so much. I wish you luck with your webinar. Again, I'm sorry that you couldn't be there. This was great.

Abigail: [42:49] It was great. Thank you so much, Killeen.

Killeen: [42:51] Take care.

Abigail: [42:52] You, too. Bye‑bye.

[42:52] [background music]

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[43:08] Fresh from farm to tablet, there's no psych about it. MegaFood is as real as it gets. Do yourself a salad, and catch them on the flip side at If you have a moment, leave a review on iTunes and let us know what you think. We'd love to hear from you.

[43:21] *The statements in this podcast have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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