Holiday season is upon us, and it comes with an increased risk of health problems —particularly symptom flares or health setbacks for people with Lyme disease and Lyme disease co-infections. This is due to the stress of the holidays, as well as increased exposure to ailments such as colds and the flu since holiday season also happens to coincide with flu season. In order to avoid setbacks in health, symptom flares, and/or reduce the risk of catching new viruses and infections during the holidays, adding adaptogens to one’s protocol during the holiday season may prove wise. Adaptogens enhance the immune system’s response to stressors in the environment, whether interior or exterior in nature, and may be of great benefit. They modulate the immune response so that if the immune response is too high, the adaptogenic herb or supplement lowers it, bringing it back into balance. On the other hand, if the immune response is too low, the adaptogen helps bring the immune system back into balance by raising its functioning. Furthermore, when an individual is exposed to a stressor that poses a health risk, adaptogenic herbs prompt the immune system to function and respond in a specific manner for that specific stressor.
In my experience, the four following herbs are highly effective adaptogens with the ability to lower the risk of catching new ailments as well as preventing flare ups of existing health conditions due to environmental stressors. What’s more, each listed herb also possesses other health benefits that may make them exceptionally beneficial at alleviating other symptoms associated with Lyme disease and Lyme disease co-infections. Of course, these are only four of numerous existing adaptogens. So, as always, do your research and check with your healthcare provider if you are considering adding one or more adaptogenic herbs or supplements to your health protocol.
1) Cordyceps (Cordyceps Sinesnses): Cordyceps has been used as an adaptogenic herb to help protect the body from infection in the face of stress for centuries. It is also packed with a host of other benefits. Cordyceps has been shown in studies to enhance immune function, resistance to stress, stamina, energy and cellular immunity —so it is understandable why so many find its use as an adaptogen during highly stressful times, such as the holiday season, to be so beneficial. This is especially true for people with conditions such as Lyme disease and Lyme disease co-infections, whose immune systems are already more compromised than the average person. Therefore, they are more vulnerable to suffering negative health impacts from environmental stressors, as well as to succumbing to acute infections and viruses that tend to circulate during the holiday season such as flus and colds due to their already compromised immune systems. [1, 2]
2) Ashwaghandha: Ashwaghandha is one of the most calming adaptogenic herbs. Studies have shown that it works exceptionally well at balancing the HPA axis —crucial for people who are placed under extreme stress for long durations, whether physical or emotional, which leads to increased adrenaline release, cortisol levels, blood pressure, heart rate and more.  Ashwaghandha is widely considered one of the best medicinal herbs for counteracting the negative effects of stress on the body, and is also hailed for its exceptional ability to bring hormones into a harmonious state. Aside from its potent anti-stressor properties, other reported benefits of Ashwaghandha include increased energy levels, improved quality of sleep, better thyroid function, inflammation reduction and alleviation of brain fog.  However, it is still crucial for any individual, especially with preexisting conditions such as Lyme and Lyme co-infections, to add this and any other new herb or supplement to their treatment protocol only after discussing doing so with their primary healthcare practitioner.
3) Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus): Eleuthero is an excellent adaptogen, as its effects kick in quickly and are significant enough to be noticeable. Despite its powerful effects, Eleuthero is generally still considered a gentle medicinal herb that is suitable for most individuals and for long term use. As an adaptogen, it is highly supportive of immune function in two specific ways which make it exceptionally beneficial for those with Lyme disease, Lyme disease co-infections, and many other long term illnesses during the holidays. First, it has been shown in studies to ward off acute infections, which is great news during flu season and makes it an appealing adaptogen for both healthy and chronically ill individuals. Secondly, Eleuthero has also been shown to be strongly supportive of the immune system and research reveals that it helps to accelerate recovery from long term illnesses like Lyme disease. Thus, for individuals recovering from long term illnesses, its specific adaptogenic properties make adding it to their current treatment plan worth considering not only during the holidays but throughout the entire year.  Eleuthero is also one of the primary herbs used by many people for combatting extreme chronic fatigue, which is an added bonus. 
4) Rhodiola Rosea: Last but not least on our list of excellent herbal adaptogens for warding off germs and flares this holiday season is rhodiola rosea, an herb packed with a surplus of other properties that may be extremely beneficial to those with Lyme disease and Lyme disease co-infections. Aside from acting as a superb adaptogen and immune tonic, rhodiola rosea is also an endocrine tonic and nervous system tonic —two of the many attributes other than its adaptogenic properties that make it suitable for many patients with Lyme disease and Lyme co-infections, as both the endocrine and nervous systems are negatively impacted by the infections, especially the nervous system. As an adaptogen, it functions in a few ways. It is increases bodily resilience to stress, and protects the integrity of the mitochondria and adrenal glands —both of which are significantly impacted during infections like Lyme disease and thus are in a compromised state that makes them vulnerable to negative impacts of stress on the immune system as well as attacks from other infectious organisms. 
While the four herbal adaptogens listed above are great options for strengthening the immune system against environmental stressors this holiday season, and also happen to be herbs that many Lyme disease patients take for a plethora of other symptoms and conditions, there are numerous other adaptogens out there —including other herbs, supplements and homeopathic remedies. So, if none of the above herbs interest or work for you for any reason yet you still wish to implement an adaptogen into your regime this holiday season, no worries. Do your research, and you will more than likely find something else out there that fits your needs. The two most important things to remember, as always, are that you should seek herbs and supplements that fit your specific case as opposed to someone else’s since no two cases are alike, and you should always consult with the healthcare practitioner overseeing your treatment plan before making any new additions to your protocol.
Subscribe to the World's Most Popular Lyme Disease Newsletter (it's free!)
1) Rawls, William MD. 2014. Suffered Long Enough: A Physician’s Journey of Overcoming Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, & Lyme. Dog Ear Publishing.
2) “Cordyceps Sinensis – An old World Adaptogen Packed Full of Modern World Benefits”. VITAMONK. Accessed on November 13, 2018 from https://www.vitamonk.com/blogs/health/cordyceps-sinensis-adaptogen-benefits.
3) Buhner, Stephen H. 2013. Herbal Antivirals. Storey Publishing.
4) Buhner, Stephen H. 2013. Healing Lyme disease Coinfections: Complementary and Holistic Treatments for Bartonella and Mycoplasma. Healing Arts Press.
5) Novelle, Agatha. 2017. “The Top 7 Adaptogen Herbs”. BETTER NUTRITION. Accessed on November 26, 2018 from https://www.betternutrition.com/seven-ways/adaptogen-herbs.
Shelley M. White is a yoga teacher, author and herbalist. She is the author of ‘Cannabis for Lyme Disease and Related Conditions: Scientific Basis and Anecdotal Evidence for Medicinal Use’ (www.cannabisforlyme.com ). For articles, free yoga videos and meditations, or to book an herbalism consult or private yoga session, visit http://www.shelleymwhite.net. Free yoga classes are added weekly at http://YouTube.com/awaken2health .