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Interview with Dr. James Costello – Adaptogens: Secret to Better Mood, Sex, and Health? (Part 1)

There are lots of talk about adaptogens in the wellness world these days.

It’s the new “buzzword”, well at least in the “West.” Adaptogens have gotten particularly popular these days. Examples include GOOP’s collaboration with Moon Juice’s Amanda Chantal Bacon on their $30 adaptogenic “Dusts,” and Nootrobox’s use of nootropics.

Actually, adaptogens have been used in centuries in China and India in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda for stress, sex, and more.

To really understand what adaptogens are, I’ve invited Dr. James Costello back to dive deep into this topic.

This is an interview series of multiple parts. We’ll first be discussing:

  • What adaptogens are and how they work at the cellular level
  • Why a little bit of stress is good
  • How adaptogens work in balancing our body

In the latter part of the series, we’ll be discussing:

  • How to take adaptogens, types of adaptogens to consider, adaptogens vs. caffeine
  • Adaptogens for more testosterone and higher sex drive
  • Why more sex makes women more youthful and eases menopausal symptoms
  • Adaptogens versus Viagra for sexual health

You may want to stay tuned here for updates on the latter juicier parts. 😉

Here goes our interview:

Lana: Thank you so much for being with us. Can you briefly go through your background with us?

James: Doctorate in Dentistry, University of Minnesota, also a Master’s in Public Health from the same school. I spent a lifetime researching herbs and naturopathic medicine. In the last five years, I’ve been more focused on herbs and their effects on the human body, especially regarding sleep, sex, and balance, which seems to be the thing that most people are complaining about.

How Adaptogens Work in Balancing Our Body

Lana: What are adaptogens?



An adaptogen is any substance, generally from an herbal or a plant-based food, we ingest that balances the body.

Of course, people out there say, “Ah, I don’t care about balance. I want to get bigger, stronger, faster.” But we’re living in our bodies simply because we’re in balance. And if you’re not balanced in all the mechanisms and systems in your body, you simply die. It’s that simple.

Adaptogens are the universe’s way of putting substances into the plant kingdom around us so that we can eat them, and they would balance our body.

So why do they call them an adaptogen? Well, look at the root word “adapt” – if you’re too hot, the adaptogen cools you. If you’re too cool, it warms you up. If you’re too stressed, it calms you down. If you’re too calm, it picks you up.

A lot of people are worried about their adrenals burning out, or they’re being too stimulated and overstressed. But we do see problems with people who are too calm.

They’re so blissed out. They might be independently wealthy. Don’t have to do anything. And, ironically, they start to suffer the effects of depression, simply because they lose their desire.

And desire usually causes us to get out there and get moving on some project, or do something, or hang out, or chase a potential spouse or something like that. And our desires are actually what end up causing stress in our lives.

Why A Little Bit of Stress is Good


But a little bit of stress is good. Even a moderate amount of stress is good.

It gets you out of the bed in the morning. It gets you pumped up. You perform more. You actually have more life experience than if you had no stress at all, and you’re just sitting around like a mushroom most of the time—hanging out not having any sort of desires, impulses, stresses, ups, downs, etc.

So adaptogens come in and they’re just the universe’s way, nature’s way, of giving us abundance, literally, at our feet and in the trees.

When we know and learn these substances, which have been used for over 5,000 years, we are able to use them as tonics, without resorting to modern day drugs.

Do Adaptogens Actually Work?

Lana:  How do adaptogens help us with our sleep and increase our energy?

James: Increasing energy or decreasing energy, they won’t really matter because the body always wants to come back to balance.

Ashwagandha, an adaptogen, is a beautiful example. It’s used a lot in Ayurveda. It has a very calming, very yen, effects on the body.

So you say, okay, it calms you down. It’s kind of a natural anti-depressant. It increases dopamine and serotonin release, which are the “feel good” endorphins, or cannabis in the body. Okay, so what’s the big deal? Why not use an anti-depressant?

Well the thing about Ashwagandha as an adaptogen, it’s one of the finest out there. When they study the stuff on people who are already healthy and feeling fine, they don’t see many results.

Now at the beginning, the researchers were saying, “This stuff is a hoax. And it’s just a silly herb.” Then the alternative medicine people started saying, well let’s bust this into a couple groups.

Let’s have a stressed group, let’s have a depressed group, and let’s have a normal group. There are people who are reporting no problems at all. So they found exactly what you’re intuiting right now – the stressed group felt better. The depressed group felt a little stronger, a little more motivated. And the group that seemed fine, continued to seem fine and there was no change.

I’m not against Western medicine because I came up out of that system. However, most Western medical doctors, have you in, they check you out, they say nothing wrong, and ask you to go home. Nothing wrong does not really mean health.

We know that health can be a really broad and abstract term, when we start to get into vitality and wellness and feeling of physical abundance. When we look at health as a general term, we say, well wow, maybe these adaptogens are going to keep us into that middle ground, which is just health in general, feeling good. And there’s no reason to try to feel better than feeling really good.

How Adaptogens Work To Bring Us Back To Balance



Lana:  So what you’re saying is that adaptogens help us by taking our body back into balance.

If we’re too zen, taking adaptogens can give us a little bit more a kick, or energy … to help us get out there and achieve whatever it is that we so desire.

If we can’t sleep well, or have adrenal fatigue, ingesting the appropriate adaptogens can calm us down and help us de-stress.

James: When we look at systems, most people assume that a human being, the body as itself, is this closed, discrete system. Just by the fact that somebody’s breathing means they’re connected to all the air in all the world, and all the processes in the world, just at that one time in that one deep breath or in that exhalation.

So, we call health an oscillating system, where you’re constantly in touch with the outside world. And nobody is a discrete entity, or a closed system.

And health oscillates. And oscillation, in physics or in any kind of physical dynamics, oscillation is the best way to stay in the middle. Just to hold something static and still in the middle of any system is just about impossible. When you start to oscillate—back forth, back forth, back forth, up down, up down, up down, North South, North South, right left, East West—now you’ve got something that can swing back and forth, but also hold the centre.

When you think of our systems as oscillating, if we get out of balance a little bit, what we do is to let the natural oscillation come back. That’s what these adaptogens do.

They say if you’re too far left, it’s going to bring you back right. If you’re too far up, it’s going to bring you down a little bit.


Thanks for reading!

In the latter part of the series, we’ll be discussing:

  • How to take adaptogens, types of adaptogens to consider, adaptogens vs. caffeine
  • Adaptogens for more testosterone and higher sex drive
  • Why more sex makes women more youthful and eases menopausal symptoms
  • Adaptogens versus Viagra for sexual health

You may want to stay tuned here for updates on the latter juicier parts, or simply fill out your information below.

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