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The scale in my bathroom needed new batteries, that was one of the problems. My eyesight also sucks, so the farther away I am from what I’m trying to read at 3 am, without my glasses, the more the numbers blur.

However, having fixed both, the scale didn’t lie. I was up something like twelve pounds. For me, that’s a lot. I’ve got thin bones, a light frame. Having been obese and harried by eating disorders for forty years, I wasn’t happy. I continued to trend upwards.

This was out of character. As a 66 yo woman, a dedicated exerciser, a careful (mostly) eater, something was definitely awry. Since having dumped some 80 pounds in 1987, I’ve kept my weight five pounds on either side of 120.

While having a bit more padding as we age doesn’t hurt, your body knows when it’s too much. When the weight actually hurts. It’s not the pain of not being able to zip up your favorite skinny jeans. This is physical pain. Your body is telling you that this isn’t healthy.

Back in early June I’d gone to my primary care nurse, who is also a jock. She mentioned that my cortisol levels might be high. I promptly forgot, as this was a busy time. I’ve had some major stresses, ranging from a very painful breakup to an absolutely evil urinary issue which had stumped eight urologists. One thing after another.

Those stresses add up. That, and I had decided to pack my house to force the decision to move. So the safety of my beautiful safe space was shattered. A compulsive neatnik, I was surrounded by boxes. Chaos.

That’s also stressful.

That and I was preparing for yet another huge trip, this time in the Canadian wilderness.

My PCP was onto something. I researched cortisol and stress. Most of what the websites discussed I was already doing.

Except the herbs. Adaptogenic herbs.

Having just dumped my supplement habit, I balked. However, I also was bulking up. So I headed to my local Natural Grocers.

I left with a bag full: American Ginseng, Rhodiola, Holy Basil, Ashwaganda.

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Did they work?

Several things to note: first, the way I live my life is pretty different from most folks. Most folks won’t head out by horse into vast Canadian wilderness for four weeks. I do that. Did that.

That tends to distract from the daily shitstorms. However, this trip happened to have a few folks whose behavior caused even more stress. So to a certain extent, the trip was a petri dish for these herbs.

Second, I worked my ass off, ate well, had no access to Kit-Kat bars at my local gas station ( a lousy habit that I had gotten into, including grazing all day). Those tend to combine to get your weight back down.

All of this did, in fact, work well. While in some ways the trip was emotionally stressful, I managed just fine. I also dropped about ten pounds or so, my eating habits evened out again.

Now that I’m back, my weight is staying stable. I haven’t had my cortisol levels tested, but probably should just to find out. Wish I’d done that before my trip to have gotten a baseline, but there wasn’t enough time.

For anyone who’s ever fought a flab battle, regaining weight carries its own special kind of stress. Removing that helps a lot. I can get into my skinniest skirts, my tiniest jeans.

Okay, BFD. The real question is how do I feel?

This is where I think the herbs really have helped, but then again, I’m no expert. I can only offer anecdotal information. I seem to be calmer, not as reactionary, which is an issue since I’ve had 21 concussions. That’s a very real problem.

I just bought a new supply. These are going with me to Mongolia in a few weeks. Still testing. I am going to add Relora to the mix.

The problem with most supplements is that some can actually hurt us, rather than help. As with most others, if you and I eat fairly well, then we are just pissing money into the toilet.

With these adaptogenic herbs, there seems to be some pretty solid empirical evidence that they do indeed lower cortisol levels. For my part, I no longer feel as though I‘m walking around with my emotional accelerator pressed against the floor while sitting at the stop light.

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I traded Kit Kats for apples. That’s a habit I got into on the trail, where fresh food was a rarity. Now I buy them in bulk. They fill me up, are delicious, and are one of the single best fruits we can eat. With the skin on, please.

These are the same kinds of positive habits I used to dump those 80 pounds thirty-one years ago.

When you and I are deeply stressed out and anxious, it’s damned hard to continue good habits. We want comfort food to soothe ourselves. For me those are donuts and chocolate. Not good for the body or the hips.

My impression, and that’s all it is, is that this body appreciates these herbs. We’ll see over time.

Will they work for you? Kindly. I am in no position to imply that because they seemed to have done something for me that they will do the same for you. As with all things herbal, medical, the like, you have to experiment and find out what works for the marvelous and unique Universe that is You.

Oh, and BTW. I did find an answer to the pernicious urinary problem. Aloe gel tablets. That simple fix, which took a few weeks to form a soothing coating on the irritated and angry parts, worked like a charm. Saved me invasive procedures, pain and a great deal of time and probably money. No side effects.

I love natural, cheap remedies.

My doc? A young woman, a fellow adventure traveler, a DO and a urologist. She was lucky #9. The previous urologists had all been men.

‘Nuff said.

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