Book Review


ADAPTOGENS in Medical Herbalism – Elite Herbs and Natural Compounds for Mastering Stress, Aging, and Chronic Disease by Donald R. Yance, CN, MH, RH(AHG)

(ISBN 978-1-620551004; 2013, kindle, $29.49; hardcover, 672 pages; $34.83.)

“Donald Yance knows more about molecular oncology than any oncologist I know, with perhaps the exception of myself,” states Dwight L. McKee, M.D., CNS, ABIHM, and a diplomate of the American Boards of Medical Oncology. Dr. McKee also states that, “Although I have studied botanical medicine intensively for the past five years, I have no hope of ever matching Donnie’s expertise, which he has refined from more than twenty-five years of intensive study.”

With that introduction don’t you think that his science-backed book on how herbs and nutrients can master the stress, aging, and chronic disease should be in everyone’s library interested in pushing the envelope on the last frontier of medical herbalism? I have studied most of the leading natural medicine practitioners. I always come away with questions such as, “Why do you treat low thyroid with porcine-based thyroid instead of trying to heal and support the thyroid? Why do you suggest taking bioidentical hormones for menopause just because a woman is no longer having a menstrual cycle?” I know the endocrine system and how it relates to the immune system, the nervous system, and the hormone system is very complicated but now we have direct evidence on how you can treat the whole complex system with herbal Adaptogens and nervines (herbs that therapeutically work on the nervous system). This book has educated me beyond anything I have ever read on how herbs work and why they are safe to use in relatively high dosages daily without serious side effects like drugs have. Yance is a master herbalist and knows how to combine the herbs in a synergistic manner to get maximum therapeutic effect for every condition.

The book begins with a history of herbal medicine and how it evolved into medicinal pharmaceutical drugs as we know them today. The author shares his own holistic approach, called the Eclectic Triphasic Medical System, which he based on extensive scientific research, more than 25 years of clinical practice, and excellent results with thousands of patients. Emphasizing spirituality, exercise, and diet in addition to herbal treatments and nutritional supplements, Yance’s complete lifestyle program explores how to enhance energy production in the body and subdue the proinflammatory state that lays the groundwork for nearly every degenerative disease.

Yance shows how adaptogenic herbs modulate the immune system and can potentially master the autoimmune diseases so prevalent today. Then he details how adaptogenic herbs combined with nervines nourish the nervous system providing the foundation for optimal thinking and memory. There are many chapters going into all of the details of how it all fits together along with over five thousand references to studies. The last part of the book is a monograph of all of the important herbs he recommends. It is like an encyclopedia of the medicinal herbs.

As an optometrist, I closely monitor diabetic patients each year to make sure that they are not starting to get diabetic retinopathy. It is amazing how many studies have been done to show how to lower blood sugar with herbs alone. The primary Adaptogens – such as American ginseng, manchurian spikenard, rhodiola root, and eleuthero – improve insulin utilization and balance and strengthen the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (or HPA) axis.

Holy Basil and Devil’s Club, which are secondary Adaptogens, also have insulin-trophic actions. Yance lists the many other herbs that are helpful: bitter melon, cinnamon, fenugreek seed, goat’s rue, gymnema leaf, Indian Kino, and salacia. Goat’s rue is the basis for the antidiabetic medication Metformin, a drug widely used in the treatment of Type-2 diabetes mellitus. Indian Kino demonstrates some very unique features, which include beta-cell-protective and beta-cell-regenerative properties, as well as blood-glucose-lowering activity. Indian-Kino extract has shown an ability to reverse damage to beta islet cells and actually repopulate the islets. The herbs actually help the pancreas to heal besides lowering the blood sugar. How many drugs do that?

In another study, we actually find that Salacia is a more potent glucose inhibitor than acarbose, a commercial alpha-glucosidase inhibitor found in diabetic medications. Salacia as a tea had an inhibitory effect that lasted 110 minutes, significantly longer than any tea tested. Salacia has also been found to inhibit aldose reductase, an enzyme normally present in the eye and in other parts of the body that facilitates the transformation of glucose into a sugar alcohol called sorbitol. Too much sorbitol trapped in eye and nerve cells can damage these cells, leading to neuropathy.

I had one of my own questions answered about the thyroid. A whole chapter on thyroid explains that when building one’s vital essence with Adaptogens, endocrine issues dramatically improve, and problems such as hypothyroidism often disappear. For thyroid support Yance uses shatavari, rehmannia, chaste tree, royal jelly, ashwagandha, guggul, nettle, and schisandra along with nutritional agents such as N-acetyl tyrosine, Vitamin D, iodine in form of bladder wrack, and naturized natural selenium at 200 micrograms. Now that is true healing, since by taking porcine-based thyroid your thyroid actually gets weaker; you are not helping your thyroid.

If you want to finally be able to understand how the dynamics of thriving plays out I don’t think you will ever need another book. This book puts everything else to shame. As far as I am concerned it is the definitive treatise. I tell my patients if they followed everything in this book, their ills would disappear and they could begin to experience life’s exciting journey. Yance connects you with the healing agents of nature that have all of the natural molecules we need to even change our genes into truly functional engines reflecting a real joie de vivre.

By the way, I have first-hand experience using his herbal tinctures and it has taken my health to an all new level of vitality, vibrancy, and vivaciousness. Now after entering my senior years I feel better than when I was in my forties.