What are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a group of herbs that possess properties to help you ADAPT TO STRESS, hence the name. Many adaptogens come in a powder or supplement form for you to easily ingest! Primarily, people today use adaptogens to help combat stress-induced fatigue and increase cognitive function. (Panossian, 2017) Adaptogens are very underutilized. Resistance to stress depends on how you can adapt and manage it in your everyday life. Hans Selye was one of the first to study stress and how it can affect one on the cellular level.
Health is the ability to adapt to one’s environment. –George Canguilhem
Stress adaptation was studied by Selye in 1936. He is responsible for coining General Adaptation Syndrome, or commonly referred to as GAS. There are three stages of stress in the GAS model. The first is The Alarm Stage, the second is The Resistance Stage, and thirdly The Exhaustion Stage. Your body is constantly trying to maintain homeostasis, health, and adapt to your environment. Small everyday stressors would fall into the first category. Hopefully, your body is healthy enough to never reach the exhaustion phase, but…..life happens. Utilizing adaptogens is just one easy way to help combat the everyday stressors of life!
Sleep, exercise, proper nutrition, healthy relationships, support systems, a healthy environment, etc. are all positive ways to combat and prevent stress. It is important to practice these healthy habits in order to sustain optimal health. Using adaptogens prophylactically to reduce stress and prevent age-related diseases is another positive coping mechanism!
How they work?
These amazing herbs are considered “metabolic regulators” and work intracellularly and extracellularly. They have the ability to increase your stress threshold, provide balance, protection, and restoration. Many of these herbs have been used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda for centuries to promote physical and mental health, improve the body’s defense mechanisms, and enhance longevity. Studies have shown that the mechanism of action is specifically related to stress-protective activity and increased adaptability. They can help heal adrenal dysfunction and lower cortisol, your stress hormone. Chronic elevated cortisol levels can lead to metabolic syndrome and many other disease processes.
These studies also show the beneficial effects against chronic inflammation, atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative cognitive impairment, metabolic disorders, cancer, and other aging-related diseases. (Panossian, 2017) As I mentioned, they are commonly in powder form which allows you to easily incorporate them into your daily routine! Check out Enlighten Life’s recipe for Complete Bulletproof Coffee, which incorporates two different adaptogenic herbs. Most conveniently, many of them come in supplement form to add to your daily regimen too.
At the end of the day, you will never be without stressors in life. Practicing healthy ways to balance stress and returning to homeostasis is the goal to optimal wellness. I encourage you to see which adaptogen you could benefit the most from. Taking multiple ones is beneficial, as they work together synergistically. Incorporate them into your daily routine or when you find yourself experiencing increased stress. When you support your body and give it what it needs to thrive it can better take care of you!
There are several adaptogens out there but the most well known ones are the following:
- Amla – Amla is known for being high in vitamin C and antioxidants! It is a great immune system booster. It also helps support healthy liver functioning. Some studies say it helps strengthen bones, teeth, hair, and nails. It is grown in India and is known as the Indian gooseberry.
- Ashwagandha – This herb is one the most popular! Also known as “Indian Ginseng”. It is used to help support healthy endocrine functioning and to balance hormones. Specifically, ashwagandha is known to help balance thyroid hormones. By balancing thyroid hormones, it can also increase energy and stamina. (If you naturally have an overactive thyroid I would not suggest using this herb.) It too decreases anxiety, physical, mental, and emotional stress. It supports the adrenals glands by lowering cortisol levels, which has an overall positive systemic effect. Like many adaptogenics, it has a positive effect on your immune system and is neuro-protective.
- Astragalus Root – Another popular herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is known for increasing vitality, longevity, enhancing your immune system, and reducing inflammation!!
- Cordycep Mushrooms – Cordyceps (reishi, shiitake, & maitake mushrooms) are widely used in TCM to support kidney health. These mushrooms help oxygenate your tissues. They are used to decrease fatigue and dizziness. They have also been shown to support sexual energy, muscle tone, and once again …your immune system. Many mushroom-based coffees have become popular lately due to the impressive health benefits and their nutrient density!
- Ginseng – This herb is known to naturally lower blood pressure. It too possess antioxidant properties which combat stress, anxiety, and inflammation. Its antidepressant effects help increase your mood! Asian Ginseng is the most potent.
- Holy Basil (Tulsi) – Tulsi is native to India and one of their most powerful herbs! It is used to combat environmental allergies. Used as a tonic it can ease an upset stomach. It is known to help regulate blood pressure and blood sugars.
- Maca Root – This root is indigenous to Peru and best known for its hormone balancing properties. It is famously known for increasing libido, fertility, and aiding in menstrual cramps/issues/menopause. Maca provides vitamins B1, B2, B12, C and E. It is rich in calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids. Within days of using maca, your energy level may increase which makes it widely used among athletes.
- Matcha – Matcha is a great source of antioxidants, chlorophyll, and is nutrient rich. Chlorophyll is responsible for the green color and the detoxifying properties it possesses. It makes for a delicious tea and will support your energy levels all day long due to the theophylline naturally found in matcha. Theophylline releases slowly over +/- 8 hours without a crash like caffeine does. It happens to also have anti-microbial and anti-viral properties.
- Moringa – Moringa may be the most nutrient dense adaptogenic I am aware of AKA the “miracle tree”! It contains large amounts of protein, vitamin A, C, potassium, and calcium. Its list of benefits is so long it deserves its own blogpost! Studies have shown benefits ranging from fighting inflammation, anemia, gastrointestinal/digestion distress, increasing immunity, mood, etc. Its antioxidants and flavonoids help protect you, help you adapt to stress, and balance hormones.
- Rhodiola – It is best known for its anxiety relieving properties and immune boosting properties. General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is best characterized by: difficulty concentrating, irritability, tense muscles, sleep disturbances, and trouble controlling worries. Rhodiola and its phytochemicals have anti-aging and calming properties too.
**You’ll notice I have linked the adaptogenics above to Amazon, and many of them are the Sun Potion Brand. The Sun Potion brand only source Organic and/or Wildcrafted, and consciously sourced products and never use ingredients that have been chemically treated in any way. This is one reason I love this company and feel great promoting them! Another great brand I like, and is in A LOT of grocery stores is Oregon’s Wild Harvest. Their products are also organic and non-GMO. Their supplements are in capsule form. There are no additives or stabilizers…just a vegetarian capsule.**
**Always do your own research and listen to your body when it comes to nutrition, supplementation, and exercise. Consult your doctor if you have questions, are pregnant, have concerns, or wonder if there are any interactions with current medications/practices you partake in. There are thousands of studies both supporting and negating healthy practices, nutritional education, and what one person perceives as right or wrong. My personal thoughts, experiences, and research are what write about…they may not be yours 🙂 **
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Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S., & Joshi, K. (2017, January). Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Retrieved September 20, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27055824
Li, X. T., Li, H. C., Li, C. B., Dou, D. Q., & Gao, M. B. (n.d.). Protective effects on mitochondria and anti-aging activity of polysaccharides from cultivated fruiting bodies of Cordyceps militaris. Retrieved September 20, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21061463
MORINGA: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1242-moringa.aspx?activeingredientid=1242
Panossian, A. (2017, August). Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals. Retrieved September 18, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28640972
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Shih, Ming-Chih, Cheng-Ming Chang, Sue-Ming Kang, and Min-Lang Tsai. “Effect of Different Parts (Leaf, Stem and Stalk) and Seasons (Summer and Winter) on the Chemical Compositions and Antioxidant Activity of Moringa oleifera.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3189769/.
Transformational Foods. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2017, from https://www.sunpotion.com/