The impact of stress on our bodies has been widely discussed on this site. We all know that some stress is normal. It’s a fact of life. Even everyday stress, however, can leave us with reduced energy levels and a challenge our immune systems. There’s a category of herbs called adaptogens that may help us fight that fatigue and support a healthy immune response. So today let’s talk about adaptogens; what they are and whether adaptogens balance stress in the body.
Improving the body’s ability to function under duress is a topic I wish I had known a whole lot more about several years ago. It is my hope that by sharing what I’ve learned to help someone else instead. Now is a good time to remind you that the information here is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any ailments or diseases. It’s always important to talk to your medical practitioner before making any changes to your routine, especially if you are pregnant, nursing or taking medications.
How Adaptogens Balance Stress in the Body
What are adaptogens?
An adaptogen, according to the folks at Merriam Webster, is “a nontoxic substance and especially a plant extract that is held to increase the body’s ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning.”
That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Normal physiological functioning sounds pretty wonderful to me.
If you haven’t heard of them yet, adaptogens are almost like a new class or superfoods. Though while the term may sound trendy, adaptogens have been used for generations in traditional Chinese, Indian and Ayurvedic herbalism.
How do adaptogens balance stress?
By definition, adaptogens balance stress by helping the body “adapt” to the harmful effects that stress hormones can have on the body. What they don’t do, however, is cure stress. They can’t make your grumpy client disappear or pay your bills. They won’t lessen your burden or the feelings associated with whatever is causing your stress. Adaptogens aid the body by helping to support normal body functioning, even during times when those stress hormones may be released in greater amounts. Some adaptogens may support energy levels, while others may provide immune system support.
Each of us has different body chemistry, so our stress responses can vary, as can our response to adaptogens. It may take some time to find what works best for you.
Which herbs and roots are considered adaptogens?
The jury is still a bit out on this one, as some herbal experts have a much wider list than others. Ideally, adaptogens would be qualified as able to lower stress hormone levels in the body.
Which adaptogens balance stress in the body?*
It is widely agreed that these herbs and roots have adaptogenic properties:*
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an herb that is extensively used in Ayurveda, the traditional herbal system in India. Ashwagandha is used as a general tonic, helping the body adapt to stress.* Preliminary data also suggest that Ashwagandha supports a healthy immune system.*
Astragalus Root (Huang qi) has been used as a popular herbal tonic in China for many centuries.* Some of the known active components in astragalus root include flavonoids, free amino acids, polysaccharides, trace minerals and polyphenols to support immune system function.*
Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) is a fungus that has been used by traditional Chinese herbalists for its energizing and adaptogenic properties for centuries.* Cordyceps has numerous bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides and nucleosides, which have been studied for their broad range of biological activities.* Scientific studies have shown that Cordyceps constituents possess free radical scavenging properties, and may support a healthy immune system as well as normal vascular function.*
Eleuthero root (Eleutherococcus senticosus) has been used traditionally as a compound that supports the body’s natural ability to adapt to stress of everyday life.* Eleuthero root is known to possess numerous bioactive constituents.*
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) has been used for centuries as a food source and as a general energy tonic.* More recent scientific research suggests that Maca may help to support a healthy reproductive life for both men and women.
Panax Ginseng has been used by traditional herbalists for centuries for their invigorating, adaptogenic, and tonic properties.* Panax Ginseng has been studied extensively by modern scientists and it has been found to possess hundreds of compounds, including ginsenosides, phenolics, and saccharides that contribute to its biological activity.*
Though technically not plants, reishi mushrooms are adaptogens that support a healthy immune system response.* Both reishi and shiitake mushrooms are both well known in Oriental herbalism and have been used to promote health and wellness for centuries.* In more recent years, researchers have identified key bioactive polysaccharides that may contribute to their health-supporting properties.*
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) has long been used as a tonic by many cultures, including the Ancient Greeks.* It has been categorized as an adaptogen by Russian researchers due to its observed ability to support the body’s response to a variety of chemical, biological and physical stressors.* Rhodiola rosea can influence levels and activity of beta-endorphins.* It is said to support adaptogenic activities in the cardiopulmonary and central nervous systems.*
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) has been found in pre-clinical studies to support normal concentration levels and cognitive function.*
Holy basil is revered as a sacred plant in Ayurveda, the ancient traditional herbal system of India. It has been shown to possess powerful adaptogenic properties.* It may support healthy carbohydrate metabolism and already normal glucose management.*
How often should most people take adaptogens?*
It is thought that adaptogens work best when taken daily during and after periods of stress. It may take several weeks to several months to feel an adaptogen balance stress levels in the body.
How do you take adaptogens?
Adaptogens can be taken in pill form, as tea, with food, or in recipes. Personally, I prefer to add them to my daily smoothies and drink them! Even the ones that come in capsule form get opened and added to my smoothies.
What do you need to know before buying adaptogens?
This question is really how I began to learn more about adaptogens in the first place.
If you’ve visited this site before, you may already know that I work with NOW Foods@ as an ambassador for the brand. My family had been using their products consistently when I had the opportunity to visit their headquarters last year and see their manufacturing facility. The incredible knowledge, attention to detail, and testing of products to ensures that no impurities as so impressive to me that my family began to use all of their products regularly. It’s also why I feel confident in sharing their products with my readers.
It is so important to use a reputable brand when purchasing vitamins, supplements herbs or essential oils. Research has shown that some brands of supplements contain little or no amount of the ingredient on the label, and sometimes even harmful contaminants.
In addition to carrying many of the items mentioned above (click on the green underlined links for more information), NOW® also carries the following adaptogen products:
Ginseng & Royal Jelly, a combination of Panax Ginseng, Royal Jelly and Licorice Root.
D-Flame™, a blend of complementary herbs that may help to support a healthy response to normal physiological stress.* The botanical components in D-Flame™ may also help to alleviate occasional minor aches and pains resulting from overexertion or typical daily stress.*
What else do I need to know?
As mentioned earlier, it’s always important to speak with your medical practitioner before making any changes to your routine, especially if you are pregnant, nursing or taking medications. For example, if you have hyperthyroidism, you may want to steer clear of ashwagandha.
What’s the bottom line?
It goes without saying that well balanced diet, regular exercise, and enough sleep are vital for promoting overall health and wellbeing. Periods of typical everyday stress can affect our immune function by throwing our hormones out of whack, making us more susceptible to health issues. Adaptogens balance stress in the body, and can help support the normal regulation of those hormones and improve the body’s ability to function under stress*.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please consult your medical practitioner before making any changes to your wellness routine.
As mentioned above, as a #NOWWellness Influencer, this is a compensated post with NOW Foods®.
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