Adaptogens have been getting a lot more attention recently, and for good reason. These special herbs are being used more and more in self care because they are easy to use, help combat stress and can improve your overall wellness. Some of you might have heard of adaptogens or people talking about them, but still might not really understand what they exactly are or how they can benefit you. So I thought that I could share a little bit about them - Like what they are, how they work and some examples of how you can start trying to incorporate into your daily routine!
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are essentially a class of herbs that are intended to help our bodies manage stress and maintain balance in the body (hemostasis). These herbs have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions. When people relied on plants and their leaves, seeds and flowers as the primary defense against illness. Long before FDA-approved pharmaceuticals and synthetic vitamins. The cool thing about this class of herbs is that, as the name implies, adaptogens can help the body “adapt” to remain in a harmonious state according to ones body needs. Over time, adaptogens can help our bodies build resilience in dealing with physical and emotional stress, increase energy and help with mental awareness. You can consume them as supplement capsules, teas or mixed in with food and shakes. A couple adaptogens you may already be familiar with are turmeric and goji berries!
To qualify as an adaptogen, a herb must:
- Increase the bodies ability to cope with internal and external stresses
- Exhibit stimulating effects after both single time use and prolonged use, leading to increased working capacity and mental performance under fatigue-inducing conditions.
- Normalize the functions of the body
- Be completely safe and free of negative side effects
Looking at how chronically stressed our society is, it’s not a surprise that they are a hot topic. Could they be an all natural alternative to crutches such as caffeine, sugar and energy drinks?
How Do Adaptogens Work?
Research has found that adaptogenic herbs interact with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which controls the endocrine function, as well as the nervous system and some immune function. Let’s break that down a little bit. Your hypothalamus is the part of your brain that recognizes stress - When you are under stress, your hypothalamus signals your pituitary gland (located at bottom of brain) which together, signal your adrenals (located on top of kidneys) to produce and release hormones to deal with a crisis. When we use adaptogens daily, their organic properties and compounds can work with the HPA axis to help balance our systems. They are believed to promote vitality, stabilize mood and improve performance and focus. Combining adaptogenic herbs in formulas has a synergistic effect, enhancing their individual benefits and harmonizing their overall effect on the body.
If you want to learn more, the book, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief by David Winston is an excellent beginners guide. We hope you were able to take something away from this short read and we will leave you with a little information about 5 popular adaptogens!
ASHWAGANDHA - Extracted from a small evergreen shrub that has a very strong taste. It’s famous for combating stress and anxiety, but also helps assist your immune system.
MACA - A root vegetable grown in the Andes mountains. Unlike ashwagandha, Maca is very tasty and is rich in protein, fibre, calcium, and magnesium. It helps support hormone production when your body is under producing and helps the body balance hormone production when over-producing. This root has also been used for hundreds of years to support libido, fertility by raising sperm count in men, and mood.
CORDYCEPS - A natural energy enhancer that have been found to boost ATP production, which is an organic compound that brings energy to the cells. Cordyceps is a powerful antioxidant as well, reducing the effects of aging on skin, hair and nails.
LIONS MANE - A white, fuzzy mushroom that hides a powerhouse of nutritional value. This fungus is full of antioxidants and contains hericenones and erinacines, two compounds that help protect brain tissue and stimulate new growth.
REISHI - “The mushroom of immortality” This mushroom boosts immunity and supports the body’s ability to heal. The antioxidants found in reishi can help build strength and vitality.
- Kokoro and Jade Team