What are adaptogens and how can they decrease our stress?
The term ‘adaptogen’ is a modern label for nature’s performance enhancers. They are properties found in plants that have been used for millennia to boost the functioning of the human body, specifically when it comes to managing the nervous system’s stress response. Different adaptogens are believed to either calm or energize the physiological system towards becoming more resistant to stress, so they are used to improve energy, focus, and stamina, among other things. The difference between adaptogens and other herbal or pharmaceutical medicines is that they work to bring the body back into its natural homeostasis needed for optimal wellbeing, rather than stimulating, depressing, or intervening in any specific chemical processes. For this reason, they are reported to have few adverse side effects.
Do adaptogens work?
Research over the past century into the clinical validity of adaptogens hasn’t been conclusive, but millions of people around the world swear by the adaptogenic properties in herbal remedies when times get tough. Many of the plants that adaptogens are extracted from are common to indigenous medicine and the ancient health sciences of Indian Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine for curing or stabilizing various ailments. Some studies have concluded that adaptogens can support adrenal function to reduce the effects of stress hormones, helping to counter fatigue and other stress-related struggles, improve stamina and endurance, and promote relaxation and better-quality sleep among other effects. However, while adaptogens may be a great source of support during stressful periods, they are not recommended as a long-term “cure” for an overstretched lifestyle. It’s important to explore and address the root of an overwhelmed or burnt out system. Some adaptogens are also powerful enough to be banned from international sporting competitions, so it’s important to always seek medical advice and read up on any herbal supplements you plan on taking.
Panax ginseng: The root of this plant, known as Asian ginseng, is said to reduce blood pressure and impact blood sugar levels. It can increase physical stamina, as well as improve concentration and memory. Other variations, such as American ginseng, are said to have similar effects. Ginseng root can be eaten raw, cooked, stewed into tea, or taken as a supplement.
Reishi: This fatigue fighting mushroom has been found by studies to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, among numerous other health and immune system benefits. Reishi and other mushrooms such as lion’s mane, which is known to help relaxation, sleep and focus, can either be eaten fresh or taken in powdered form.
Ashwagandha: This Ayurvedic remedy was found by one study to significantly reduce cortisol levels in participants, the stress hormone that is responsible for activating the nervous system’s fight-flight response. Ashwagandha’s root extract, usually taken in powder or capsule form, is said to boost energy, balance reproductive hormones, increase concentration, and relieve anxiety.
Rhodiola: Also known as arctic root or golden root, rhodiola is said to improve heart function and be particularly beneficial in times of physical stress and burnout. Athletes and astronauts are known to trust its anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and cell repairing properties, and one study recommends the adaptogen for cancer prevention.
Goji berries: Known for their numerous health benefits, goji berries (also known as lycium) are rich in antioxidants and have been prescribed in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. They are recommended for countering anxiety and depression, increasing energy, improving eyesight, as well as providing a host of other boosts to health and wellbeing. You can enjoy them fresh, dried, rehydrated, or juiced.
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: Rhodiola rosea L.: an herb with anti-stress, anti-aging, and immunostimulating properties for cancer chemoprevention; A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide; A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults; A Review of Three Ancient Chinese Herbs, Goji Berry, Ginger and Ginseng in Pharmacological and Modern Science.
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