What Are Adaptogens and Why do I Need Them in my Life?
Do you ever get tired of feeling tired, stressed about feeling stressed, or sick of feeling sick? If you do, rest assured you’re not the only one.
Most of us are aware of common ways of combating these negative states, be it through meditation, exercise, taking time out from work, or switching to a nutrient-dense whole food diet.
However, what if we were to tell you there is more that you can do. What if we were to tell you that there is a whole family of naturally occurring herbs and mushrooms that interact with your body’s internal environment to combat these states. A family that rarely makes it on to the supermarket shelves, never mind into your kitchen cupboard. Sounds good right?
Allow us to introduce you to adaptogens.
What is an adaptogen?
An adaptogen is defined as a nontoxic herb or medicinal mushroom that may increase the body's ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning.
This sounds very impressive. Most of us during times of stress or bouts of fatigue wish that things could just get back to normal. This is the mission statement for adaptogens. Get your body back to feeling normal.
However, unlike a friend, counselor, or family member the adaptogens can’t listen to what you have to say. Instead, they listen to what your internal physiology tells them and adapt accordingly. If there is nothing to adapt to, they will leave well alone, if not they will act.
What can they be used for?
Adaptogens have been found to have positive correlations when combating fatigue, enhancing mental performance, and reducing the effects of psychological stress. In turn, improving overall wellbeing, reducing anxiety, and helping you to relax.
With all these benefits it’s not difficult to see why we think that supplementing these into your diet can have major benefits for both physical and mental health.
How do they work?
Let’s take an example of stress. Experiencing stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing and in some cases can lead to an increase in productivity but having chronic persistent bouts of either physical or emotional stress certainly isn’t good for your long term health.
When your body experiences any kind of stress, a hormone called Cortisol is released by your adrenal glands. Now, like stress, cortisol can have a positive impact on the body, helping to control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism and help stimulate the ‘flight or fight response’ to whatever ‘danger’ your body or brain is experiencing. However, too much cortisol can lead to more serious negative health consequences such as high blood pressure, muscle weakness, anxiety, and in many studies has been correlated with depression.
This is where the adaptogen comes in. Recognizing the high level of cortisol in the blood the adaptogen interacts with the hormone to normalize it and change the internal physiology. This reduction in cortisol allows the individual to get back on the path to feeling normal again. For combating stress, the adaptogens we would highly recommend are Astragalus and Ashwagandha.
As mentioned, it’s not just dangerously high-stress levels that adaptogens can help with but a magnitude of other health-related issues. However, the process of the adaptogen counteracting what is going on inside your body and improving overall health remains the same.
What adaptogens would you recommend?
Not all adaptogens are created equal. Indeed, all adaptogens have their own unique properties. That’s what makes them special and why it’s probably a good idea to find the best mix for your own circumstances.
While you can’t consume them all, and nor should you really need to, here some adaptogens that we would recommend potentially supplementing into your diet.
With a history in Chinese medicine, Astragalus has been long been used as an immune system booster, with evidence showing that it potentially increases the body’s production of white blood cells.
In addition, it’s not just immune health that Astragalus may help with, it has a number of other purported health benefits including anti-aging and anti-inflammatory effects. Now, who wouldn’t want to look and feel younger?
The ashwagandha plant is a small shrub, with yellow flowers native to North Africa and India. It is frequently used in Ayurveda, a form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing. It is commonly used as a treatment to boost brain function and lower both blood sugar and cortisol levels.
In a 6 week study, in 2000 followed subjects who suffered from anxiety disorders. Incredibly, 88 % of subjects reported a decrease in anxiety after supplementing ashwagandha.
- Rhodiola Rosea
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, research has also suggested that Rhodiola may improve stamina, reduce fatigue and endurance by increasing red blood cell count and lowering oxidative damage by free radicals.
- Holy Basil
If you suffer from headaches or insomnia Holy Basil might well be the adaptogen for you. It’s antioxidant-rich makeup, which includes Vitamins C and A, Calcium, Zinc, Iron, and Chlorophyll make it a strong candidate to be included as part of your current supplement routine.
- Bacopa Monnieri
Another adaptogen that is a staple in traditional Ayurvedic medicine is Bacopa Monnieri. Containing powerful compounds called bacosides, which have strong antioxidant qualities, bacopa monnieri can help the body fight against free radicals.
Free radicals are linked to many chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and even certain cancers.
Now I hope you remember this….animal and human studies have proposed that Bacopa Monnieri may help improve memory and attention.
Over the past centuries, Cordyceps has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for a host of reasons including fatigue, sickness, kidney disease, and even low sex drive.
Of the 400 species of Cordyceps extract, two have been the focus of health research, Cordyceps Sinensis and Cordyceps militaris. Although the research is still in the infancy, the early signs are promising.
At present, the only research has been done on animals so far but signs have shown that cordyceps may have potential as a treatment for diabetes. Watch this space for future research.
- Reishi Mushrooms
Our very favorite mushroom. Reishi might have it all, used in alternative medicine to assist in weight loss, boost the immune system, and even fight cancer cells it more than deserves a mention on our list.
As if all of this wasn’t enough thanks to the compound triterpene the mood enhancing properties may assist in mental health to alleviate anxiety, soothe depression, and even improve focus. It’s too early to say for sure as the research is ongoing but the findings certainly are positive so far.
We wouldn’t pretend that adaptogens are a fix-all. We believe they should be consumed as part of a healthy diet and an overall lifestyle that includes plenty of exercises and an awareness of the importance of mental health. However, they will, and have been proven to help with a magnitude of health related issues if used correctly.
Many of our products contain a host of adaptogens. In particular, our new Relax supplement contains a massive blend of adaptogens, nootropics, and medicinal mushrooms.
Just remember that just like adaptogens you are unique. So if you are at all unsure of the consequences of taking a particular supplement please consult your doctor.
- Astragalus - Immune
- A meta-analysis of holy basil benefits
- Bacopa Monnieri memory
- Cordyceps anti-aging, fruit fly study
- Reishi mushrooms, immune system
- Free radicals and anti-aging