What are Adaptogens: How Will They Benefit Your Health?
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Adaptogens have been part of the Ayurveda and Chinese herbal practices from ancient times for thousands of years. The word ‘adaptogens’ got its name around 1947 from Dr. Nikolai Lazarev, a Russian scientist. He wanted to find certain substances that would help the body to be able to adapt to emotional and physical stress.
In ancient times, people would look to plants to get better. They would pass down the knowledge from one generation to the next. Adaptogens have normalizing effects on the body, supporting the adrenal glands. Adrenal glands are responsible for our responses when we are under stress. Adrenal glands are exhausted after activated constantly by hectic stressful lives.
Naturally, we want to live less stress-free lives. Who doesn’t, right? But in today’s world that is virtually impossible. Thank goodness for Adaptogens! They can help us to bounce back from constant stress and strain on our body. Adaptogens enable us to get better sleep, focus, improved memory, and more. So, what in the world are Adaptogens?
So, What Are Adaptogens, Really?
Adaptogens are special foods. They are plants that help us adapt to our environment. They also aid in how we respond and manage stress. Only one in 4000 different plant types is considered an Adaptogen. They increase energy and endurance. They also help with balancing hormones, particularly the cortisol hormone.
Criteria to be considered adaptogens:
- It must be safe and non-toxic.
- There must be a broad scope of benefits that will improve the immune system and not just help with one symptom.
- They need to offer balance in the body.
The scientists of 1947 outlined 3 main points about adaptogens:
- An adaptogen causes an increase in being able to resist quite a few stress factors which include chemical, physical, and biological factors.
- Adaptogens have normalizing impacts on physiology.
- Adaptogens don’t interfere with the normal function of an organism more than necessary.
All adaptogenic plants have unique plant-based components which help to steer the body to function normally. The components that promote healing vary from plant to plant.
The detailed science around adaptogens is extremely fascinating and continues to grow. Knowing a bit of background on each of the adaptogens helps when you choose herbs for particular health issues you are dealing with. I feel it is so interesting to see the information about the culture, the history, and customs that bring herbs to life.
The most important thing to remember is that Adaptogens are wonderful food secrets that help people to maintain balanced lifestyles. If you add adaptogens to your life they can benefit you in many different ways.
List of Adaptogens (not a full list)
Ashwagandha has been used for over 2,500 years. This plant is a powerful antioxidant proving to be beneficial for the nervous system, endocrine system and for cardiovascular problems. Ashwagandha has benefited people with depression. The people who live in the Himalayas have used it to enhance resistance to oxygen deprivation and improve physical endurance. It also provides effective anti-stress support and immune and circulatory system enhancement.
It is used to help thyroid conditions and adrenal fatigue. I shared how chronic fatigue, if not treated properly, can lead to adrenal fatigue in my blog. You can read it here: 5 Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms You May Not Realize You Have
Like many other healing herbs on this list, Ashwagandha also helps to balance out your
hormone levels. Another great way to increase your energy or reduce fatigue.
Astragalus is an herb, used for heaps of conditions such as allergies, diabetes, and heart failure. It also helps in regulating and strengthening the immune system. Some people just use it as a general tonic, believing it protects their liver and helps to fight off viruses and bacteria. It has been the subject of numerous studies involving virtually all major body systems.
Astragalus helps to restore immune function for those with weak immune systems due to cancer treatments or chronic illnesses. Astragalus was recommended for me during Cancer treatment. This is how I first learned about adaptogens.
Bilberry is excellent for any urinary tract infections and problems. It is also used for the endocrine and reproductive systems as well as respiratory conditions. Both the fruit and leaves are high in antioxidants. It is also excellent for disorders of the eye.
This amazing adaptogen is a medicinal mushroom. It has been used for centuries in China to promote vitality, energy, and endurance. It aids in enhancing the immune system as well as cardiovascular, respiratory, and adrenal health. Cordyceps are also hormone balancers which increase stamina and energy.
Dang Shen –
Dang Shen is also known as Codonopsis. It has the ability to strengthen your defense against high-stress levels, trauma, fatigue, and anxiety.
Elderberry contains high antioxidant levels as well as vitamin C, being able to reduce fevers and to support the immune system.
This herbal plant shows evidence of it being used over 2000 years ago in China, used mostly in traditional medications. Eleuthero was extensively studied by the Russian scientists and proven to support endurance and response to stress. It acts as a stimulant, helping to increase the functioning of the nervous system. It also increases stamina. You might hear it being referred to as Siberian Ginseng.
This is the most common adaptogen. There is actually more than one Ginseng such as American Ginseng, Eleuthero (also called Siberian Ginseng) and Indian Ginseng. There are so many different conditions it helps. I talk about it more in my blog here: 8 Adrenal Fatigue Supplements that Changed My Life.
It is also beneficial for cancer; has anti-inflammatory and anti-fatigue benefits, as well as diabetes.
Guduchi is detoxifying, immune boosting and rejuvenating.
He Shou Wu –
Treats the liver, blood, kidneys and improves energy. It can also reverse grey hair. I need to try this one myself since dying my hair every 3 weeks is not fun! It grows so fast getting the right nutrition, but unfortunately only grows in grey!
Holy Basil –
Holy Basil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It has been used for thousands of years to treat problems of the circulatory and immune systems as well as the nervous system. Holy Basil is thought to be the number one anti-aging herb today because of its stress reducing abilities. If you struggle with brain fog, this herbs increases cognitive function too. Holy Basil reduces gas and bloating and problematic gut issues as well.
Indian Gooseberry –
The Indian Gooseberry has been eaten and used in traditional Ayurveda medicine for literally thousands of years. It is very rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. It has been proving to treat and prevent cancer and even helping with diabetes and high cholesterol.
Known as the “immortality herb”. It is said to protect the body from premature aging and destruction. Studies reveal that the herb has similar benefits to that of Ginseng, lowering LDL cholesterol, improving immunity and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Jiaogulan has nearly four times the antibacterial qualities of Panax Ginseng. It is often been studied for its many beneficial effects on the circulatory system.
Licorice root –
Increases energy, reducing stress and increasing endurance. It also helps to boost the immune system. It also helps to heal leaky gut syndrome because of its soothing anti-inflammatory properties.
Lycium/Wolfberry/Goji Berry –
Has anti-inflammatory benefits that support healthy bowel flora and healthy vision. Supports the liver and kidneys, strengthening weak muscles and ligaments.
Maca also called “Peruvian ginseng”, increases stamina, strength, and libido. I started taking Solle Maca last year. Cancer treatment had sent me into early menopause. The hot flashes and night sweats had steadily gotten worse over the last six years. I haven’t had any more hot flashes or night sweats. Maca contains plenty of vitamin C which is ideal for boosting the immune system too.
You may or may not know that Reishi is a mushroom. It is best known for the treatment of fatigue, cancer, heart disease, and respiratory complaints. Reishi is also a general immune booster. And it helps to lower blood sugar levels.
Rhodiola strengthens the immune system, restores balance in blood sugar. It aids fertility, boosting alertness and lessening fatigue. Rhodiola can also combat depression. It helps reduce stress, protecting from adrenal fatigue. This is one I take every day!
Schisandra is commonly used as a tonic. It is known to remove toxins from the body and to protect the liver.
When you look at all the above plants and their benefits, you must admit, they sound pretty amazing, don’t they? Who doesn’t want all that extra energy and to get rid of the side effects of stress? Adaptogens have been used for centuries. It is true that certain adaptogens can help you with that much-needed vitality and energy. But if you are looking for a truly holistic approach, you might need to look at your diet and your lifestyle as well. You need to heal your whole body to receive more meaningful and long-term benefits. Adaptogens aren’t a quick fix, although some do act quickly in making you feel better.
Chronic Stress and Adaptogens
Chronic stress can make people explode, simmer or stew, and if you can relate to this, you are not alone. It was discovered that one-third of American people live with extreme stress in a national survey completed by the American Psychological Association. Nearly half reported that their stress levels had increased over the last 5 years.
Stress hormones are supposed to protect you during stressful events. But when they become over-produced because of chronic stress, those very same hormones can cause and promote cellular damage. They can accelerate detrimental changes in the body. These changes may be things like ongoing fatigue, inflammation, bone mineral loss, hormone imbalances, brain fog, and obesity.
Adaptogens increase the body’s natural resistance to stress. Getting rid of stress doesn’t just happen overnight of course. But the sooner you start managing your stress, the better for you. Adaptogens are mighty medicinal plants. They can do for your adrenal glands what exercises will do for your muscles. Even though exercising puts stress on the body, people still continue to exercise. And the body deals better with the stress as they continue exercising. When you take adaptogens, you train your body to handle stress effects.
Adaptogens Can Change Your Life
Mrs. Juhasz, a fashion industry executive, claims that taking a combination of adaptogens is what saved her life!
She was a long time alcoholic and drug addict. She plagued with health problems such as liver damage, sinus infections, ulcers, and nasty and uncontrollable cravings. On her road to recovery, she wanted to address her health by checking out natural herbalism and medicines and so she started experimenting with herbs, superfoods, and amino acids.
It was only months later that she claimed to come up with her ‘exact ratio’ of the combinations, but when she did, she noticed that all her health problems started to disappear. She says that:
“Adaptogens don’t treat a specific condition; they’re for anyone looking to boost overall well-being” working gently and slowly, safe for even long-time use.”
Adaptogens have really changed my life as well. I used to sleep horribly! I was stressed out all the time. Both of these led to Adrenal Fatigue. More on my story about what I struggled with before using adaptogens and how I finally got the help I needed in my blog: My Struggles with Adrenal Fatigue, Stress, Weight loss, Cancer…
Here is my blog on the specific adaptogenic herbs that helped me get back to sleep: Plants that Help You Sleep and Stay Asleep!
If you want
Celebrities that have benefited from using adaptogens
Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Alicia Keys, and Jennifer Aniston spike their drinks and foods with adaptogens. Gwyneth adds a teaspoon of Ashwagandha to her tea to stay calm. She adds cordyceps into her shakes for a quick energy boost. Many celebrities claim to have pantries packed with adaptogenic herbs, easily available to blend into any hot or cold nut milk drink for “pick me up” nutrition or to replace it with a meal.
So which adaptogen should you take?
With the huge availability of adaptogens, how to know which adaptogens to take, or even which is the best brand? How do you know from all the powders out there, the pills, the tablets and capsules to choose?
For me, I have found a solid reputable company with Solle Naturals. They not only check each individual ingredient as it comes from the grower, but also sends them to a 3rd party to be verified of authenticity, potency, and free of contaminants. They are 100% plant sourced. Solle products are free of gluten, soy, MSG, nuts, GMOs, and any artificial ingredients. You can read their 10 Point Solle Certain Guarantee right on their website, with all labels to products.
You can also take a health assessment to see exactly what your body is saying it needs help with right now and I will get you all the information emailed to you. Just click the link here: Health Assessment
Watch out for these 5 dangers.
#1 Buying adaptogens that have contaminants in them.
Supplements do not have to be “tested” before being released to the market. So this means companies looking for a quick profit may use or buy anything whether it has illegal substances or not. Sadly they may add an androgenic steroid just to boost energy. And no they don’t list it on the label of course.
#2 Buying adaptogens with incorrect ingredients.
There is also the risk of buying adaptogens that don’t even have the correct active ingredients that it says it has. It could contain low-cost fillers such as rice, wheat, grass, or even sawdust. Not only is this a waste of your money, but what if you are allergic to an ingredient they aren’t disclosing?
#3 How was it grown and harvested?
The plants that the adaptogenic herbs are from may not have been harvested properly. I don’t want to get into the whole GMO debate, but you know what I’m talking about here.
Unfortunately, since supplements are not properly regulated you can buy one from a company that knows nothing about what they are doing. They possibly threw together concoctions which can be dangerous to your health and which you will not derive the full effectiveness of the adaptogens.
#4 Stopping your medications.
Lastly, don’t think that you can quit your prescribed medications and begin treating with adaptogens for your acute medical issues. I’ve seen a ton of success stories! I would love to share them with you! Take this two-minute health assessment to see what would be recommended for you.
But, everyone is different and has different medical concerns. Discuss what you are wanting to try with your doctor. Ease into a more natural approach without stopping what you are doing now. As you feel better you should be able to slowly ease off medications.
Talk to your doctor before adding adaptogens in any case to your diet because studies do find that herbal supplements do not always interact positively with medications prescribed by a doctor – sometimes people don’t let their doctors know they are taking other over-the-counter drugs and supplements for instance.
Adaptogens have no side effects, but…
There is not much evidence showing that adaptogens can cause health problems or side effects.
Things to consider
- Remember to make sure you know what you are getting because there are many supplement companies who will just make a capsule with a bit of this and a bit of that, hoping that it will produce a similar, synergizing effect as the real thing.
- Plants can cause allergies or gastrointestinal distress which people need to be aware of. Just as if you were allergic to strawberries or cotton.
- Adaptogens are generally safe for most people to ingest. They are plants so, therefore, they are food.
Some final thoughts…
While all adaptogens have hormone-balancing qualities, each has a particular strength as well. They work brilliantly by themselves but they also work synergistically with other adaptogens.
When you’re feeling stressed out and anxious, then getting your life back in balance can be pretty challenging. Spots of productive energy and calm focus can be all too elusive. You don’t have to just get used to feeling ‘wired and tired’. A special group of herbs can help you regroup, refocus and restart your body again – they are adaptable adaptogens.