Life can be hectic at times, and we're all looking for ways to unwind when things get too much, right?
Whether it's a relaxing bath, some yoga, or disconnecting from the world of social media, the need for some calm in your life is as strong as ever these days, so anything is worth a shot!
In this article, we'll look at adaptogens, a class of holistic herbs, fruits, and mushrooms that are thought to bring stability and harmony to even the most stressful of lives.
Adaptogens are thought to help your body adjust to physical, chemical, or biological stress.
But how do they function?
We'll look at adaptogens, their health benefits, and what foods and supplements you can take to ensure you're getting enough to relax.
What exactly are adaptogens?
Adaptogens, as the name implies, assist the body in adapting, adjusting, and resetting itself in response to emotional and physical stress.
The term 'adaptogen' was coined by Russian toxicologist Nikolay Lazarev in 1957, who defined adaptogens as "substances that increase the state of non-specific resistance in stress."
Adaptogens are thought to provide calm during times of stress, peace when your mind races at night, and energy when you're tired.
Adaptogens, according to Lazarev, have the four N's:
- Nourishing – provide nutritive strength
- Normalizing – aid in the regulation of low energy levels and high stress levels
- Non-specific – act on multiple parts of the body at the same time
- Non-toxic – are completely safe when used over long periods of time
What effect do they have on the body?
Adaptogens may help to alleviate stress by regulating the release of stress hormones produced by the adrenal glands.
They use biological response modifiers to restore the body's natural immune function (BRMs).
When your immune system is weakened in any way, your body adapts to various stressors, and adaptogens are thought to protect against these stresses.
This is thought to work by supplementing your deeper immunity and assisting in the stabilisation of your body's response to stress.
They can influence the release of hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and aldosterone.
This means that adaptogens work by maintaining a table balance of chemicals associated with stress responses.
When we are stressed, our bodies typically go through three stages of stress:
- Alarm phase
- Resistance phase
- Exhaustion phase
When your body is stressed, such as when lifting weights, it releases hormones such as adrenaline to help improve muscle performance and ability to pay attention to tasks during the resistance phase.
This allows your body to literally resist the stress caused by weightlifting.
Because you are resisting the stressor, your body is boosted and more energised – as you fatigue, you enter the exhaustion stage.
Adaptogens essentially allow you to prolong the resistance phase.
10 Advantages of Adaptogens
More research into the full range of adaptogen benefits is being conducted.
However, available research suggests that adaptogens may be beneficial in reducing fatigue and exhaustion symptoms.
This is thought to be especially beneficial for people receiving treatment for chronic or acute medical conditions.
According to Alex Glover, a resident nutritionist, studies on adaptogens show that they may help in times of mental and physical exhaustion, as well as when your body recovers from strenuous exercise.
There has also been research that suggests they may help with low mood and mild anxiety, but more research is needed.
While more research is needed to fully support their benefits, adaptogen manufacturers claim that adaptogenic herbs may also have benefits such as:
- Increase overall well-being
- Increase your energy
- Promote organ function
- Lower the stress response
- Build inner strength
- Keep blood sugar levels normal.
- Improve protein synthesis
- Influence cortisol levels positively
- Keep cholesterol ratios normal.
- Maintain hormonal balance
6 adaptogens recommended by doctors
There are many adaptogens on the market, but five are considered to be the most important for your health, and they are as follows:
Ashwagandha is considered a well-known adaptogen because it has immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties.
However, when you have stress symptoms, it is thought to help you produce more white blood cells, fight fatigue, and improve autoimmune health.
Rhodiola is one of the original adaptogens, and it can help with stress and focus. According to studies, it may also be beneficial for fatigue and improving concentration.
Eleutherococcus, also known as Siberian ginseng, has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries with the belief that it is good for the soul.
Eleutherococcus is thought to be a good way to redirect your energy these days.
According to research, it may also help support adrenal gland function and the breakdown of stress hormones in your body.
As an adaptogen, cordyceps is thought to be beneficial to the liver, kidneys, and heart. Although more research is required.
The most established research, however, associates cordyceps with erectile dysfunction in men. There is also evidence that it can be used as an aphrodisiac for women.
More recent research has discovered that there may be evidence to suggest that it can improve energy, with study participants finding that they were able to exercise for longer periods of time.
Schisandra is a lesser-known red berry from China. According to Chinese legend, it helps to support the immune system and has stress-relieving properties.
6. The passion flower
Interesting appearance Passion flowers are native to Southeast America and are typically pink or purple in colour, with distinctive stamens and styles (the sticky-up bits that pollen sits on).
For many years, its leaves, stems, and flowers have been used for medicinal purposes.
In one study, people with anxiety were given passion flower extract for four weeks.
The findings suggested that passion flower could be an effective treatment for generalised anxiety disorder. However, larger-scale research is required.
How to Include Adaptogens in Your Diet
The most convenient way to incorporate adaptogens into your diet is through a supplement, which is widely available.
They can be found in mushrooms such as reishi and lion's mane. Most adaptogens, on the other hand, are quite unique and are not found in many foods.
Some adaptogens, such as ginseng and other herbs, can be found in teas, so if that's your thing, it's worth looking into.
Are adaptogens appropriate for everyone?
If you have any underlying health conditions, you should consult your doctor or a health professional before incorporating adaptogen supplements into your diet.
Because they may have physiological effects, they may interact with your current medications.
Adaptogens aren't necessarily a new concept.
They have traditionally been used to reduce stress, increase energy, and improve concentration.
However, historical research has been mixed, and some claims may be less accurate than initially thought.
New adaptogen research is looking into how adaptogens can help with respiratory and heart conditions. However, it is still early in the game, so only time will tell.