Saturday, April 13, 2024

Adaptogens, Stress & You

Everyone is looking for a way to relieve stress and one of the oldest ways towards stress relief, involves taking adaptogens.

Without getting into the numeric, because this number is increasing by the day, it is safe to say that the number of people “suffering” from stress, especially after the pandemic, is on the uptick.

Everyone is looking for a way to relieve stress and one of the oldest ways to relieve stress involves taking adaptogens.

Adaptogens are – herbs or plants that have been studied to neutralise the effects of stress on the body.

 Says a study — Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity (2010):

“Adaptogens were initially defined as substances that enhance the “state of non-specific resistance” in stress, a physiological condition that is linked with various disorders of the neuroendocrine-immune system. 

Studies on animals and isolated neuronal cells have revealed that adaptogens exhibit neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, antidepressive, anxiolytic, nootropic and CNS stimulating activity. In addition, a number of clinical trials demonstrate that adaptogens exert an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental work capacity against a background of stress and fatigue, particularly in tolerance to mental exhaustion and enhanced attention.

 Indeed, recent pharr[macological studies of a number of adaptogens[Z Ztionale for these effects also at the molecular level. It was discovered that the stress—protective activity of adaptogens was associated with regulation of homeostasis via several mechanisms of action, which was linked with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the regulation of key mediators of stress response.”

Here’s how we can break the above down into more simple points:

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are herbs, roots and other plant substances (like mushrooms) that help our bodies manage stress and restore balance after a stressful situation. 

How can you take adaptogens?

You can take adaptogens as herbal supplements in capsule form, drink them in teas or in a powder added to soups, smoothies and other foods.

Any kind of stress — physical, emotional, hormonal, and even things we eat and drink —affects the body’s systems. Experts believe that adaptogens interact with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which initiates your body’s stress response and plays a big role in keeping your body in balance.

Not all herbs work as adaptogens. To be considered an adaptogen, an herb or plant substance must:

  • Be nontoxic at normal doses
  • Support the entire body’s ability to cope with stress
  • Help the body return to a stable state

Common adaptogenic herbs and their benefits

There are many herbs and mushrooms that qualify as adaptogens, and what experts know about most of them is still limited. But growing research shows that adaptogens help the body regulate in many ways, including improving mood, balancing hormones, fighting fatigue and boosting the immune system. One study suggests that adaptogens may be useful alongside standard treatments for post-surgery recovery, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Some common adaptogens and their uses include:

  • Ashwagandha, is considered very powerful, and shown to help reduce anxiety and depression – We have an article on Ashwagandha here:
  • Ginseng, which refers to either American or Asian ginseng, and is used to combat fatigue
  • Reishi, a type of mushroom adaptogen used to boost the immune system and fight cancer studied for its effectiveness in treating cancerous tumours
  • Rhodiola, to reduce fatigue, depression and pain
  • Schisandra, for improved concentration, coordination and endurance
  • Tulsi (“holy basil”), used to increase focus, decrease anxiety and boost the immune system

What to consider before taking adaptogens

While the benefits of adaptogens are exciting, make sure to look at these supplements from every angle before using them. 

Adaptogens can interact with your medications.

If you are on medication for another condition, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before taking a supplement.

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