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What is an Adaptogen?

Do you feel stressed out and tired? Many of us feel like we are trying to balance too many things on a daily basis, and that we are often failing to keep up with it all. We’re also looking for a remedy that helps us manage all that stress in a natural, healthy way.

Well, we’ve found it!

Adaptogens are a gift from nature that help the body deal with stress and react to it more calmly. These little gems are a group of plants that pack a powerful punch.

Science tells us1 that when our bodies are stressed, they respond by telling the autonomic nervous system to work harder. If stress is ongoing, chronic, and/or unpredictable, the nervous system gets depleted, and the body has an increasingly hard time recovering when the stress gets amped up.

This can cause a domino effect on the body, where the immune system can weaken, wounds can take longer to heal, and mental health may suffer. Behavioral problems can also start to show up in periods of high stress, like insomnia, loss of appetite, and making poor decisions.

The way researchers think Adaptogens work is by helping the body’s autonomic nervous system return to its normal, healthy, relaxed state. This helps avoid needing to redirect excessive amounts of energy to the nervous system. It also helps the body recover more quickly after stressful situations have passed.

Modern Western medicine relies more heavily on synthetic pharmaceutical drugs to fight stress. These remedies are designed to just address the symptoms of stress, and they often come with a lot of negative side effects.

Traditional medicine and healing practices rely more on remedies that come from nature and that help get the body back into balance so the symptoms no longer occur. They often turn to Adaptogens to work on a higher level and to elevate patients to an overall feeling of wellbeing.

For instance, Adaptogens are frequently used in Ayurvedic medicine, which is an ancient Indian healing practice that addresses everything from digestive problems to ailments associated with age. Ayurvedic medicine identified some of the most important and best Adaptogens known to us, including Tulsi/Holy Basil and Ashwagandha. Other Adaptogens, like Ginger and Kava Kava, were introduced to us by indigenous medicine around the world.

The Best Adaptogens

With stress - both chronic and acute - becoming a near epidemic in today’s busy, connected world, Adaptogen herbs are getting a lot of attention. Their ability to help lower stress levels and, therefore, the many illnesses that result from them, has made Adaptogens a hot commodity. Some of the most popular ones include:

  1. Holy Basil (Tulsi Basil): Originally cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes in India, Holy Basil is revered as an overall elixir for life. It is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine and plays an important role in Hinduism.
  2. Maca: Indigenous people in the Andes of Peru have used Maca's root for thousands of years to help build the blood and prevent fatigue. It is also used to enhance sexual performance and fertility.
  3. Ashwagandha: One of the most popular kinds of Adaptogens today, Ashwagandha is thought to reduce stress, calm the brain, reduce swelling, lower blood pressure, and help the immune system.
  4. Schisandra: An important element of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Schisandra is often referred to as the Five Flavored Fruit. The chemicals found in this herb stimulate enzymes in the liver and promote liver cell growth.
  5. Bacopa: An aquatic plant native to India that has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine, Bacopa is used to calm the nervous system and to support memory, comprehension, and recall.
  6. Aloe Vera: This herb is believed to help alleviate symptoms associated with cardiovascular diseases, neurodegeneration, and diabetes.
  7. Rhodiola: Used for centuries in Scandinavia and Russia to help cope with the harsh conditions of Siberia, Rhodiola is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is thought to enhance energy, stamina, cognitive function, and athletic performance.
  8. Kava Kava: This herb has been used by indigenous tribes for years as part of a calming elixir. Kava Kava has been found to ease symptoms of anxiety and to calm the mind.
  9. Eleuthero: This herb is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to counter fatigue and to strengthen tissues. Eleuthero is believed to work double-time to boost strength and endurance, and also promote balance and relieve stress.
  10. Ginseng: Having been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for at least 2,000 years as a tonic, Ginseng is a go-to for replenishing energy. It is used for a wide variety of benefits, including improved general wellbeing, physical stamina, and concentration. It is also believed to help promote overall good health as we age.
  11. Astragalus: The root of Astragalus has been shown to promote healthy immunity and respiration, as well as to help soothe intestinal irritation.
  12. Gotu Kola: This herb is believed to promote mental clarity and relaxation, as well as to support blood circulation and tissue strength.

The Positive Effects of Adaptogens are Proven in Scientific Research

Research shows just how effective Adaptogens can be in minimizing the toll stress takes on the body. Here are what a few studies have found:

  • An article2 published in the peer-reviewed Alternative Medicine Review said Adaptogenic herbs can help people adapt to prolonged stress caused by “malnutrition, surgery, chemical exposure, excessive exercise, sleep deprivation, or a host of other environmental causes” and minimize some of the effects of stress.
  • The positive adaptogenic and aphrodisiac qualities of Ginseng are well-documented3, and chemical analysis is being used to help further explain its effects on the body.
  • Holy Basil has been proven to have a lot of great benefits. It is uses are broad, including “as a hand sanitizer, mouthwash and water purifier,” along with many other health-promoting uses.4
  • Studies show5 that, as a supplement, Aloe Vera may help alleviate symptoms associated with cardiovascular diseases, neurodegeneration, and diabetes.
  • A recent clinical study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine highlighted the ability of Ashwagandha to combat stress-induced eating behavior and to reduce cortisol levels.6

We can learn a lot from nature and from traditions that have been leaning on it for thousands of years to keep us healthy and thriving. Adaptogens and their ability to help us deal with and sometimes even bypass stress, are a great example of this. Could these little plants be the perfect antidote to our busy, always-on modern lifestyle? It’s hard to argue with nature!

Are you interested in learning more about this and other topics like it? Find us on Facebook to start a conversation about Adaptogen herbs and all of the other paths to good health we find in nature. We’d love to hear from you there!

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References
5. Nejatzadeh-Barandozi, F. Antibacterial activities and antioxidant capacity of Aloe vera. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3729540/.
6. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/.