Do you feel fatigued by the end of your work day? Do you snap at small things or find it difficult to get out of bed some mornings? If your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you may be suffering from increased stress and sub-optimal body functions. Read on to find how adaptogens can return your body to its natural state.
Our bodies are equipped to handle a certain level of stress. Thousands of years ago this meant fighting off a predator or war situations. Our adrenal glands help us cope with such threats and return our body to normal when the threat is removed. The ‘fight or flight’ response is only meant to last a few minutes as the body returns to normal once the stressor is removed.
Modern life does not involve wars and predators but does throw stress situations at us regularly. Daily work pressure, financial burden or physical exertion all cause physical and mental stress. From trivial traffic jam to major relationship issues, stress can be caused by many incidents daily.
Prolonged exposure to stressors is harmful and throws our bodies out of balance. Stress response activates our adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and cortisol to fight off the stress. This leads to a faster heart rate, decrease in digestive secretions and hyper-activity of glands. Many people are suffering from chronic stress because they do not take the time to recuperate from stress.
This kind of over-drive has adverse effect on our metabolism and mental health. Fatigue, headaches, low immunity and mood swings are all symptoms of chronic stress. If left untreated these further manifest into hypertension, auto-immune conditions and depression.
Some stress is inevitable and even desirable for growth in life. However, we must do all that we can to cope with it and have a stress-free life. Adaptogens is one way to cope with stress and return your body to normalcy. Let us first understand what they are.
What is an Adaptogen?
Adaptogens are non-toxic and edible herbs that help you ‘adapt’ to physical, chemical or biological stress. They are stress regulators that work with the hypothalamic- pituitary axis to reduce stress reactions in the body. They are non-specific in action, meaning that they do not work on a particular gland but rather have an overall balancing effect on your systems. They are also known to improve digestion, immunity, libido and mental focus.
They have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic Medicine (Indian system) for thousands of years for their restorative effects. Although they have been in use since ancient time, the term ‘adaptogen’ was coined in the 1940s. Former Soviet Union conducted numerous studies on adaptogens and made the herbs popular in 70s. Today adaptogens is the buzzword in the functional nutrition and holistic wellness. Here are some of the adaptogens that combat stress and heal the body.
Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurveda for its effect on cortisol and stress tolerance. In rats and mice the herb has been shown to reduce lipid peroxidation which is responsible for cell damage and ageing. A research with 64 human participants also concluded that ‘Ashwagandha improves individual’s resistance towards stress and improves self-assessed quality of life’. Other studies have shown benefits of Ashwagandha in regulating thyroid function.
In short it is a powerful stabilizer with numerous benefits.
This is another adaptogen that is known to have multiple benefits. Rhodiola which grows in cold mountainous regions of the world, works as an antioxidant as well as adaptogen regulating sleep, stress and appetite too. A 2012 study that administered Rhodiola to human subjects noted a reduction in cortisol levels and acute stress caused by intense physical exercise. It is used to combat fatigue, loss of sleep and appetite, irritability and job performance.
Also known as Asian Ginsing, this potent herb has shown to improve stress response and mental cognition in humans. Ginseng does not alter cortisol levels directly but works with other stress response systems. The herb contains Saponins which works on neurotransmitters to alter stress response. This leads to lower cholesterol, more energy and relaxation in body. This herb can be taken raw or in its extract form.
Also known as Tulsi in India, this herb has been used in Ayurveda for infections, fevers and snake bite antidote. The plant contains phyto-chemical compounds which are anti-stress and alter neurotransmitter response to stress. Apart from this holy basil is also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal which makes it useful to fight of infections and inflammations due to pathogens.
Why should you be taking Adaptogens?
Adaptogens increase your body’s resistance to stress and its after-effects. They have non-specific actions meaning they do not work in just one direction of increasing or decreasing your stress levels. To understand take the example of caffeine. Coffee does help you cope with stress by increasing adrenal function. However the surge in cortisol and adrenaline actually causes more stress and a dip in energy soon after. This makes caffeine a bad option to cope with stress.
Adaptogens, on the other hand work differently. They do not work to increase or decrease your stress hormones but have overall stabilizing effects that bring your body back to homeostasis. This is what meant by its non-specific action. Think of adaptogens as a thermostat that regulates body functions and keeps it under check.
They work on your hypothalamus -pituitary axis, endocrine systems and immune system to manage stress response, boost energy, regulate circadian cycle (sleep and appetite). The benefits of taking adaptogens are many but aiming for a state of health and well-being is the ultimate reason why you should be taking adaptogens.
How to take Adaptogens?
There are more than 15 adaptogens that you can find commonly at your pharmacy or health store. They are available separately as well as beneficial blends of various herbs. Adaptogens are available in powders, liquid extracts, pills, tinctures or capsules. You can take them in any form that suits your diet although liquid extract is thought to be the most potent. Add herb powders to your smoothies or dissolve tinctures in hot water to enjoy the benefits of these herbs.
Some herbs may interfere with your prescriptive drugs so be sure to consult your doctor if you are on medications. Adaptogens take time to show results, so take them regularly and for longer term.
Unlike prescription drugs adaptogens do not treat any specific disease. Instead they promote well being and quality of your life. They combat stress and fatigue which has unfortunately become common in our modern day lives.
They support not only your adrenals and endocrine glands but also indirectly help your digestive, immune and cardiovascular systems. Adaptogens are free of side effects and your best options to keep your body functioning smoothly in the long run.
Shop natural herbs and adaptogen supplements in our online store
All of our products at Raydian Herbs are designed by a physician and pharmacist with the goal of enhancing lives. Our Calm Focus contains a combination of ashwagandha, rhodiola, and lemon balm to help with cognitive performance* and decrease fatigue*. You can shop Calm Focus now in our online store!