Adaptogens are stirring quite the buzz in the world of health and wellness. They seem to be popping up everywhere, from lifestyle blogs to juice bars. But what exactly are they about?
Let’s break it down.
The reality of matters is present-day living involves dealing with present-day problems, and if there’s one problem that a lot of us face is stress. No one is exempt from the pressures of life, which can all be a little too overwhelming at times. But, a bit of stress now and then can be advantageous.
The body can respond to short-term stress with physical reactions that help us deal with the issue. For instance, the increased awareness that comes with being stressed can help us focus and meet a work deadline. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, stress can increase your heart rate and blood sugar to provide your body with the energy to escape.
But once the stressful event is over, our body systems reset back to default. The problem is, the stressors we encounter from our day-to-day lives are chronic in nature. This means the stress response is constantly triggered and can become disruptive rather than beneficial.
That’s where adaptogenic substances come in.
What Are Adaptogenic Substances
Adaptogens are non-toxic herbs and mushrooms that are thought to help the body resist stressors. Note that we deal with many stressors that are either emotional (like losing a job or going through a breakup), chemical (exposure to harmful chemicals in the environment), and physical (insomnia and poor nutrition).
The theory is that adaptogens stimulate the body’s anti-stress stimuli and help it return to a balanced state, referred to as homeostasis. But how do they work?
Well, adaptogenic plants produce chemicals that help the plant adapt and survive in hostile conditions. When consumed, these chemicals help increase our stress-resistance levels by regulating the release of stress hormones and normalizing our stress response, curbing the adverse effects of stress in the process.
While these substances may be a growing American fad today, they have been used in Asia and India across several millennia to treat different ailments. However, the term adaptogen was first used by scientists from the Soviet Union in the early 1900s.
Examples of common adaptogens and their uses include:
- Tulsi basil – Used for reducing anxiety, stress, and inflammation.
- Schisandra – To boost focus, memory, and cognitive performance.
- Nettle leaf – Lower tension in body muscles.
- Maca Root – Give your mood a real boost.
- Licorice – Boost energy and endurance levels.
For a herb to be classified as an adaptogen, it has to meet four kinds of criteria:
- Nourishing: Have nutritive properties.
- Non-specific: Work on several body systems.
- Regulating: Bring about balance by limiting and raising systems that aren’t functioning normally.
- Non-toxic: Safe even when used over long periods.
Getting Started With Adaptogens
Not all adaptogens are made the same. Each has its own unique effects. You’ll find that there are various adaptogens for sleep and others for improving your overall mood.
Once you’re started on adaptogens, try and stick to one at a time and in small doses so you can see how it works with your body. Adaptogenic products are often sold as capsules, tinctures, and powders that you can add to food.