Adaptogens may help the body manage stress, strengthen the immune response, and balance hormones.
This beginner’s guide to adaptogenic herbs and roots answers the question “what are adaptogens?”, when to take them, and how to add them to your diet safely to get the most out of their healing properties.
Adaptogenic herbs and roots have been used in traditional Ayurvedic, Chinese and Natural Western medicine for centuries.
They were often reserved for royalty, soldiers, Olympic athletes, and people of power because of their remarkably potent effects on health. Some, like Reishi, earned names like “the mushroom of immortality” while others, like Shiitake, hide in plain sight.
All adaptogens have one thing in common: they support the body’s natural ability to respond to stress.
And that probably something we could all use in our modern, hectic, and very stressful lives.
The word “adaptogens” - coined for the first time in 1947- sounds lofty and complex, but the medicinal plants that it describes are anything but.
Adaptogens are non-toxic, usually plant-based, bioregulating substances that help your organism resist the harmful effects of stress. Even better they may promote or restore physical, mental, and emotional balance.
Research suggests that adaptogenic herbs and roots could:
Acting as your body’s own personal assistant, adaptogens do just that – they adapt – to the internal and external environment to maximize your body’s innate ability to self-regulate and maintain homeostasis - essentially its ability to be stable in spite of changes.
Most scientists propose four criteria to define adaptogenic herbs:
Therefore, adaptogenic herbs and roots are considered safe for human consumption and are being used more and more in holistic medicine today. This should answer your “what are adaptogens” question, now let’s get into their beneficial mechanisms.
Your body doesn’t know the difference between oxidative stress, the stress caused by your boss’s twentieth email, or the anxiety caused by your 15-year old’s inability to reply to your texts - for the body, it’s all stress.
Adaptogens help balance the adrenal system’s response to stress. Whenever you have to face an issue - a stressor- whether physical, mental, or environmental, your body activates a three-stage reaction known as the General Adaptation Syndrome.
Essentially you go through alarm, resistance, and exhaustion.
This is part of your “fight or flight” response, and adaptogens help you stay in the resistance phase longer, which means you can handle the issue without crashing as quickly. They also help hold-off the exhaustion phase, easing you into a balanced restful state once the stressor has been dealt with.
Adaptogens stimulate and support hormone-releasing, helping your body maintain healthy amounts, according to the need. This is done in coordination with the hypothalamic-pituitary-endocrine axis, the HPA axis, which is responsible for maintaining a harmonious and effective metabolism, immune system, mood, energy, and even your sex drive.
In simpler terms, you can think of adaptogens as hormone regulators: they help the adrenal glands secrete stress hormones to deal with an issue, and stop as soon as they’re not needed anymore.
Adaptogens don’t have one single benefit, and one will often be useful to boost memory and the immune system, this classification is only a guide for what specific adaptogens are mostly used for. However, we’ll mention all the known benefits associated with all the adaptogenic herbs and roots listed.
The easiest way to get adaptogenic herbs in your diet is to drink adaptogen tea or tincture. However, many of these mushrooms, roots, and herbs have intense flavors or chewy textures that a beginner may find unpleasant.
Find a convenient method that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine, for example, adaptogen extract powder can be added to coffee, smoothies, and salad dressings. You may also try supplements in capsules or adaptogen tea bags.
Figure out what you need: is it energy in the morning, an easier wind-down routine, a way to get you through the mid-afternoon slump. Then ask yourself, what are the adaptogens that can I can use in this situation?
Understanding what adaptogenic herbs are good for what is just the beginning; you must research better times to consume them and if you’re on medication, ask your doctor if the adaptogen tea or supplement of your choice does not interfere with it.
We love adaptogens! We’ve added them to many of our recipes and superfood juices; they are like a hard-working best friend that seems to always have your back in ways you didn't even know you needed.Our signature morning, afternoon, and night-time drinks combine the best of antioxidant foods with powerful adaptogenic herbs, roots, and mushrooms!
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Understanding what adaptogens are is just the start; to reap their benefits, it’s best to avoid abusing them. Switch up your adaptogen tea every six months or so, talk to a licensed physician if you’re on medication that may be affected by the adaptogen of your choice. A healthy diet and exercise are always good companions to adaptogens for healthy aging.
If you found this article useful, please share with a friend and tell us if you tried your first adaptogen supplement yet - how do you feel?
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