What are adaptogens? Healing herbs for stress and fatigue
What are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that have the ability to help the body in resisting stressors of all kinds. These stressors can be physical, chemical, and biological. China has been using these herbs for centuries and they are having a renaissance now. Holy basil can be eaten as a part of the meal and some other herbs are consumed as supplements or can be added into tea.
Each herb has some different functions but adaptogens help our body in handling stress. A lot of people believe that they really help in handling stress but there’s a need for more research.
They were first developed and studied during World war II because scientists were finding a way to help pilots work at greater levels. Actually, they were looking for a superhero pill that’d let the pilots fly better, faster, and for a longer period of time. After having adaptogens they thought that they had found that superhero pill.
How stress affects the human body:
Mostly, people don’t know this but some stress is better for the body. Stress responses are critical for short-term situations. But stress becomes a problem when it is long-term and can cause mental health problems, sleeplessness, and chronic inflammation. There are times when people usually don’t realize that they are stressed because they were physically fine. Chronic stress can cause the following diseases.
- Heart diseases
- Fertility problems
- Can affect the immune system
A lot of people think that adaptogens are a natural solution to control chronic stress and to control the excessive secretions of hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. Many people also take adaptogens to fix adrenal fatigue. But you have to keep in mind that this is not medically proven. But you have to talk to your doctor if you are facing chronic fatigue and you think that you have Addison’s disease.
How do they work?
They work at a molecular level, they regulate a stable balance in the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands, these glands are involved in the stress response. They work by hacking the stress response in our bodies. When our body is under stress, we go through three levels of stress.
- Alarm phase
- Phase of resistance
- Phase of exhaustion
When we encounter a stressor like if we have started lifting weight, our body responds by kicking out hormones like adrenaline that improve muscle performance and boost up our ability to pay attention to the task we are doing in the phase of resistance. Our body starts resisting the stressor and we will feel more energized and clear. And then when we fatigue we enter the phase of resistance.
Adaptogens have been studied both in animals and isolated neuronal cells. Researchers have found that they have several effects on our bodies which are as follows.
- Neuroprotective elements
- Anti-fatigue properties
- Antidepressive effects
- Stimulate central nervous system
They also increase the mental work capacity, increase attention, and prevent stress and fatigue.
What are the best adaptogenic herbs?
Each adaptogen has a specific function, so you have to choose the one that’s best for you. Here are some common adaptogens, their uses, and what they do the best.
Adaptogens for long term stress:
Ashwagandha and Asian ginseng are good to soothe long term stress and hormonal imbalances. Some other researchers have suggested that holy basil and tulsi may also help in lowering stress levels.
Adaptogens for acute stress and anxiety:
The research suggested that Siberian ginseng, Rhodiola, and Schisandra can help in mediating fight-or-flight stress responses. People also use Siberian ginseng to boost their immune system, physical stamina, and sexual health. Rhodiola improves physical energy and memory. Schisandra is thought to improve liver functioning and gastrointestinal problems. But there is not enough research to prove that these herbs are able to fix all these problems. So, much more research is needed.
Adaptogens for immune health:
Some studies suggest that Reishi and ginseng are helpful in boosting the immune level.
How can you add adaptogens to your diet?
If you want to add herbs to your daily diet, you can add adaptogens to your tea and you can also add some drops of adaptogens in your water. If you want to add adaptogens to the food, you are already eating, you can buy its powder to spice things up. And then you can add this powder to your soup, salad, and any other thing you want.
What are adaptogens supplements?
You can take adaptogens in the form of capsules. But you need to make sure what you are taking and for what purpose. You need to make sure that you are taking them from the right and authentic company because a lot of companies dodge us by putting a very low amount of ingredients in the adaptogens.
Side effects of adaptogens:
You should talk to your doctor before adding adaptogens to your diet and before making them a part of your routine. A study suggested that a lot of people face a lot of problems when they start taking herbs because they didn’t tell their doctors that they are taking certain medicines. There are little pieces of evidence to suggest what will be the side effects of taking herbs. But like many other plants, they can be allergic and can cause gastrointestinal problems for some people. It’s safe for most people to take adaptogens. But long term consumption of adaptogens can affect your body in some ways. So, you should not be dependent on adaptogens but yes, you can take a pill sometimes while you’re under stress. Following are the people who should not take adaptogens.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Diabetics patients
- People with high or low blood pressure problems
- People having a stomach ulcer
- Surgery candidates