Adaptogenic herbs are not new discoveries. Yet they are making their comeback as the new superfoods of the moment providing therapeutic effects for the body and mind.
With increased levels of stress in our society, we are seeing growing rates of HPA axis dysfunction or adrenal fatigue which can show up as moodiness, fatigue, poor concentration and focus, low libido, and insomnia.
As humans, we were not designed to thrive under chronic stressful conditions and thus our bodies suffer as a result. This is largely due to poor diet choices and lifestyle influences such as technological advances and increased responsibilities.
Certain nutrients and herbs like adaptogens can help support the stress response and the adrenal glands while addressing these lifestyle factors.
Due to their low risk of side effects, adaptogens are being increasingly used for many health conditions but also to improve general health and wellbeing.
However, it's important to use them strategically and correctly as they can react differently for each person.
So what are these superfood herbs and how can they help you? Today we break it all down for you!
Adaptogens are herbs that help your body manage and resist mental, physical and emotional stress. They’re like a hug for your nervous system!
Adaptogens have been used by traditional societies since prehistoric times, but they have only been clinically studied since the 1950’s when Soviet scientist, Dr. Nikolai Lazarev, officialized the term "adaptogen"(1).
It's important to understand that not all adaptogens are created equal.
These herbs exist on a spectrum – from calming, soothing, relaxing, and nourishing to stimulating, energizing, and arousing.
Their primary goal is to promote homeostasis and bring the body back to balance, which makes their effects quite versatile.
What are adaptogens?
Examples of commonly used adaptogens include:
Ashwagandha: A traditional ayurvedic plant that has a calming effect on the body and that has been shown to significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety. It may also improve thyroid hormone production in cases of hypothyroidism (2). Ashwagandha can be taken throughout the day to help with mental stress or in the evening to improve sleep cycles.
Maca: Commonly used for hormonal imbalances such as menopause, maca is actually a root vegetable that is rich in nutrients and can promote mental and physical vitality. Maca may be a good option for you if you are suffering from hormonal imbalances, infertility, or low libido.
Siberian Ginseng: Used for centuries to support mental and physical performance, Siberian Ginseng is basically your cup of coffee without the jitters. This herb helps to increase energy, boost the immune system, and alleviate general fatigue. Wanna crush your workout? Take Siberian ginseng before you hit the gym to increase natural energy levels and boost results!
Reishi: Not an herb but a mushroom, reishi is known for its immune-boosting and sleep supporting effects. Reishi is great to take in the evening to help with sleep and relaxation. We love a good bedtime elixir with reishi!
Who are they for?
Adaptogens shouldn’t be relied upon as a miracle cure to push yourself harder or as a substitute to sleep or stress management.
They should always be used alongside nutrition and lifestyle changes in order to receive the most therapeutic effects.
Adaptogens are recognized as safe for long term use however certain herbs may be contraindicated in pregnancy and may interfere with certain medications. Always check with your healthcare practitioner before supplementing.
Why use adaptogens?
The effects of adaptogens are not just limited to stress relief and resilience, they also have been shown to help balance blood sugar, boost immune function, lower inflammation, protect heart health, support the liver, and promote weight loss (3)(4).
Adaptogens provide a holistic effect on the body by adapting their functions to the body’s specific needs and imbalances. Which is why one herb may act differently according to the individual.
How to use adaptogens
Adaptogens can be taken in tincture, tea, or powder form. If you are looking to be more adventurous and incorporate them into your daily diet you can easily add powders to your smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, energy bars, teas,hot drinks, and more! Always start small and then increase if needed.
Remember that though adaptogens can be supportive during stressful times, they will not provide the same beneficial effects if lifestyle choices are also not addressed simultaneously. So make sure you are getting quality sleep and find time to add play and relaxation into your day!