Adaptogens: The Secret Weapon to Fighting Stress
There are many sources of stress in our lives — whether you’re getting ready to start a new job, or maybe you are traveling to a foreign country, learning a new skill at work or school, or dealing with a demanding schedule or relationship issues, you may be experiencing stress as a result.
While there are actually some benefits that come from stress — it can put our minds and emotional intelligence on high alert, for example — when stress begins to accumulate in the body over time, it’s detrimental to our health.
Too much stress can push us to the point of exhaustion and negatively impact many aspects of overall health. There are many behavioral habits we can implement to address stress, but did you also know that you have a natural tool at your disposal called “adaptogens” that you can tap into to address stress as well? Adaptogens are a class of stress killers… a group of herbal remedies and supplements that support our immune systems and help us fight back against stress. Let’s take a look at what adaptogens are, how they work, and the best sources of adaptogens.
What are Adaptogens?
There are many types of adaptogens, and each one offers the user unique benefits. Adaptogens are all-natural herbal remedies — roots, extracts, bark, etc. — that have been shown to provide some benefit for our bodies in response to a stressful situation. In other words, they help us handle daily stressors better, keeping us from entering into the harmful stage of burnout and fatigue.
Adaptogens can be taken in supplement form such as in a capsule or tablet, but many can also be incorporated into your diet by consuming foods such as turmeric, or they can be brewed as a tea such as ginseng.
How Do Adaptogens Work?
If you’ve ever felt hyper-alert during a new experience, this is what is known as general adaptation syndrome (G.A.S.). G.A.S. is our body’s response to any new situation that induces stress, such as adjusting to the lay of the land in a new place, picking up on social cues when meeting new people, or learning new information in a difficult class. G.A.S. is described as a three-step process:
- Alarm: When you get stressed or nervous, the body enters into a fight-or-flight response. You may notice that your heart rate increases while the body starts pumping out cortisol and adrenaline. This is your body getting ready for action.
- Resistance: While your blood pressure and levels of hormones may start to return to normal, your body remains alert as it attempts to adjust to the stressor.
- Exhaustion: If there is a stressor that has been around too long, this could push the body into a state of exhaustion. When you feel burned out or fatigued after a stressful situation, this means you entered the exhaustion stage of G.A.S.
Adaptogens are unique because they can help the body stay in the resistance or adaptation stage longer, supporting our body’s ability to adjust to the stressor or scenario. Adaptogens can also prevent us from entering that exhaustion stage and experiencing symptoms of burnout, fatigue, and mood swings.
Top 10 Sources of Adaptogens and Their Benefits
Turmeric: Turmeric, more specifically Curcumin (the active ingredient inside Turmeric), is an incredible adaptogen as it has been shown to help alleviate levels of inflammation throughout the body. The only downside is that Curcumin exists in very low quantities inside turmeric, and it’s difficult for the body to absorb. That being the case, incorporating turmeric into your diet may be helpful, but if that’s not effective enough, try taking curcumin in supplement form to ensure you’re getting enough of it, and with the right support ingredients.
Rhodiola Rosea: A super effective adaptogen, which has been shown to reduce the impact of stress, Rhodiola Rosea can help to fight fatigue and naturally increase energy levels while supporting cognitive functioning.
Ashwagandha: When the stress hormone, cortisol is left unchecked, it can promote protein breakdown or catabolism. Studies show that Ashwagandha is effective in reducing cortisol levels.
Licorice Root: Often used as a way to soothe an upset stomach and heartburn, licorice root is considered a powerful adaptogen that can curb the negative effects produced by elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. It is usually prepared as a tea, but it’s also popular as a tincture and a capsule.
Astragalus: Also known as Huáng Qí, this herbal remedy, which is popular in ancient Chinese medicine, has been shown to improve the immune response.
Cordyceps: A type of fungi that has been shown to be very effective as a natural immune system booster, Cordyceps has also been touted as an incredible anti-aging compound.
Ginseng: Another wonder of ancient Chinese medicine, ginseng has long been used for a variety of health issues. It’s especially good at alleviating total body inflammation as well.
Holy Basil: Also known as Tulsi, Holy Basil has is a great way to naturally give your immune system a boost. It’s also purported to be great for helping you get over bronchitis due to its antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Eleuthero Root: Often prepared as a tea, Eleuthero Root is an herbal remedy that is popular in Asian medicine. Studies show that Eleuthero Root is considered a powerful antioxidant that can help the body process metabolic waste.
Jiaogulan: Dubbed as the new ginseng, Jiaogulan is another herbal remedy that is usually prepared and served as a tea. Jiaogulan has been suggested to support cellular health and it’s being considered an anti-aging supplement.
Goji Berry: A powerful antioxidant, goji berries are especially good for removing free radical waste to protect cells.
Life’s Tough – Adaptogens Make You Tougher
There’s no getting away from fast-paced modern life. Whether you’re stuck in rush-hour traffic or performing a tough workout, your body is going to be put through the ringer. While a healthy diet and exercise program should be the foundation of your wellness, adaptogen supplements can also play a big role in helping you beat back daily stress.
Try one (or several) of the adaptogens listed above for a few weeks, then take note of how you’re feeling. Also, don’t forget to mix it up. If you have a long list of allergies, speak with your doctor before trying any new supplement.