Adaptogens are truly magical plants that provide many benefits to us humans. Like all plants they offer several benefits, but given that we’re living in very stressful times, there is definitely value inlearning more about adaptogens and how you can incorporate them into your daily life!
Read on to learn how this special class of healing plants can help you to restore inner balance and adapt to the daily stresses many of us are facing.
At the most basic level, adaptogens contain antioxidants. But, what are antioxidants? Simply put, antioxidants are molecules that fight off free radicals present in the body. What are free radicals? Without getting too technical, free radicals are essentially atoms that can cause imbalances and instability in the charge of cells that may contribute to a variety of diseases, illnesses and aging. Adaptogens, like most plants contain antioxidants, and this means that by consuming adaptogens, you are benefiting the body and helping prevent those free radicals from causing harm.
Ashwagandha, a powerful herb widely recognized for its many proven health benefits, is a great example of an anti-inflammatory adaptogen. Specifically, it can increase the activity of natural killer cells, also known as immune cells, which are needed when the body is trying to fight off an infection (Bhat et al, 2010). Licorice root is another anti-inflammatory adaptogen commonly used for the digestive condition known as leaky gut syndrome due to its soothing processes (Yu et al, 2015). It is also known to reduce symptoms associated with the common cold, or other illnesses, such as elimination phlegm, relieves coughs and can alleviate pain.
That’s right! Adaptogens have the potential to naturally help to boost your fitness performance. The consumption of ashwagandha is known to alter the body’s cortisol levels. What is cortisol? It is the hormone responsible for the fight or flight response to stress which is designed to let you know when you’re in danger. As you may know, exercise can cause physical stress on the body and Ashwagandha is known for easing stress and aiding in the recovery process (Singh et al, 2011). Because ashwagandha is also considered an anti-inflammatory it’s sometimes also used as a way to rehab tired muscles.
For anyone feeling burnt out, here’s some more great news! Adaptogens are capable of providing us with more energy. They possess an anti-fatigue effect whereby they “increase the mental work capacity against a background of stress and fatigue” (Panossian et al, 2010). Specifically, it’s the stress-protective activity of adaptogens that regulates homeostasis through several action mechanisms in combination with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the “regulation of key mediators of stress response” (Panossian et al, 2010). Ashwagandha is also known to help regulate neurotransmitters in the brain including serotonin, our mood hormone, which in turn can increase our energy levels. Of course, the more energized we are, the less likely we are to experience mood swings, fatigue and problems associated with sleep.
Both ashwagandha and tulsi are two of the top adaptogens when it comes to balancing mood. As mentioned above, ashwaganda’s true claim to fame is its ability to reduce stress by helping to regulate cortisol levels. In turn, this helps to support the body in many ways, including supporting thyroid function, which is well known to have a connection to anxiety and depression. Tulsi is also known for its ability to help its ability to regulate anxiety, stress and fatigue (Bhattacharyya et al, 2008) through supporting the regulating of the stress hormone cortisol.
Yes, it’s true, adaptogens have the capacity to improve cognitive function and performance. Tulsi, a traditional Indian herb, which is very often consumed as a tea, is well known to help with calm and focus. We all know that when we are anxious or stressed it makes concentration and information retention that much more difficult. Furthermore, Ashwagandha has also been shown to support memory and cognition, showing the potential to “regenerate neurites and reconstruct synapses in severely damaged neurons,” (Kuboyama et al. 2009).
Last but definitely not least, adaptogens also help with balancing our hormones. They do so by regulating the HPA axis. The HPA axis involves the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal connection and it controls our response to stress and cortisol production, something that is often out of whack in this day in age! When we regulate our response to stress and properly nourish our thyroid and adrenals we support many other physiological processes that impact fatigue, stamina, anxiety, blood sugar levels, mood, sleep, hormone production and libido. The common theme among all of these benefits is stress. Once again, it is the stress-reducing properties that adaptogens possess that explains why they may help with balancing hormones.
In summary, if you weren’t already aware of the many benefits that adaptogens have on our overall well-being, we hope that you have a better understanding now than you did prior. The next step? Experience the botanical benefits of Adaptogens for yourself! Remember, with Adaptogens, you won’t feel or notice a change right away. It is a process, and the benefits will be experienced over time and with continued consumption. There is no better time to start than now!
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