Updated: Jul 31, 2020
Adaptogens are non-toxic plants and herbs that support the body’s ability to deal with all kinds of stress (mental, physical). Adaptogens are believed to strengthen the immune system and increase overall energy. These herbs and roots have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing.
Adaptogens nourish and balance your system — simultaneously reducing stress levels, but also often boosting energy or focus. This is different than an herb that is meant to either always boost focus or alway help decrease anxiety. For instance matcha (pulverized powdered green tea) will always provide a caffeine boost — conversely, a non-adaptogen calming plant like valerian or skullcap will always chill you out. Adaptogens promote stress release and help your body heal, adapt, and regulate itself. While each adaptogen has a slightly different impact (more on that later!), each one helps the body and mind handle stress, and maintain balance.
In particular, adaptogenic herbs support the adrenal glands. These glands produce a number of hormones (cortisol, estrogen, among others) that are key in regard to stress response, immune health, sleep quality and mood. The adrenal glands support functions ranging from blood sugar levels to metabolism to blood pressure. When the adrenal glands are fatigued (often due to stress, lack of sleep, dehydration — or perhaps being in a pandemic), you’ll notice lower energy levels, an inability to adapt to stress, and a weaker immune system. Adaptogenic herbs, through supporting the adrenals, promote stress relief.
Adaptogens can easily fit into your daily routine. You can blend adaptogens into your morning smoothie, use them as a tincture, or drink them in as a tea any time of day.
Here is a short list of Adaptogens and their impact on the body, mind and spirit:
Ahwagandha is considered one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda. It is known for its nourishing properties, and aids with long-term stress, and even heart health. This herb also supports energy levels and overall immune function. Ashwagandha has been shown to lower blood sugar levels, and been proven to lower cortisol levels. (photo credit, Gaia Herbs)
While overall Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng) reduces stress and fatigue, and improves immunity, in particular this herb increases mental alertness, focus and memory. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Eleuthero root is used to balance vital energy. It is a respiratory immunity booster that is thought to reduce the length and severity of infections such as the flu and pneumonia.
Also known as Tulsi, this herb is considered a tonic for the body. One of the active chemical components of holy basil (triterpenoic acids) assists in the rapid breakdown of excess cortisol. Holy basil can balance the body in many ways, ranging from enhancing metabolism, reducing sleep problems, and enhancing focus. Holy Basil helps your body and mind respond to stress in a healthy way, while nourishing the mind and elevating the spirit. Taken as a tea or tincture, holy basil has been used to treat respiratory disorders, fevers, heart disorders, and many other imbalances, and has antioxidant properties. (photo from Johnny Seeds)
Reishi mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine as a “mushroom for immortality” for more than 2,000 years. Reishi can come in six different types, and Red Reishi is the most potent and is used for its immune-boosting properties. Reishi helps balance the mood, aids the body in managing stress and supports a healthy immune response. Reishi has been shown to increase the number of various white blood cells, which fight infection in the body. Reishi also reduces fatigue.
Rhodiola supports the functioning of the adrenal glands and encourages a healthy response to stress. Rhodiola has also been linked to the liver function, and can aid with gastrointestinal problems. (photo credit: examine.com)
The five distinct flavors found in the berry correspond to the vie phases or Elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine: Sour (Wood), Bitter (Fire), Sweet (Earth), Acrid (Metal) and Salty (Water). These berries are regarded as harmonizing. In addition to is stress-reducing qualities, Shisandra can promote a healthy metabolism, and supports the heart and liver function.
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