What are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are natural substances that occur in certain fungi and plants that have a regulating effect on the human body.
The concept of adaptogens was first introduced in 1947 by Soviet physicians who discovered that certain plants have a stress-reducing effect.
In 1969, scientist Israel Brekhman defined adaptogens with the following points:
- An adaptogen causes an increase in resistance to various stress factors such as physical, chemical, and biological factors.
- Adaptogens have a normalizing effect on physiology, regardless of the direction in which it is displaced by the stressor from the normal.
- An adaptogen doesn’t interfere with the normal function of the body more than necessary for the increase in nonspecific resistance.
Adaptogens are available in capsules, tablets, powder, or as plant tincture or tea.
They can be taken daily or when the body is in a state of physical and/or emotional stress.
Stress and Chronic Pain
Before the 15th century, the term stress was used only as an academic term to refer to pressure applied to objects.
Through time, the term evolved and was used for adversities and handicaps that concerned people.
And from the 19th century, the meaning evolved into what we understand today.
The stress and pain we experience today is a far cry from the pain people in the 15th century experienced.
Back then, their stress was short-lived and didn’t affect their way of living.
However, today, more and more people lead a life in which status symbols are more important than their well-being.
People stay on jobs they don’t like, or with a boss or colleague they struggle to get along with.
As a result, long-term stress confuses the central nervous system and leads to increased sensitivity to pain.
Stress affects the well-being and triggers and worsens chronic pain and fatigue caused by diseases.
Additionally, stimuli that are not painful are perceived by the central nervous system as pain, causing the entire body to react to that pain.
With the use of adaptogens, the healing process of the body is supported through its stress-modifying effects.
These plants have a calming effect when we are stressed and a stimulating effect when we are tired and worn out.
So, when was the last time you sat down and did nothing?
Or when did you last have a sound, uninterrupted, 8-hr sleep?
Advantages of Adaptogens
The name “adaptogens” was derived from the English word “adapt”.
Which suggests its effect—the natural substances make the body more adaptable and resilient in times of physical and mental stress.
With adaptogens, the body has higher tolerance from environmental factors (extreme weather conditions, biological and chemical pollutants), psychological factors (anxiety, depression) or tension in athletic competitions, workplace, or at home.
In addition, adaptogens help improve liver functions, strengthen the immune system, optimize brain performance and regulate the excretion of toxins.
They contain non-toxic phytochemicals that can take on various physical, chemical and biological stressors.
According to current research, the natural substances should be taken at normal levels.
Therefore, consult with your doctor to know what dose is recommended for you.
How Do Adaptogens Work?
Adaptogens act on the stress axis of the body responsible for the release of cortisol.
When the body is under stress, it reacts by releasing the hormone, cortisol, which unbalances the body in the longer term.
Due to the harmonizing effects of adaptogens, the body’s reactions are regulated thus minimizing the damage caused by stress.
Unlike artificially produced drugs, herbal substances have a holistic effect which means the entire body experiences the effects not only in certain areas.
6 Natural Stress Relieving Adaptogens
The herbal, non-toxic substances are now found in many, everyday food and products.
Although these are considered holistic, each one has a special field of action in which they work more effectively.
1Ashwagandha or Withania somnifera
This herbal plant has been part of Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to strengthen, invigorate and transmit vitality.
A study examined the efficacy of Ashwagandha in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
Researchers found there was significant improvement in anxiety with ashwagandha use compared to placebos.
Another study showed that Ashwagandha doesn’t only reduce perceived stress but also improves sleep quality, depression, social interactions and quality of life.
Ashwagandha works by supporting the adrenal glands by reducing levels of stress hormones, cortisol.
The ginseng root has been a natural remedy in Asian medicine for more than 5,000 years.
It has stress-reducing and positive effects on the dopaminergic and serotonergic system of the body.
This adaptogen improves mood, provides better cognitive performance and restful sleep.
This is an adaptogenic herb used in Russia, Europe and Asia to improve mental, physical and emotional resilience.
Several studies have shown the positive effects of rhodiola rosea in states of fatigue and burnout similar to ginseng.
In one study by the Swedish Herbal Institute, they confirmed that taking the medicinal plant minimized the release of cortisol.
Another study showed improvements in all stress symptoms, disabilities, functional limitations and overall therapeutic effect after 3 days of taking Rhodiola extract.
Like other adaptogens, Rhodiola rosea acts on the central nervous system.
It works by enhancing the effects of neurotransmitters (norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin) by ensuring the blood-brain barriers are permeable to precursors of the neurotransmitters so enough is produced.
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Known to be the symbol of longevity in Asia, shiitake is one of the most effective medicinal mushrooms in traditional Chinese medicine.
These mushrooms have stress-reducing effects on the immune system, blood lipid levels and intestinal flora. As well as cancer-fighting and tumor-inhibiting properties.
For 2,000 years, reishi mushroom has been the top medicinal herb of the ancient Chinese medicine.
However, unlike shiitake, the Reishi mushroom is not an edible mushroom.
This mushroom has antioxidant and immune-boosting effects and improves sleep disorders.
It can counteract aging factors brought by stress, free radicals, excess cortisol and inflammatory processes.
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The South American tuber is a plant-based superfood that provides the body with a great deal of energy, endurance and resistance.
It can balance hormone levels, boost libido and fight off every day stressors.