What are adaptogens?

Do you experience a completely stress free life? Unfortunately for most of us the answer is "no". Our society and cultural norms have accepted, and encouraged, a certain way of living that can leave us for example working and addicted to technology more than we'd like, leaving us disconnected from nature, our community and ourselves. 

Stress is a big factor of sickness, mental difficulties and even the number one cause of aging. Even though we believe the stress should be addressed by the root cause and we encourage a holistic way of finding solutions, we fortunately also got a helping hand from Mother Nature since she gave us the gift of adaptogens. 

In this blog post we will explore more about why to use adaptogens and what they are. Let's first get a better understanding of what stress is, to fully understand what adaptogens do.

What is stress?

Let's first take a look at what stress actually is and does with us, so we can understand better what adaptogens do.

Different types of stress

There are different types of stress that can be experienced. For instance acute stress. It can happen due to a situation that is overwhelming in the current moment. It takes will take 90 minutes for the nervous system to become normal again, so you can imagine how this will impact your energy levels. Then we can experience chronic stress, the kind of stress that becomes like a habit, you may not realize you have. This can be the stress we have from daily life that we tend to ignore. This leaves your body and immune system affected. Then we have distress, that is caused by bigger events that happen in a certain period in our lives. Like divorce, grief, financial problems or work difficulties. 

Freeze, fight, flight

The natural reactions our body has to stress include the instincts to freeze, fight or flee. These responses are vital in situations of immediate danger, as fear heightens our alertness. However, when these stress responses become a daily routine, they can lead to various health issues.

What's the scientific reasoning behind this? Each stressful encounter triggers your body to produce a hormone known as “cortisol.” In limited or rare instances, cortisol is beneficial for managing stress. However, when stress becomes a constant in life, the body overproduces cortisol, leading to chronic stress.

Chronic stress is associated with a plethora of health problems. It can elevate blood pressure and diminish libido. It often contributes to increased levels of fatigue, anxiety, depression, and even inflammation. Persistent, high stress levels can be detrimental to both physical and mental health.

Stress management

It's very important for your health to do stress management. Simple things to start doing this can be doing meditations, talking about it someone, having enough sleep, eating healthy food, breathwork or staying active. 

While working on your stress levels is great, you can give your body extra support in the meantime with adaptogens. 

What are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens can be best understood by examining the term itself: “adapt.” Like the word says, it helps the body to adapt and regulate. 

For an herb or plant to be considered an adaptogen it must meet three criteria:

  • It must benefit the body without causing harm or side effects.
  • It must function in a way that reduces the body’s stress response.
  • It must support all body systems and offer benefits to the entire body.

Adaptogens have been a crucial part of traditional medicine for centuries. These specific herbs and mushrooms are celebrated for their ability to help regulate the body's response to stress. 

Adjust to the individual needs

Their exceptional feature lies not only in assisting the body to 'adapt' to stress but also in their ability to alter their function based on the body's immediate needs. They function similarly to a personalized, stress-managing thermostat; adaptogens can increase stress hormones when necessary, rapidly reduce them when they're not needed, and aid in conserving the body’s resources over time. This customized approach means they adjust to both the type of stressor and the individual's unique physiological conditions. 

If your are in need for diminishing your stress response, the adaptogens can help with this, in a way that it prepares the body to adapt rather than react impulsively.

The effect of adaptogens

Adaptogens don't offer an instant solution; rather, their advantages accumulate gradually, often requiring several weeks of consistent use to achieve their maximum effect. It's crucial when incorporating adaptogens into your daily routine to select one that you find pleasant and agreeable for everyday consumption

So, what's the solution to these physical and emotional consequences of stress? While reducing stress is ideal, the demands of contemporary life often make this challenging. This is where adaptogens come into play. Ranging from holy basil to medicinal mushrooms, and from ashwagandha to ginseng, there's an array of natural options for managing stress and maintaining hormonal balance.

Here is a list of adaptogens:

  • Aloe Vera (gel)
  • American Ginseng (root)
  • Ashwagandha (root)
  • Asian Ginseng (root)
  • Cistanche (stem)
  • Cordyceps (mushroom)
  • Cynomorium (stem)
  • Eleuthero (root/stem)
  • Holy basil (whole herb)
  • Lions mane (mushroom)
  • Maca (root)
  • Maitake (mushroom)
  • Milk Thistle (plant)
  • Morinda (root)
  • Moringa (leaves)
  • Reishi (mushroom)
  • Rhaponticum (root)
  • Rhodiola (root)
  • Schisandra (berries)
  • Shatavari (root)
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