New To The World Of Adaptogens? Here’s What You Need To Know
Take a peek inside the world of holistic health, and it won’t take long to come across the word “adaptogens.” But what does it even mean? And are these so-called adaptogens really that good — or even that necessary — for your overall well-being? Here’s everything you need to know about these natural healers and the potential powers they possess.
What are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a category of plants (often times herbs) that are believed to balance out the stress reactions of the human body. And while the empirical evidence surrounding their use is limited to small, niche studies, they play a significant role in both traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and have done so for centuries.
Each adaptogenic herb supposedly serves a specific function, but together, they all promote the overall balancing of the body by adjusting how stress is processed. Dr. Brenda Powell told TIME that the plants interact with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathoadrenal system, which are involved in the body’s stress response. Adaptogens may also slightly change the body’s hormone production to keep every part of the body functioning as it should.
Do they really work?
As previously mentioned, the scientific data currently available on adaptogenic herbs is limited, but that’s not to say that you can’t benefit from giving them a try. It’s been reported that adaptogens can boost the immune system, support a healthy weight, increase both physical endurance and mental focus, reduce discomfort caused by poor health and balance your overall mood.
Just be sure to speak with your doctor about the ones you’re interested in giving a try because they can lead to unwanted side effects when paired with certain prescription drugs. If you currently don’t have any pharmaceutical needs, though, feel free to explore your options. They aren’t toxic or habit-forming, so you run little risk if you aren’t already popping other pills for a particular condition.
What are some common adaptogenic herbs?
Ashwagandha: Combats stress and anxiety to keep the mind sharp
Asian ginseng: Supports physical endurance, mental clarity and a healthy immune system
Astragalus root: Protects against aging and supports detoxification in the kidneys
Cordyceps: An antioxidant-rich mushroom combats fatigue and inflammation
Holy basil (Tulsi): Helps calm and relax the body
Licorice root: Supports healthy function
Maca: Enhances mental performance and physical stamina
Moringa oleifera: Promotes adrenal health and reduces inflammation
Rhodiola rosea: Provides a steady source of energy and boosts mood
Rosemary: Supports heart, digestive and liver health
What’s the best way to integrate them into a diet?
Some of them are super easy to include in the ways you prepare your food, like the rosemary herb, for example. It pairs perfectly with chicken breasts or roasted potatoes and even makes for a lovely accent in a homemade salad dressing. Others brew beautifully in teas, like most ginseng varieties.
But some aren’t exactly things you’d want to eat off a dinner plate, so that’s where adaptogenic supplements come in. While you want to be mindful of their sourcing — do some serious research on the brand(s) you choose — ashwagandha and Rhodiola rosea capsules are a simple way to boost your focused energy on a particularly grueling day. Most adaptogenic herbs are available in powdered form as well, so they can be added to your morning smoothie or breakfast oatmeal.
Adaptogens can help your body better balance itself among all the stress that life throws at it, but so can you. Sometimes, it can be easier to lean into a solution pill than make healthy (but difficult) lifestyle changes that create similar feelings of relief and well-being. So at the end of the day, be honest with yourself about what exactly you’re looking to treat with adaptogens and see if other adjustments are on the table for you as well.