Everything You Need to Know About Adaptogens
--Adapt to Stress
What are adaptogens? These nontoxic herbal plants have been quite the buzzword lately, popping up as powders, beverages, and supplements in health food stores everywhere. You can also find them in smoothie bars and in consumable fitness products with claims to powerful positive health benefits. While adaptogens have had a monumental uptick in popularity and may seem like a recent addition to the wellness world, they actually have been around for thousands of years.
This family of herbs and roots has long been used in traditional Ayurvedic herbal remedies and traditional Chinese medicine for over a thousand years, but the term “adaptogens” is recent; it was actually coined by scientists in 1940. Adaptogens have since been studied and proven to be physiologically beneficial in many ways. It’s important to know how they help and also how to take them in order to get the best results.
Adaptogens: Respond, Restore, Refresh
Adaptogens have been classified as herbs, plants and roots that effectively help the body manage all types of chemical, physical, and environmental stressors, and can help keep the body in a state of normalcy despite these stressors. Whether it’s lifting heavy weights, dealing with pressure at work, or free radicals and toxins in your environment, adaptogens can help your body respond and restore both your mental and physical balance.
They do this by affecting intricate biological systems, which in turn, affect the release of chemicals and signals in ways that enhance our functioning. Each one of these adaptogens has slightly different benefits, but overall, they are protectors of our body’s homeostasis and ability to perform at maximum efficiency, regardless of what is going on around us or within us.
Examples of some scientifically-proven benefits of taking adaptogens:
- Support your body’s ability to adapt to physical and mental stress
- Support your neural pathways
- Protect against mental strain and feelings of being unmotivated
- Stimulate the central nervous system
- Regulate hormonal balance
- Sources of powerful antioxidants that protect against toxins and free radicals
- Support the endocrine system
How To Take Them
There is a wide array of adaptogens and adaptogen containing products out there. Depending on your schedule and needs, look for adaptogens that can be incorporated at different times of the day.
For example, some adaptogens are very stimulating like maca and rhodiola, so it’s best to take them before 3 pm. Some, like reishi and valerian root, will reduce your muscle tension and make it easier to relax, so some people like to take those at night. Then, there are also those, like ashwagandha and holy basil, which can be taken any time of day and in combination with other compounds to create your desired effect.
Here are a few popular adaptogens that you can find on the shelves today:
Schisandra: a fruit extract, used in traditional Chinese medicine for vitality. It supports memory recall, focus, and enhancing mental performance overall.
Holy (Tulsi) Basil: Holy basil has been used as an herbal remedy in Ayurvedic medicine, and originates in Southeast Asia. It’s called the “Queen of Herbs”, and holy became a part of its name because it was used for so long to treat everything from ringworm to ulcers to eye disease. Today, it is still popular as an adaptogen and used in teas and supplements to relieve stress and tension, sleep problems, and exhaustion.
Ashwagandha: One of the most popular adaptogens on the market today, Ashwagandha is an ancient Ayurvedic remedy for numerous health concerns. Today, it is used to support healthy vitality and energy, aid against downswings in mood and motivation, and boost mental functioning.
Bacopa herb: Known as bacopa monnieri, it is an ancient herb used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It has been found to improve brain function, and in studies, it has been found to increase the rate of visual processing, memory recall, and task completion.
Cordyceps: This fungus is so valuable in China ($20,000 USD per kilogram), that scientists now grow it (safely) in lab settings. Cordyceps fungus is thought to be a powerful antioxidant, and it is believed to support resistance to oxidative stress and help slow down the aging process. In addition, it is considered to be a huge stamina booster and is popular among athletes for its ability to support increased athletic performance.
You can also pair adaptogens with other ingredients as well. Many products on the market, like teas, beverages, and supplements blend adaptogens with stimulating ingredients that work harmoniously with one another. For example, when paired with caffeine, adaptogens like ashwagandha can support smoother, sustained energy over a longer period of time, not to mention other benefits like mental clarity and focus.
Gotama’s daily nootropic energy supplement, AWAKE, contains ashwagandha and bacopa for sustained energy and focus without the crash or jitters. Their pre-workout formula, READY also includes adaptogens like Peak O2 Mushroom Blend and Schisandra fruit extract to combat the post pre-workout “hangover.” Destress and refresh your body and mind by adding adaptogens to your daily regimen.
No matter what type of adaptogen you’re looking to try, make sure to do your research and get it from a trusted source. And as always, it’s recommended that you consult with your physician before starting any new supplement or regimen.