Looking for a performance edge or just to feel like you can cope with the daily grind? Adaptogens may just be one of the tools you should have in your wellness toolbox. Adaptogens are a class of herbs, roots and fungi found all over the world and have traditionally been used to help the body adapt to stress and have been known to help alleviate anxiety, improve sleep and lower blood pressure.
While adaptogens have been around for centuries it was in the Soviet Union, that Dr. Nikolai Lazarev (1919-1987) conducted studies to find plants from all around the world that would help the body increase its resistance to stress.
This research was later built on by Dr Brekhman who earned the nickname the “Father of Adaptogens,” Dr. Brekhman helped classify adaptogens as any plant substance that meet these criteria:
- Helps the body cope with stress
- Is non-toxic and causes no negative side effects (with correct dosing)
- Both single and prolonged use of the herb produces stimulating effects
- Consuming the herb normalises the body’s functioning
Examples of some well known adaptogens I'm sure you've seen popping up include Ashwagandha, Astragalus, Rhodiola, Reishi and more.
- Ashwagandha: This herb has been used in Ayurveda (an ancient Indian system of medicine) for thousands of years to increase the strength of your heart and reduce stress. It also helps improve memory function by increasing blood circulation throughout the body.
- Astragalus membranaceus: This root is traditionally used as an immune booster that helps support healthy adrenal glands.
- Rhodiola rosea: This plant has been shown to boost energy levels while improving mental focus.
- Reishi mushrooms: These mushrooms are known for their anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce pain from growing old or chronic conditions like arthritis or cancer treatment side effects.
So Do They Really Work?
There are limited scientific studies to support the benefits of adaptogen use however with growing consumer and industry interest more and more research is being done. Many of the current studies were conducted in either animal or human cell samples or 'in-vitro'. Luckily, there is little evidence of negative side effects. And with the traditional use of these substances going back thousands of years there's good enough circumstantial evidence to indicate their benefits.
In saying that there are always considerations to taking substances when using other medications. Always check with a doctor before using them. For example, some adaptogens may cause side effects when combined with certain types of drugs such as SSRI's, antidepressants, heart and blood pressure medication.
So in a nutshel, Adaptogens may be able to give you an energy boost without the side effects of stimulants (who isn't looking for that these days?). They work by gently encouraging your body to produce hormones that address the effects of stress and fatigue, boosting your energy levels and increase your stamina.
While we want to perform at our peak more of us are looking for ways to unwind after hours, Adaptogens also promote relaxation, making them great for people who have difficulty sleeping or who struggle with anxiety or depression.
I've found adaptogens to be really helpful in my daily wellness rituals and have found some great resouces along the way like the The Adaptogens blog who have a curated list of adaptogens and information. If you're looking for info on how to incorporate them into your diet here are a few resources I've found useful:
Hello Glow recipes
Human Nutrition Blog - how to take adaptogens
One Green Planet - recipes
If you want more information about how adaptogens work or if there is anything else you think I should include in this post then please reach out and let me know what you think.