Adaptogens: What are they (and are they safe to supplement with)?

You may hear the word ‘STRESS’ and immediately think of the mental and emotional aspects along the lines of feeling overwhelmed, overly busy, and/or anxious.

In reality, the body actually encounters different forms of stress every day and is always working to restore equilibrium.

Your body is literally constantly being bombarded by stress – even when you don’t feel stressed!

Here are some examples of common, daily stressors:

  • EXERCISE – yep, it’s good for you, but it’s a form of stress the body has to deal with!
  • LACK OF SLEEP
  • VIRUSES/COLDS
  • TOXINS – like exposure to environmental pollutants, heavy metals, and chemicals in personal care and cleaning products
  • ANXIETY – which can be caused by stress or exacerbates existing stress

Decreasing stress is critical for good health. Too much stress can cause weight gain, poor digestion, increased inflammation, accelerated cellular aging, hormonal imbalances, including adrenal dysfunction – your adrenals are responsible for your body’s response to stress.

GOOD NEWS! There are plenty of ways to reduce the impact of stress in your life, including:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Keep up with a regular exercise routine
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet full of whole foods
  • Practicing tried ‘n true stress relief techniques (do you even meditate bro?)

But, if you’re looking for something to naturally supplement your diet with, in a way that can minimize the impact that daily stressors have on your body, you might want to consider adding an ADAPTOGEN (or two) to your health plan.

What are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens – or Adaptogenic Herbs – are plant-based supplements (usually in pill or powder form) that do just what they sound like: they can help your body adapt to the stressors of your personal environment.

Adaptogens have a long history of use in ancient medical practices, like TCM – Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic practices.

Current research has found that Adaptogens boost mental function, attention span, and energy during times of stress and reduce the overall production of inflammatory stress hormones, like Cortisol.

Here are 5 common adaptogens:

  • ASHWAGANDHA – decreases anxiety, calming effect
  • ASIAN GINSENG – decreases fatigue, calming effect
  • MACA – boosts energy levels, balances hormones
  • RHODIOLA ROSEA – boosts energy and immune system function
  • SCHISANDRA FRUIT – enhances energy and cognitive function

How do Adaptogens work?

The molecular pathways involved in the body’s stress response are pretty complicated!

The 3 glands responsible for regulating stress hormones:

  • Hypothalamus
  • Pituitary
  • Adrenals

Research has found Adaptogens help support these glands in achieving equilibrium or homeostasis – a fancy way of saying that they help stress hormones get back into balance!

Unlike caffeine, alcohol, and other drugs, Adaptogens can gently help reduce stress hormones, decrease anxiety levels, and prevent fatigue without any crazy spikes or crashes in energy.

How do you take Adaptogens – and are they safe?

Adaptogens are available in pill or powdered form, of which powders can easily be added to teas, smoothies, soups, and other recipes – see our recipe at the end!

The best part about these herbal supplements is that it’s not necessary to take every Adaptogen every day, and choosing just one to add to your routine can still provide health benefits.

It’s recommended to rotate between Adaptogens, using one at a time for several weeks and then switching to another, if desired, to reap the benefits of several varieties.

You should follow the dosing instructions on the product label or consult with a Natural Health Practitioner for specific Adaptogen recommendations related to the health conditions that you may be experiencing.

It’s important to note, though, that while most adaptogens are generally safe for nearly everyone, please supplement with awareness! 

Maca Mocha Smoothie

 

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup almond or other dairy-free milk
  • ¼ cup brewed coffee, cooled
  • 1 banana, frozen in chunks
  • 1 tsp maca powder (can work up to 2 tsp per day)
  • 1 tsp – 1 Tb cacao powder, raw & unprocessed (non-Dutch)
  • Optional: 2 tsp raw cacao nibs

Preparation 

Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender.

Blend until frothy and desired consistency.

Add in cacao nibs for last 10 seconds of blending for added texture. Crunch with benefits!

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