Adaptogens are a group of special herbs that improve the health of the adrenal system. It’s important to keep our adrenal system in top shape, as it’s responsible for managing the body’s hormonal response to stress. In addition to helping us chill out, adaptogens offer several other powerful benefits: they boost our immune systems, help us manage a healthy weight, increase our physical endurance and mental focus, and encourage a balanced mood. We think adaptogens are a great complement to a clean lifestyle, and can even be added to your Daily Shake.
GOOD STRESS VS. BAD STRESS
We’ve all felt stress at some point. A little bit of stress can be good - it motivates us to perform our best at a job interview or on a first date. But most of the time, like when we’re stuck in traffic, stress is a negative force. When we experience stress over prolonged periods without relief, it becomes dangerous. Chronic stress can make us feel fatigued, unfocused, and irritable, and can even lead to serious health issues like heart disease, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Reducing your stress level can make you feel better right now and keep you healthy in the long term. While we all know that yoga, meditation, and essential oils can help soothe our busy minds, there’s another way to approach stress you might not have tried yet: adaptogens.
WHAT ARE ADAPTOGENS
Unlike caffeine and sugar, which is what a lot of us use to fight stress and fatigue, adaptogens don’t come with a crash. They help bolster the body’s ability to cope with stress and anxiety slowly and gently. This is where the name "adaptogen" comes from. These herbal ingredients “adapt” their function according to our bodies’ specific needs. The only downside: we don’t get that quick fix we can find at Starbucks. With adaptogens, the effects are subtle at first. It takes patience and consistency to feel the real, undeniable results.
HOW DO THEY WORK
Researchers still aren’t completely clear on how adaptogens help us cope with stress, but here’s what we do know. When we feel stressed, the hypothalamus gland releases a chemical called CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone), which triggers anxiety. CRH travels to the pituitary gland, which releases ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) into the bloodstream, prompting a surge of cortisol – the stress hormone.
Constantly releasing CRH and ACTH takes a toll on the body, making us feel chronically stressed and leading to burn out. Therefore, to lower stress and fight fatigue, we must reduce the amount of CRH and ACTH surging through our bodies. That’s where adaptogens come in. Adaptogens act like a thermostat, normalizing body imbalances. They inhibit the release of CRH, ACTH, and cortisol to calm us down and boost our energy at the same time.
HELP IN MANAGING STRESS
There are 16 scientifically established herbs that have the power to enhance our well-being, and seven, in particular, do an exceptionally good job at lowering our stress levels. You can take the following adaptogens individually or in a combination formula to achieve the desired effects. Disclaimer: while adaptogens are perfectly safe, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before supplementing with herbs.
1. Asian Ginseng
Also called Panax Ginseng, this herb has been shown to support physical endurance and mental clarity. It also has antioxidant properties that strengthen our immune systems. Research shows Asian Ginseng may even protect against some types of cancer.
2. Holy Basil
In India, Holy Basil is known as the “elixir of anti-aging.” It has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties, but it’s best known for helping us relax and enhancing the body's natural response to stress. You can even use it as a base for your daily morning smoothie.
This herb has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine to increase energy, endurance, and longevity. Today, it’s often prescribed to treat high blood pressure, insomnia, chronic fatigue, and impotence related to anxiety or exhaustion.
4. Astragalus root
The main use for Astragalus root is to strengthen the body’s immune system. However, herbalists have also prescribed it to treat existing health conditions like heart disease and diabetes – both consequences of chronic stress.
5. Licorice root
Licorice root is commonly used to support the adrenal system, which, as we mentioned before, is responsible for managing the body’s response to stress. This herb protects the adrenal glands from exhaustion and regulates hormone production. Licorice root, like in our Integrity, also helps heal our digestive tract.
6. Rhodiola rosea
This herb acts like a thermostat for our hormones, particularly cortisol. It raises or lowers the levels of cortisol in our bodies as needed, which is critical for homeostasis. Rhodiola rosea also has a positive impact on brain function, depression, and heart health.
This is going to sound gross but stick with us. Cordyceps isn’t actually an herb at all – it’s a type of fungus that grows on caterpillars. The good news is that many companies now cultivate this adaptogen on soy instead. It’s a natural energy booster that possesses anti-tumor and immune-enhancing properties.
REDUCE STRESS FOR BETTER IMMUNITY
Chronic stress not only makes us feel miserable right now, it has a detrimental effect on our long-term health. Adaptogens restore balance to the body. They help us cope with physical and emotional stress while giving us a subtle boost in mental clarity and physical endurance.
Written by Kate Kasbee
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