Health buzzwords are used all over the place – bio-organic, all-natural, pasture-raised – but do we know what they really mean? Well, today we are going to dive into one particular word being thrown around a lot at the moment: adaptogens.
What are adaptogens?
“Adaptogenic” means to regulate or normalize the systems of the body.
Adaptogens are active ingredients in particular plants and mushrooms that influence how your body deals with fatigue, stress, and anxiety. When consumed in non-toxic doses, they help the body adapt and target specific stressors in the body, hence the name.
These “negative” emotions are evolutionarily built in our bodies for a reason. Take stress, for example. The feeling is hard-wired into us to keep us alert, motivated, and ready to avoid danger. However, as humans no longer need to look over their shoulders for predators and have built a society that has outsmarted evolution, these emotions can commonly be dysregulated.
What do adaptogens do to the body?
These chemicals help the body temporarily return to balance by increasing or decreasing the rate of its chemical reactions. This process in scientific terms is called homeostasis and is vital for our bodies to be stable and function optimally.
When we are stressed, the levels of the stress hormone cortisol rise. Here, adaptogens respond by reducing cortisol levels and consequently reduce our feelings of stress. With chronic fatigue, cortisol levels are depleted, so in this case, adaptogens work oppositely to help increase this hormone inside of us.
What are some types of adaptogens?
If you’re interested in incorporating them into your diet you should speak to your doctor to make sure they don’t interfere with any current medication you’re taking. There are numerous adaptogens to choose from, here are a few of the most common.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is one of the most common adaptogens. It has a positive effect on the immune, cardiovascular, endocrine, and nervous systems through the regulation of metabolism. This herbal remedy helps calm nerves and changes how the brain responds to stress. Ashwagandha is additionally an antioxidant, so it offers cellular protection from free radicals and reduces swelling.
Studies have shown that another adaptogen, Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), helps improve performance in stressful situations. So, next time you’ve got a big presentation a job interview at work, maybe it’s work taking some Rhodiola to calm your nerves and clear your mind.
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) offers immune system support, helps reduce inflammation, and relieves pain. This type of ginseng helps boost the nervous system and combats stress, swaying our fight or flight response towards fighting against stressful stimuli. A few studies have also concluded this adaptogen can also help regulate mood by resetting dopamine levels.