About 78% of American adults reported that the coronavirus has been a significant source of stress for them. This stress is multifaceted, stemming from uncertainty about the future, dealing with loss, financial issues, and much more.
Regardless of where stress is coming from, though, chronic stress can take a major toll on our bodies. In a fast-moving world, it’s easy to feel like you’re always a little stressed out. Many people are interested in managing stress in a natural way rather than turning to pharmaceutical drugs.
For this reason, adaptogens have become increasingly popular. What are adaptogens, though? Let’s take a look at everything you need to know.
What Are Adaptogens?
Basically, adaptogens are a class of herbs that are thought to improve your body’s ability to deal with both emotional and physical stress. This is a group of more than 70 plants that are found in many herbal supplements that are believed to help balance your energy so that you are neither too stressed nor too fatigued. It’s also said that adaptogens might have anti-aging properties.
As a part of Ayurvedic healing and Chinese medicine, adaptogens have been used for hundreds of years if not longer. They have recently become more popular and accessible in the western world as people increasingly realize the negative impact of physical and emotional stress on their health and wellbeing.
The Health Benefits of Adaptogens
It’s important to understand that, unfortunately, many herbal supplements do not receive the funding and attention that pharmaceutical medicines do when it comes to research. This means that, while there is certainly research on the topic, we definitely don’t know everything there is to know about this class of herbs.
Practitioners might recommend the use of a variety of adaptogens for a number of different reasons. These include:
- Balancing hormone levels
- Increasing endurance in situations that are caused by fatigue
- Improving attention
- Combating the impact of stress on cognitive function
- Fighting fatigue that is caused by excessive emotional or physical stress
- Keeping cortisol levels and other hormone levels in check
- Stimulating mental performance that has been affected by stress
- Lowering stress-induced impairments and disorders in the body
- Boosting the immune system
- Normalizing body functions
- Improving energy levels and increasing physical stamina
- Fighting the symptoms that stem from elevated cortisol levels (such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, fatigue, obesity, and insulin resistance)
- Improving the function of body systems
- Improving the function of organs, such as the adrenal glands and liver
As you can see, the list of potential benefits from adaptogens is quite impressive. In Ayurvedic healing and Traditional Chinese Medicine, different herbs are used for different purposes.
How Do Adaptogens Work?
Adaptogens help to maintain a stable balance in the pituitary, hypothalamic, and adrenal glands. These systems are involved in how our body’s respond to stress. Basically, adaptogens work at a molecular level to alter our reaction to stress.
There are three general stages of stress that our body usually goes through. These are the alarm phase, the phase of resistance, and the phase of exhaustion.
Our body produces hormones when we encounter a stressor. For example, if you’re lifting weights, your body might produce adrenaline to help increase concentration, focus, and muscle performance. This is the resistance phase, as the body is resisting the stressor by giving us the boost of clarity and energy.
The exhaustion phase follows, however. What adaptogens seem to be able to do is extend this resistance phase when we are benefitting from the body’s response to stress.
Animal studies, as well as isolated neuronal cell studies, have been performed regarding adaptogens. Researchers have found a number of effects on the body, including:
- Antidepressive effects
- Antifatigue effects
- Neuroprotective elements
- Central nervous system stimulant
They are also known to enhance attention, increase mental work capacity, and prevent fatigue and stress.
Non-Toxic Plants as Stress Relievers: Adaptogens and Stress
Adaptogens can’t change your experience of a stressful event, but they are believed to help the body respond to stress better. Stress is associated with the immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. Considered a physiological condition, stress can result from any number of things that trigger the body to release stress hormones, including:
- Environmental conditions
- External events
- Biological or chemical agents
- Mental issues, such as perceived threats or focusing on negative events
- Day-to-day stressful events
- Physical events
Releasing these stress hormones leads to physiological changes in the body. For example, a person’s blood pressure and heart rate increase when stress hormones are released. The experience of being flooded with hormonal changes in this way is known as the “fight-or-flight” response.
Stress is a natural response of the body, but prolonged or overwhelming stress can have a number of negative consequences. When chronic stress contributes to disease or even reduces a person’s life expectancy it is known as maladaptive stress. Adaptogens are thought to help the body overcome maladaptive stress.
What Does Stress Do to Your Body?
Some people might not even realize the effect that stress is having on their health. Stress can impact your health mentally and physically and is also linked to a number of serious health issues.
Some of the effects that stress can have on your body in the short term include:
- Chest pain
- Stomach upset
- Muscle tension of pain
- Sleep problems
- Change in sex drive
Stress can also impact your mood, leaving you feeling:
- Angry or irritable
- Depressed or sad
- Lacking in focus or motivation
Your behavior can also be affected by stress, including:
- Social withdrawal
- Angry outbursts
- Tobacco use
- Drug or alcohol misuse
- Undereating or overeating
- Not getting enough exercise
In the long term, stress is thought to worsen or increase the risk of a number of serious and life-threatening chronic conditions. These include:
- Heart disease
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Accelerated aging
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Shorter life-expectancy
Through the use of these natural stress relievers, some believe that adaptogens can help lessen the impact of chronic stress on the body and mind.
What Are Some Examples of Adaptogens?
There has been increasing interest in herbal pharmaceuticals in recent years. Some adaptogens have been thoroughly studied while others could stand to be looked at more closely. Some popular adaptogens include:
- Siberian ginseng
There is a whole world of adaptogenic plants, and it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole looking into it. While there are so many exciting potentials when it comes to these non-toxic plants, it’s always important to talk to your doctor before you start taking anything new for therapeutic purposes. Even natural plants can have contraindications with other medications, so you’ll want to make sure that it’s safe for you to try new things by having a conversation with your physician.
(Interested in ashwagandha? Check out our Serenity Elixir!)
Is CBD an Adaptogen?
Many people use CBD to help manage stress and anxiety, among other issues. So, wouldn’t that mean that CBD is an adaptogen?
No, not exactly. Even though it is thought to help improve the symptoms of a number of conditions, CBD is a molecule rather than a plant extract. That means that it doesn’t fit within the classification of an adaptogen as it is defined.
You could make the argument that the hemp plant or the extracted oil of high-CBD hemp has adaptogenic properties. Regardless, CBD uniquely interacts with the endocannabinoid system, making it stand apart from herbal adaptogens.
(Looking to combine the power of CBD and adaptogens? Check out our Life Elixir.)
Are You Looking For Options When It Comes to a Natural Stress Reliever?
The modern world has always been filled with a lot of stressors. Sometimes it can feel like stress is completely taking over your life. It’s important to learn to manage stress for both your health and your wellbeing. While there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to help deal with stress, some people also incorporate adaptogens into their routine as well.
Now that you know the answer to “what are adaptogens?” you can start delving into particular plants and the way they are used. Be sure to check in with your doctor before trying anything new, though!
At Modern Remedy, we offer a wide selection of CBD products that are thoughtfully combined with other herbs and supplements. You can take a look at our shop here.