What are adaptogens? The Breakdown.

Adaptogens are a class of plants and mushrooms that are known to help the body adapt to and resist stressors whether they be physical, chemical or biological. They are a classified group of herbs that have had to adapt to stress in their native climates and as a result, they can help to stabilize physiological functions as well as promote homeostasis. Certain adaptogens are more fine-tuned towards promoting focus and agility while others are more focused on calming the mind and body. For example, Holy Basil and Valerian are very soothing, calming herbs. Yerba Mate, Rhodiola, Cordyceps, on the other hand, have a much more stimulating effect on the body. Most if not all of the adaptogens mentioned will have cross-over effects whether they are focused on promoting stimulation or tranquility; however, some are better for different desires.

Adaptogens fine-tuned to promote stimulation.

Some adaptogens focus on promoting strength, stamina and consistent energy. They are more stimulating and it’s been proven that these effects are actually consequences of their stress-protective activity. This can be extremely beneficial as adaptogens don’t possess addiction, tolerance, or abuse potentials and don’t impair mental function. Their stimulating effect is even pronounced higher against a background of fatigue and stress. Furthermore, a single administration of specific adaptogens effectively increases mental performance. This has been shown with a study conducted using an extract of Rhodiola. Just 30 minutes after administration, a stimulating effect of 4-6 hours occurred. This stimulating effect led to an enhance in cognitive function and was found to have a neuroprotective activity that reduced stress-induced impairments and disorders related to the neuroendocrine and immune system. To list a few stimulating adaptogens there is Cordyceps, Yerba Mate, Rhodiola, Eleuthero, and Schizandra.

Adaptogens fine-tuned to promote tranquility.

Other adaptogens are more fine-tuned to have a very calming effect on the body. One example is St. John’s Wort, which is commonly known to be an antidepressant. However, it had been used traditionally as a plant for the nervous system long before more recent research discovered its ability to cope with depression. St John’s wort, Holy Basil, Ashwagandha, and  Passionflower all act as a tonic to balance and deeply nourish the nervous system thereby restoring health. The act of balancing while nourishing is what classifies these herbs as adaptogens but how they work to calm physiological processes is what differs them from the more stimulating adaptogens.

How to use adaptogens for lasting therapeutic benefits.

To get the best use out of adaptogens they should be taken orally and used consistently as their power mainly lies in their ability to promote long-term health benefits. In order to obtain long term benefits, consistency really is key. There are different forms to supplement with when wanting to use adaptogens for health. The most effective method with the highest rates of absorption is acquired when drinking a tea or a tincture with the herbs of choice. The reason for this over capsules or powders is because it is much easier for your body to absorb and utilize the nutrients from a tea or tincture. Most herbalists recommend taking adaptogens consistently for about one to three months in order achieve some lasting therapeutic value, but it’s also super important to pay close attention to how your body reacts to various adaptogens, and adjust serving sizes accordingly. For some, it may take a couple of days or a couple of months for the plants to adjust to you as you adjust to them but everyone's body will react a bit differently. As mentioned previously, adaptogens that have a stimulatory effect and those that have a calming effect will have some similarities due to the fact that they all work to stabilize physiological processes and promote homeostasis. The way that they do this, however, is what differs.

June 14, 2019 — allyson tovar