I grew up in a family that ate health foods, took vitamins and herbal supplements daily to stay healthy. When we did get sick, our first line of defense was adding herbal supplements and other natural remedies to heal our bodies. Even as these practices have become more mainstream, I’ve continued to be drawn to natural remedies to support my body in healing itself and keeping me healthy. So, when I started seeing the term “Adaptogens” pop up, I was curious.
Essentially, adaptogens are herbs and plants that help our bodies adapt by bringing all systems into balance to improve our overall health. Adaptogens have a wide range of benefits, but are primarily used to reduce stress, which can also help with weight loss, improved sleep and overall increased health. Chronic stress causes increased levels of cortisol which then leads to weight gain, inflammation, hormonal imbalances and disease. It’s almost impossible to avoid stress these days. It can come at us from work, home, the media and the list goes on. Adaptogens are one tool that we can add to our toolkit to help us combat stress and improve our overall health. However, these are not a replacement for daily exercise, eating nutritious foods, getting adequate sleep, and relaxation. But they are especially helpful when something happens that increases our stress suddenly as they can help the body resist the impact of the stress.
There are twelve common adaptogens and each of them has a different effect on the body. So, depending on the results that you are seeking, you can choose different adaptogens. It’s important that you speak with your doctor before taking any herbal supplements as they can interfere with prescribed medications.
- American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) – Ginseng has been most used to boost the immune system to prevent the common cold. Some studies are also showing positive results in improving memory, lowering blood sugar with type-2 diabetes and may reduce tumor growth in some types of cancer.
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) – Ashwagandha is best known to reduce stress and anxiety, improve athletic performance and sleep. Some studies are even showing that it can help fight certain types of cancer, can slow neurodegenerative disease and reduce inflammation in patients with arthritis.
- Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) – Astragalus is commonly used to boost the immune system to fight the common cold and upper respiratory infections. It has anti-inflammatory properties and studies are showing that it can be used to reduce symptoms of seasonal allergies, treat diabetes and protect the liver and kidneys.
- Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris) – This is a medicinal mushroom that is used to improve stamina, fight inflammation and is believed to have anti-aging properties.
- Goji berry (Lycium barbarum) – Goji berries are widely used for anti-aging, boosting energy, improving calmness and sleep.
- Eluethero root (Eleutherococcus senticosus) – This herb is commonly known as Siberian Ginseng and is used to promote overall wellness by improving focus and mental health. It is also used to boost the immune system against colds and flu.
- Jiaogulan (Gynostemma Pentaphyllum) – Also known as Southern Ginseng, it is used to improve heart function, reduce cholesterol and high-blood pressure. This herb also strengthens the immune system and boosts stamina.
- Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) – Licorice root is used to help relieve digestive issues and is commonly added to lozenges to soothe the throat and coughs.
- Rhodiola rosea (R. rosea) – This herb is primarily used to help us reduce stress, fight physical and mental fatigue, and help in reducing the effects of depression.
- Schisandra berry/Magnolia berry (Schisandra chinensis) – This herb is used to reduce stress on the body leading to improved energy and mental performance. Some studies have found that it may help fight Alzheimer’s, liver and kidney diseases.
- Tulsi/Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) – This herb is different than what we commonly use in cooking. Holy Basil is best known to reduce stress and anxiety. Studies are showing that it improves our overall vitality with its anti-inflammatory properties and by helping the body detox.
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa) – Turmeric has become popular within the last few years and is known for having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties helping to fight against heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. This makes it a good choice to use to improve overall wellness and vitality.
At the end of the day, what is most important is that we take control of your health. This includes eating a nutritious diet high in fruits and vegetables, making sure you move your body daily through exercise, getting plenty of sleep and working with licensed healthcare providers to ensure that you are making well-informed decisions.