You’ve no doubt heard the word adoptogen before. But if you’re like a lot of folks you may have found yourself wondering “What ARE adaptogens?” Or questioning what exactly they could do for you.
And that’s a shame, because adaptogenic herbs have a number of health benefits.
So what ARE adaptogens?
In the case of adaptogens the name itself is our first clue. Adaptogens are natural substances that work with your body helping it adapt; most notably, to stress.
Adaptogens can help you manage persistent stress and fatigue because they work with regulating important hormones.
Adaptogens offer several other health benefits, including…
- A boost for the immune system1
- Support for managing a healthy weight2
- Increased physical endurance and mental focus
- Reduction in discomfort caused by poor health3
- Encouraging a balanced mood4
In other words, adaptogens are flexible nutrients that can help provide the most appropriate health benefits based on what you need at the time.
How do adaptogens work?
Let’s take a look at a simple explanation of how adaptogens actually work.
First of all, it’s important to understand that stress is only meant to exist in short bursts. It’s a hormonal response that may have been responsible for helping some of your own ancestors escape from hungry lions (or maybe even face them!). Your body’s reaction to stress is what’s commonly called your “fight or flight” response.
Today, most of us don’t have to worry so much about lions. However, most modern-day stresses are ongoing. When your adrenal system remains in a constant active state, it throws your body out of balance. Constant stress can wreak havoc on your health, especially on your digestive system and energy levels.
Adaptogenic compounds help ease the stress response. They work to bring the hormones of your adrenal system back into balance and overcome adrenal fatigue, a common condition of chronic stress.
Studies show adaptogens like Rhodiola Rosea and Schisandra reduce the presence and effect of stress hormones.17 They help with endurance during physical stress like exercise and return your body to normal when you’re faced with chronic stress.
Think of adaptogens like a thermostat. They help dial down your body’s stress much like the way a thermostat keeps the temperature from becoming too high or too low. They’re good for you all the time, not just when you have a high level of stress.
While there are a number of ways to increase your adaptogen intake, consuming adaptogenic herbs is arguably one of the best.
14 potent adaptogenic herbs to consider
There are a number of naturally adaptogenic herbs that you might consider trying on for size. They can be taken as a capsule, brewed in teas, or simply cut up and used to add some spice to a meal. For maximum health benefits, it’s best to include a variety of these herbs in your diet.
Here are my top 14 picks of powerful adaptogenic herbs and their traditional uses.
1. Asian Ginseng:
This herb, also called Panax Ginseng, supports physical endurance, mental clarity, and has antioxidant properties that support heart health and your immune system. Studies show it’s safe to consume.5
2. Holy Basil:
A member of the mint family, this herb has soothing properties and has been used for centuries for good health. Its antioxidant properties support heart health and normal lipid profiles. It’s also a powerful weapon against stress.6
3. Milk Thistle:
The active compound in milk thistle, silymarin, supports liver health and metabolism that helps manage the hormones associated with stress.
Also called Indian Ginseng, studies from India shows that those who take this herb enjoy dramatic improvements in how they handle – and feel – stress. It’s also taken to keep the mind sharp, and for energy.7
5. Rhodiola Rosea:
Rhodiola Rosea is a popular herb among the Sherpas who work on Mt. Everest because of the way it supports regular energy levels and fights altitude sickness. Studies also show it helps encourage normal cortisol levels as well as energy levels.8
6. Ginseng Eleuthero:
Commonly called Siberian Ginseng, the eleutherococcus senticosus is known for not only its adaptogenic properties but also as a natural energy booster.
You’ve probably used rosemary in your cooking, but this herb does a lot more than add flavor and fragrance to your meals. Research shows two of its compounds, caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid, support heart, digestive, and liver health. Traditional medicine from around the world has used it for centuries to relieve stress.9
8. Aloe Vera:
Researchers have taken renewed interest in aloe vera as a powerful herb and superfood. Two of its compounds, acemannan and aloctin A, support immune and adrenal health.10
9. Gotu Kola:
Long used in both traditional Indian and Chinese medicines, this herb stimulates blood flow, helps reduce swelling, and is a powerful antioxidant.11
The Chinese have used astragalus traditionally to encourage good health and fight stress. Its active compound, called TAT2, protects against aging, supports detoxification, and is nutrition for the kidneys.12
11. Moringa Oleifera:
The seeds, leaves, roots, and oils of the Moringa Oleifera plant are used throughout Southeast Asia an ingredient in many common dishes. As part of traditional medicine, it supports the immune response, eases swelling, and promotes energy and adrenal health.13
This herb has been used in traditional Chinese Medicine to promote good health and overall wellness. Research shows it has powerful antioxidant properties that help your body stay balanced.14
This popular Ayurvedic herb has been used for centuries to support brain health like memory, focus, and thinking.15
14. Licorice Root:
This herb has traditionally been used to promote many aspects of wellness, including normal metabolic function.16
1. Seely D, Singh R. Adaptogenic Potential of a Polyherbal Natural Health Product: Report on a Longitudinal Clinical Trial. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: eCAM. 2007;4(3):375-380. doi:10.1093/ecam/nel101.
2. Panossian A1, Wikman G, Kaur P, Asea A. Adaptogens exert a stress-protective effect by modulation of expression of molecular chaperones. Phytomedicine. 2009 Jun;16(6-7):617-22. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2008.12.003. Epub 2009 Feb 1.
3. Vyas P, Thakar AB, Baghel MS, Sisodia A, Deole Y. Efficacy of Rasayana Avaleha as adjuvant to radiotherapy and chemotherapy in reducing adverse effects. Ayu. 2010;31(4):417-423. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.82029.
4. Smirnova MD, Svirida ON, Ageev FT, Forfanova TV, Vitsenia MV, Mikhalov GV. [The ability to use meldonium as adaptogen in winter in patients with cardiovascular disease]. Kardiologiia. 2014;54(10):51-6.
5. Lee NH1, Yoo SR, Kim HG, Cho JH, Son CG. Safety and tolerability of Panax ginseng root extract: a randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial in healthy Korean volunteers. J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Nov;18(11):1061-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0591. Epub 2012 Aug 21.
6. Manikandan P1, Murugan RS, Abbas H, Abraham SK, Nagini S. Ocimum sanctum Linn. (Holy Basil) ethanolic leaf extract protects against 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene-induced genotoxicity, oxidative stress, and imbalance in xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes. J Med Food. 2007 Sep;10(3):495-502.
7. Wadhwa R1, Konar A1, Kaul SC. Nootropic potential of Ashwagandha leaves: Beyond traditional root extracts. Neurochem Int. 2015 Sep 8. pii: S0197-0186(15)30043-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2015.09.001.
8. Panossian A1, Wikman G. Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Curr Clin Pharmacol. 2009 Sep;4(3):198-219. Epub 2009 Sep 1.
9. al-Sereiti MR1, Abu-Amer KM, Sen P. Pharmacology of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.) and its therapeutic potentials. Indian J Exp Biol. 1999 Feb;37(2):124-30.
10. Chokboribal J1, Tachaboonyakiat W, Sangvanich P, Ruangpornvisuti V, Jettanacheawchankit S, Thunyakitpisal P. Deacetylation affects the physical properties and bioactivity of acemannan, an extracted polysaccharide from Aloe vera.Carbohydr Polym. 2015 Nov 20;133:556-66. doi: 10.1016/j.carbpol.2015.07.039.
11. Cataldi A1, Gasbarro V, Viaggi R, Soverini R, Gresta E, Mascoli F. Effectiveness of the combination of alpha tocopherol, rutin, melilotus, and centella asiatica in the treatment of patients with chronic venous insufficiency. Minerva Cardioangiol. 2001 Apr;49(2):159-63.
12. Lim JD1, Yu CY, Kim SH, Chung IM. Structural characterization of an intestinal immune system-modulating arabino-3,6-galactan-like polysaccharide from the above-ground part of Astragalus membranaceus (Bunge). Carbohydr Polym. 2016 Jan 20;136:1265-72. doi: 10.1016/j.carbpol.2015.10.029.
13. Leone A1, Fiorillo G, Criscuoli F, Ravasenghi S, Santagostini L, Fico G, Spadafranca A, Battezzati A, Schiraldi A, Pozzi F, di Lello S, Filippini S, Bertoli S. Nutritional Characterization and Phenolic Profiling of Moringa oleifera Leaves Grown in Chad, Sahrawi Refugee Camps, and Haiti. Int J Mol Sci. 2015 Aug 12;16(8):18923-37. doi: 10.3390/ijms160818923.
14. Li J1, Wang J, Shao JQ, Du H, Wang YT, Peng L. Effect of Schisandra chinensis on interleukins, glucose metabolism, and pituitary-adrenal and gonadal axis in rats under strenuous swimming exercise. Chin J Integr Med. 2015 Jan;21(1):43-8. doi: 10.1007/s11655-014-1765-y.
15. Preethi J1, Singh HK, Venkataraman JS, Rajan KE. Standardised extract of Bacopa monniera (CDRI-08) improves contextual fear memory by differentially regulating the activity of histone acetylation and protein phosphatases (PP1α, PP2A) in hippocampus. Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2014 May;34(4):577-89. doi: 10.1007/s10571-014-0042-0.
16. Mattarello MJ1, Benedini S, Fiore C, Camozzi V, Sartorato P, Luisetto G, Armanini D.Effect of licorice on PTH levels in healthy women. Steroids. 2006 May;71(5):403-8.
17. Panossian A1, Wikman G, Kaur P, Asea A. Adaptogens stimulate neuropeptide y and hsp72 expression and release in neuroglia cells. Front Neurosci. 2012 Feb 1;6:6. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00006. eCollection 2012.
Dr. Edward F. Group III has his Naturopathic Doctorate, Clinical Herbalist, Holistic Health Practitioner, Clinical Nutritionist certifications, and is a Diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition and the American Board of Functional Medicine. He founded Global Healing Center Inc. in 1998 which has earned recognition as one of the largest alternative, natural and organic health resources on the Internet.
A dynamic author and speaker, Dr. Group focuses solely on spreading the message of health and wellness to the global community with the philosophy of full body cleansing, most importantly colon cleansing, consuming pure clean organic food, water, air, exercise and nutritional supplementation. Visit GlobalHealingCenter.com to learn more about living green and healthy!
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