Stress springs up on us on a regular basis, whether it be in the form of a work meeting you forgot about, the million extra–curriculars your children have, or even your sore muscles from the extra effort you put in at the gym. If you need a quick fix and it’s too early for wine, it might be time to grab an alternative, and I don’t mean tequila. Adaptogen plants and/or plant parts are used to help the body deal with stress more effectively and efficiently. These special plants target the central nervous system, honing in on our hypothalamus pituitary axis (the HP axis), working to balance hormones and create a sort of resistance to the effects of stress. If the term “adaptogen” doesn’t ring a bell, it’s time to open up Instagram, or, better yet, keep reading to find out all you need to know about these wonderous plants.
Now, just because #adaptogens is trending on social and they’re stocked in every juicer and wellness shop in the city doesn’t mean that they’re new. They’ve been around for years. In fact, it was back in 1947 that Russian scientist N.V. Lazerev coined the term “adaptogen” in reference to any plant that helped the body increase its resistance to the ill effects of stressors. Shortly thereafter, a system was created to help classify adaptogens, the criteria for which are as follows:
- The substance must be safe for the majority of the population.
- The substance has the ability (non-specific) to increase a person’s threshold before they succumb to negative impacts of stress.
- The substance works by bringing the body back to an equilibrium, physically, hormonally and immunologically.
Since the above list was created, the criteria has changed, slightly: not all adaptogens are without side effects and most definetly not all adaptogens elicit the same physiological responses. So, should you decide to jump on the #plantmagic #adaptogenlife #stressrelief bandwagon, it’s best to be sure you know which herbs do what.
It’s a good thing The Jills are here to help with that! There are sooooooo many adaptogens on the market today—powders, teas, coffees, oils, tinctures, pills, leaves, stems, roots—but to achieve the desired results, you need the best match for you.
Here are our top seven adaptogens and their benefits:
a- Panax ginseng, a.k.a. Asian or Korean ginseng, is a powerful and popular adaptogen and for good reason. A fan favorite for dealing with fatigue, Panax is considered a stimulant, providing an energy boost without the caffeine jitters. Just don’t take it too close to bedtime or you may be up all night doing a deep dive into your ex’s social page. Panax helps improve mental focus and clarity, one of the more common symptoms of chronic stress and adrenal fatigue. A number of studies have reported that Panax helps balance hormones via the HP axis, and, as a performance-enhancer, it helps with muscle recovery after an injury. An added bonus? Panax is also an aphrodisiac.
b – Eleutherococcus sentidosus, or Siberian ginseng, isn’t technically a ginseng plant, but scientists love to confuse people, so… It does, however, offer benefits similar to those of Panax but it doesn’t have the same energy–boosting effects. This can be good because some find Panax too stimulating. Siberian ginseng does, however, help upregulate the immune system, which, when you have chronic fatigue, becomes very depleted.
Withania Somnifera, a.k.a. Ashwaganda, is a wonderful Aryuvedic herb that reduces cortisol, which is typically elevated in those suffering from chronic stress. Ashwaganda also helps regulate the immune system and calms the central nervous system. Although it doesn’t necessarily make you drowsy, it has calming properties and is ideal for those who can’t handle the stimulant effects of Panax ginseng.
Rhodiola rosea is a root that combats stress on many levels: it helps relieve anxiety, promotes immune function, and it combats fatigue and exhaustion, both physical and mental. It’s been proven to have very few, if any, adverse reactions and is considered very safe.
Ashwaganda, a.k.a. Indian ginseng and, you guessed it, not a true ginseng, also lowers cortisol. Studies have shown that ashwaganda balances hormones through the HP axis and upregulates thyroid hormones, helping combat fatigue and sluggishness.
Tulsi, or Holy Basil, is not only a wonderful adaptogen; it’s also a very powerful anti-aging supplement. Tulsi is used to regulate the immune system, aid in anti-microbial function and lower cortisol. It also increases cognitive function and reduces anxiety, making it an all-around super plant.
Cordyceps is a fungus that grows on caterpillars and, oddly enough, it looks like one, too. Traditionally used for liver and kidney dysfunction as well as some sexual concerns, cordyceps has become a very popular adaptogen of late. It helps fight fatigue brought on by chronic stress, and it helps balance hormones. It also boasts potent anti-aging properties because of its strong antioxidant effects. This mushroom is not the only adaptogen mushroom but it’s one of the best.
Glycyrrhiza, a.k.a. licorice root, is also a hormone balancer and fatigue fighter. Anti-inflammatory and immune modulating, it helps improve endurance and performance by acting as a kind of steroid—this means that it may raise blood pressure, so use with caution.
Now these are just a few amongst many wonderful adaptogens, and for help to determine which is best for you, I advise you to speak with your healthcare professional before starting any more treatment regimen.