This time of year can be very stressful, whether you’re worried about money, time, holiday parties or entertaining your in-laws… we could all use an extra moment to breathe and de-stress. A group of supplements, called adaptogens, can help with just that – being useful little helpers during times of enhanced stress.
Adaptogens are plants that have the ability to aid an abundance of issues related to stress, fatigue and hormone imbalances. They have been used for thousands of years in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, but only recently gained recognition in the western world. While research is still new, studies thus far show adaptogens help by supporting the adrenal system and central nervous system; in times of stress they can help stabilize and balance how these systems react to stimuli. When we’re faced with constant stress our body will release excess hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, which can lead to inflammation, disease, weight issues and more. Adaptogens help this by balancing our hypothalamic-pituitary-endocrine axis aka the relationship between our brain and hormone system. They do not serve one function, and the variety of plants that fall within the “adaptogen” category all have different uses. In general, though, they help our body manage stress, whether caused by internal or external stimuli, by strengthening our systems to adapt better and maintain balance.
Some specific cases in which adaptogens can help are: anxiety, adrenal fatigue, brain fog, inconsistent energy levels, hormone imbalances, depression, workout enhancement, low libido, improving overall cognitive function, improving immune and thyroid health.
Below we’re diving into a few popular adaptogens and what individual benefits they offer. This does not cover all varieties (there’s far too many), so we encourage you to stop in the store and learn which would be the best for your own personal needs. So, breathe in, breathe out, and keep reading!
A great place to start is with this highly acknowledged and common adaptogen. Ashwagandha is great for balancing cortisol levels, reducing anxiety and supporting overall well-being. It can enhance energy in many ways, from improving workouts and boosting a slow thyroid, to regulating mood that may be worn down from excessive stress.
If you’re looking for an energy boost this is the adaptogen for you. There are a few types of Ginseng, but those within the Panax family – Asian White, Asian Red and American White – are all great at increasing energy levels without caffeine-like jitters, improving stamina and alertness for prolonged periods.
Otherwise known as Siberian ginseng, eleuthero is also great at improving energy levels just like its cousins. It shows to reduce symptoms of stress on the body and ward off both mental and physical fatigue. Some cognitive benefits eleuthero has is enhancing memory, focus and mental clarity.
Many medicinal mushrooms are themselves considered adaptogens and have immense health benefits. To learn more about this specific group read about them here.
Rhodiola is another choice that is great for enhancing energy and is especially beneficial for those with adrenal fatigue – it can regulate cortisol levels, boost productivity, improve overall brain function and balance mood. While it does help to normalize your adrenal function it can cause sleeplessness or insomnia if taken too late at night, so morning is the ideal time to consume this adaptogen.
This root has increased greatly in popularity as both an adaptogen and superfood best known for its hormone balancing effects. This is a great choice for someone looking to enhance libido, improve fertility, regulate PMS and menopause symptoms or boost overall energy levels.
Today maca is available is two forms – raw and gelatinized. Both contain immense nutrient quantities, however if suffering from digestive issues gelatinized maca powder is the ideal form.This means that the root receives heat and pressure in order to breakdown the starches, remove the root fibers and goitrogens. This process makes digesting the superfood easier and more approachable to work into your everyday life. Sunfood offers great organic options for both raw and gelatinized maca powder.
Another great option for someone suffering with adrenal fatigue, this berry shows to reduce anxiety, balance cortisol levels and support overall adrenal health and functions.
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Called the “Queen of Herbs” in Ayurveda, holy basil offers a wide range of benefits to keep your body functioning properly. Some unique properties is its ability to aid in both skin and gut health, supporting maintenance of beneficial microbes that help both. Additionally, holy basil can improve respiratory health, protect the liver and fight off brain fog by increasing cognitive function.
Due to different adaptogens addressing different stressors in the body, using them together can have a synergistic effect. For example, Bluebonnet’s Targeted Choice® Stress Relief contains a blend of the previous mentioned herbs (ashwagandha, rhodiola, eleuthero, holy basil) as well as L-Theanine which is great at boosting mood and promoting relaxation.