What Are Adaptogens? + 5 Adaptogenic Herbs to Try
Stress is unfortunately a part of life, and it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes we need stress to motivate us or to let us know that something is wrong.
Chronic stress, on the other hand, is not a good thing but it’s becoming more and more common. Constantly living in fight-or-flight mode or experiencing constant low-level anxiety puts a burden on the whole body and can lead to adrenal fatigue and other problems.
Thankfully, there’s a whole class of plants known as adaptogens that can help the body deal with and recover from long-term stress and fatigue.
Here’s a closer look at what adaptogens are, plus 5 adaptogenic herbs to try.
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are very unique when it comes to using plants and herbs as medicine. Instead of having a specific effect, adaptogens help the body to deal with stressors and bring the body back into balance.
Adaptogenic herbs have a normalizing effect on the body, helping the body to more effectively cope with stress. Specifically, this happens by the adaptogens recharging the adrenal glands. (1)
The term adaptogen or adaptogenic was first introduced in 1947 by a Russian scientist named N.V. Lazarev. Since then, adaptogens have been studied to more fully understand their effects on the human body.
In one animal study, adaptogens were found to have the following effects: neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, antidepressive, increased mental work capacity, and even prevention of stress and fatigue. (2)
With all that in mind, here are 5 adaptogenic herbs that can help relieve stress and fatigue and restore adrenal health.
5 Adaptogenic Herbs to Know About
Asian ginseng (also called Panax ginseng) is one of the more well-known adaptogenic herbs.
Not only does Asian ginseng help with stress, studies have found that it can also help to improve mental performance and reduce mental fatigue as well as improve working memory and calmness in healthy adults. (3)(4)
Siberian ginseng is another highly beneficial adaptogen, but the name is slightly misleading. Its Latin name is Eleutherococcus senticosus, which means it’s not a true ginseng.
However, Siberian ginseng works in the traditional adaptogenic sense by normalizing reactions to physical and mental stress. It may even be particularly helpful for preventing burnout as well as increasing mental alertness, work output, and work quality. (5) (1)
Ashwagandha (which sometimes goes by the name of Indian ginseng) is an herb that’s often used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Ashwagandha can be used to both help with sleep and to provide energy. Like other adaptogenic herbs, it adapts to the body’s needs.
Ashwagandha can also be very helpful in reducing stress and helping the body to resist stress. One study found that an “Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual's resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.” (6)
Ashwagandha is an herb that can be taken regularly for chronic stress and adrenal fatigue.
Astragalus is another adaptogenic herb that is often used in Chinese medicine. The root of the herb has typically been used to help with recovery after a long illness or prolonged stress.
Along with its ability to help the body deal with stress, astragalus also helps to enhance immune function and was shown in a 2012 study on female athletes to help the body eliminate free radicals, which can cause disease. (1) (7)
Using astragalus during periods of chronic stress can help to protect the body from the effects of stress and also increase immunity so that disease doesn’t take advantage of a weakened system.
Rhodiola rosea, sometimes called “rose root” or “golden root,” comes from the colder climates of Asia and Europe. It has a history of being used in areas like Russia and Scandinavia to treat headaches and the flu, but it’s also a powerful adaptogen.
Rhodiola has an anti-fatigue effect and helps the body to respond better to stress, avoiding burnout. It may help to improve mood and mental alertness and may also be a good candidate for use against mild to moderate depression and anxiety. (8)
The research behind rhodiola and its long-time use as an adaptogenic herb make it a very potent defense against stress and fatigue.
Schisandra chinensis is a plant native to Northern China, and its berries are used as food and medicine. In Chinese medicine, Schisandra is used for a variety of reasons but especially for liver health and to combat stress and fatigue.
As an adaptogen, Schisandra seems to be particularly helpful for those suffering from exhaustion, poor mental performance, or poor physical performance. (9)
In general, adaptogenic herbs are considered to be safe and beneficial, but you should consult a doctor before using them as some may interact with prescription medications.
Adaptogens can be a big help to protect the body against the effects of chronic stress and fatigue, but they will be most effective when accompanied with lifestyle changes such as getting more rest, exercising, and eating a healthy diet.
Adaptogenic herbs are also available in a variety of forms. You can buy the herbs themselves in bulk and make teas and other remedies. Or you can purchase ready-made preparations like capsules, tinctures, tablets, and herbal tea blends.
Adaptogens for Adrenal Fatigue and Immunity
As mentioned before, one of the biggest problems with chronic stress is that it burdens the whole body and can lead to adrenal fatigue.
Adaptogenic herbs can be especially useful for combating fatigue and restoring adrenal health. Any of these herbs can be used for this purpose, but they are often more effective when used together or with other types of herbs.
Try out the Adrenal Love Tea to help your body and adrenals cope with daily stress. This is an adaptogenic blend that contains Schisandra berry and rhodiola along with eleuthero root, nettle leaf, and licorice root (another adaptogen).
Another effect of constant stress is lowered immune system function. Adaptogens can help restore the body after stress and also strengthen the immune system. For a pre-made blend, try out ImmuniTea, which contains astragalus, elderberry, and other immune-boosting herbs.
Are You Using Adaptogens?
With the amount of people currently suffering chronic stress, adaptogens are becoming more well-known and more researched.
If you find yourself dealing with stress-related fatigue and decreased mental alertness, adding adaptogenic herbs into your daily routine could make a big difference! Take advantage of this powerful class of herbs today.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.
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