We’ve all experienced the pressure and stress that comes with modern life (especially before, during, and after the holidays). A quick power nap and a cup of coffee are commonly used options that combat a busy schedule. While those are okay options here or there, if they are implemented every day, they can mess up our natural circadian rhythm and possibly cause more harm than good. Yikes. Before resorting to stimulants like excessive caffeine or energy drinks, what about incorporating some rejuvenating herbs into the mix?
Adrenal herbs, also known as adaptogens, come in many different forms, each with its unique function, but it can be hard to figure out which ones to choose and how much to take. Read on to find out more about apoptogenic herbs and how to use them effectively so that you can keep your adrenals calm, and your entire endocrine system working efficiently.
Adaptogens are specific herbs and/or mushrooms that help the body cope better with emotional and physical stress. In today’s world, where stress and anxiety are often rampant due to the demands put in place from work and toxic environmental factors, utilizing these adaptogens can be a good option to ease your mind and body.
Russian toxicologist Nikolay Lazarev first introduced the term “adaptogen” into scientific literature in 1957. He referred to these substances as those “that increase the state of nonspecific resistance” in stress (1). These miracle substances work by modulating the release of certain stress hormones from the adrenal glands. These glands produce hormones that help regulate many systems, from metabolism to blood pressure and stress response. To put simply - because of their effects on adrenal glands, adaptogens can help the body adapt to different stressors (2).
So how can we classify an herb as being an adaptogen? To be adaptogenic, a substance must bring strength and energy when consumed, be safe to use long-term, and act on different parts of the body simultaneously (3). Some commonly used adaptogenic herbs are detailed below:
Ashwagandha is one of the most commonly used adaptogens worldwide and is commonly used in ayurvedic medicine. Its potential benefits include supporting the endocrine and nervous systems and improving memory and feelings of calmness (4).
Turmeric is often considered a supporting adaptogen due to its wide-ranging benefits across the body. As it is high in flavonoids, turmeric is often identified as a potent antioxidant (5). Its potential benefits include improving circulation, reducing inflammation, and reducing feelings of depression. Remember, inflammation can increase stress in the body and ultimately tax the adrenals - so that is why this anti-inflammatory herb can support adrenal health so well.
Like ashwagandha, ginseng is a commonly used adaptogen, especially when present in tonics. Because of its potent effects, there are some limitations to the quantity of ginseng taken at a particular time. Ginseng’s potential benefits include supporting the immune system and increasing energy levels. As always, use with caution if taking SSRIs or any pharmaceuticals.
While Tulsi is less well-known in the Western world, Eastern medicine practices often utilize this form of basil in cooking. People there use the herb for various functions, including treatment of indigestion and stress relief due to its range of potential benefits. These include soothing digestion, increasing vitality, and calming minds (6).
So, now that you know a little bit more about the different types of adaptogens available, how can you go about using them correctly? When starting a new regime with added supplements, it is paramount to speak with your healthcare practitioner to make sure the herb is the right fit for you and discuss any health conditions you may have. Talking to a holistic or functional expert about correct dosage based on what needs you have will be very useful. Ultimately, taking it slow when incorporating adaptogens is vital for the first time, as each individual will react differently. Slow and steady always wins the race.
It is essential to buy adaptogenic herbs from a supplier or company that is reputable. Using high-quality and trusted products may be more expensive, but it also means you are more likely to get a more potent adaptogen, while lessening the risk of an adverse reaction.
Adaptogens typically come in many forms, from capsules and tea bags to powders and tinctures. Choosing an option that is easy to implement in your everyday regime is the right way of ensuring you remember to take them. Powders are also a convenient way of getting sufficient amounts of adaptogens into your diet, as they can be added to almost everything, from smoothies to soups.
Ultimately, all adaptogenic herbs provide numerous health benefits and are popular for different reasons, so choose one that gives the affects you want. It can also be useful to try a few other adaptogen options before settling on one to see how your body reacts to them. If you have high yeast, fungus or histamines – we do not recommend using any of the mushrooms (cordyceps, reishi, lions mane).
Many experts recommend that most adaptogenic herbs be taken earlier in the day since they are naturally stimulating and provide energy (7). Adaptogens like ginseng and ashwagandha should be taken before 3 pm to lessen the risk of sleeplessness later at night. On the other hand, less potent herbs, like turmeric and tulsi, can be taken during the day and close to bedtime.
All adaptogens can be used repetitively for several weeks, especially if you are going through an incredibly stressful period. Rotating the time and quantity of adaptogen used every few months can also help ensure your body benefits from the unique differences between all the different types of herbs.
While there can be many ways of dealing with stress, a natural and effective option is to use adaptogens for combatting the pressures of modern life. Adaptogens can come in many types, with the most common ones being ginseng, ashwagandha, turmeric, and tulsi, each with its own particular benefits.
Because everybody is different, trying a few different adaptogens can be a great option to see what one suits your needs the best. With many product types available on the market and the ability to use them for weeks on end, incorporating adaptogens into your diet is an excellent addition to your daily regime. Stress management is often one of the most overlooked keys to health, so if you are constantly feeling stressed, consider some of the tips in this article and as always – remember to breath.