Adaptogens are a special class of healing plants, herbs, and medicinals that help your body “adapt” to life’s inevitable stressors!
Adaptogens may reduce both, the severity and negative effects of stress. If you've been hanging around the blog for awhile, you know how much I focus on stress reducing activities. When I found out I was in severe adrenal fatigue, adaptogens quickly made their way into my wellness repertoire. I now utilize them several times a week, if not daily, to help combat stress and nourish my adrenal glands.
Adaptogens work by::
- Increasing energy circulation
- Decreasing perceived stress
- Increasing resistance to stress
- Improving mental focus
- Nourishing the adrenals
- Supporting immune function
- Improving sleep
Overall, they help balance, restore, and protect the body from the dangerous, long-term effects of chronic stress.
Adaptogenic herbs have a normalizing influence on the body. They neither over-stimulate nor inhibit normal body function, but rather they help the body to cope more effectively with stress by supporting the adrenal glands.
The kidneys and adrenal glands are the seat of your reproductive health in Traditional Chinese Medicine. What this means is that your adrenals are the foundation of your hormones, and you absolutely need them to be strong in order to support your other hormones necessary for a healthy period, robust energy, a juicy libido, and optimal fertility.
Below are some of my favorite adaptogens and practical uses for each of them.
Adaptogenic Herbs for Healing & Nourishing
Ashwagandha, or withania somnifera, is one of the most potent adaptogens known today. It lowers serum cortisol levels, improves perceived stress, helps mitigate food cravings, and aids in helping maintain a healthy body weight. It supports the body in helping it to become more "resistant" to stress. Be careful if you have sensitivities to nightshades, because ashwagandha is in the nightshade family. Ashwagandha can be enjoyed as a tea, a tincture, or in capsule form.
Rhodiola, or rhodiola rosea, is a perennial root native to Europe and Asia that is widely known to improve mental focus. It improves fatigue, mental performance &concentration, and it helps balance cortisol output. It also supports healthy progesterone levels. Rhodioloa nourishes chi (your life-force energy) and encourages healthy circulation. It is best enjoyed steeped as a tea, in capsule form, or as a tincture.
Panax ginseng is a deciduous perennial root, native to China and Korea. It improves energy, stamina, focus, concentration, helps combat fatigue, supports the immune system, improves memory and mental alertness, and reduces insomnia. Make sure to take ginseng before noon to ensure you get a good night's sleep! It is not advised to use ginseng in the presence of caffeine containing beverages as it may exacerbate symptoms of hyperstimulation. Do not take if you have high blood pressure. Ginseng is very versatile and can be enjoyed in teas, soups, stews, as a tincture, or in capsule form.
Schisandra is a medicinal berry from a deciduous woody vine native to the forests of northern China and eastern Russia. It improves fatigue, mood, and appetite and is helpful in treating insomnia. It is also an effective treatment against depression. It helps to "calm the heart and quiet the spirit." The active constituents present in schisandra affect the central nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system, and the endocrine system. It also reduces cortisol and the other stress hormones -- the catecholamines, adrenaline and norepinephrine. Schisandra is best enjoyed as a tea or a fruit juice. You may add powdered schisandra berries to your smoothie as well.
Holy Basil, or ocimum tenuiflorum, an herbaceous member of the mint family, improves cognitive function and improves cortisol levels. It reduces symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. It is also supportive of the immune system. Do not take if you are actively trying to conceive, as it has some anti-fertility effects. Holy basil is best enjoyed steeped as a tea.
Cordyceps is a medicinal mushroom that helps nourish the adrenal glands and supports their overall function. The mechanism by which cordyceps works is that it temporarily increases cortisol output when a stressor is present, followed by a large drop in cortisol when the stressor is gone. Cordyceps supports energy, endurance, and overall immune function. It is also a natural aphrodisiac. Meow! Enjoy powdered cordyceps and add them to your smoothie or tea.
Reishi is a medicinal mushroom that builds adrenal strength while also helps to support your immune system. It helps make you more resilient to stress. Reishi is traditionally used as a "Qi" tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is widely considered the “mushroom of immortality”. It protects against fatigue, inflammation, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression. Enjoy powdered reishi mushrooms in your smoothie, or steep whole slivers as a tea. You may also add reishi mushrooms to your homemade broths.
Licorice root, or glycyrrhiza glabrais, is an herbaceous legume native to the Middle East, southern Europe, and India. It is helpful for people with LOW cortisol levels. It works by extending the half-life of cortisol. Please get your adrenals tested before taking this adaptogen, as we want to be absolutely sure of what is happening with your adrenals before you take licorice. Licorice keeps cortisol around longer. Do not take if you have high blood pressure. Enjoy licorice in a capsule, in your tea, or chewed whole.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a naturally occurring phospholipid and is a critical component of cell membranes. It is found in especially high concentrations in the brain and nervous tissues, primarily in the cell membranes of neurons. PS may improve symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, boost athletic performance, combats depression, and slows down age-related cognitive decline. PS is found in soy lecithin, tuna, chicken liver, white beans, anchovies, herring and beef.
Astragalus membranaceus is a perennial root native to China, Mongolia, and North Korea. Astragalus is known for helping to decrease the release of inflammatory cytokines and corticosteroids. It also helps to improve the response of lymphocyte proliferation, which often happens in the setting of stress in the body. Astragalus helps to improve immunity and antioxidant levels in the body. Enjoy steeped as a tea, added to homemade broths, or powdered and added to smoothies.
Maca, or lepidium meyeniiis, is technically a cruciferous vegetable, native to Peru. It has adaptogenic properties that act on the adrenal glands to support healthy estrogen and testosterone levels. Its rich in antioxidants, enhances energy, mood and memory, and improves libido and sexual function. Enjoy powdered and added to smoothies.
I love the company Mountain Rose Herbs for everything from herbs, herbal blends, teas, literature, containers for storing herbs, tools for the kitchen to help me create my own concoctions/teas/salves/balms/etc. I love them for their sourcing practices, their commitment to organic agriculture, and the sustainable way in which they run their business and support their farmers. Please only purchase your herbs from a trusted source!
For herbs in capsule form, I love MediHerb. They are an Australian company with an unwavering commitment to delivering premium-quality, efficacious herbal solutions for people everywhere. My Patient Direct code to purchase MediHerb products is TNQQH9.
Which adaptogens are you going to incorporate in your repertoire? Tell me in the comments below!
(Not Medical Advice)
Yours In Abundant Health!