Have you hear of or tried adaptogen supplements? Adaptogen products have made waves in the holistic health world over the last few years, but these supplements are far from new. Dating back to 3000 B.C., adaptogens have been used for healing and bodily support. But what is an adaptogen? Most basically, an adaptogen is a plant that has properties aimed to help the body adapt to stressors. An assortment of herbal roots, leaves and mushrooms/fungi make up the adaptogen group.
How Do They Work?
Again, the main function of an adaptogen is to help the body adapt to stress. But what is stress? Sure, there is the emotional feeling of stress, but it’s more than a feeling. When the body feels stressed, a cascade of physiological responses occurs. There are three phases of stress: alarm, resistance and exhaustion. The initial phase of stress is what sparks our fight or flight response — that high alert feeling. This initial stress response is meant to protect our bodies and help us respond to stress. But when we don’t (or can’t) remove stressors we stay in that heightened stress state. This leads us into resistance and then exhaustion.
Sadly, it’s become a societal norm to live in a heightened state of stress and therefore has many implications on our physical, mental and emotional health. Decreased energy, decreased mental stamina, trouble concentrating, insomnia, reduced libido, weight gain, mood swings, hormonal imbalances and more can manifest with prolonged stress.
So where do adaptogen supplements come into play? Well, they could support your natural ability to deal with stress, therefore taking some of the load off of your body’s stress response. Numerous studies have observed the benefits of adaptogen use, one study even referred to them as stress protective.
Common Adaptogen Herbs & Possible Benefits*
- Ashwaghanda: decreases stress, helps with mental well-being. (1)
- Holy Basil: can reduce anxiety, stress and help with mood regulation. (2)
- Cordyceps: decreases stress, boosts circulation, increased libido, improved mood. (3)
- Reishi: immune support, can help calm anxiety and support sleep. (4)
- Rhodiola: reduces stress and boosts immunity. (5)
- Chaga: Boosts immune system function. (6)
- Red Ginseng: Reduces inflammation, helps with energy, stamina and mental clarity. (7)
- Maca Root: hormonal balance, increased libido. (8)
Ways to Supplement with Adaptogens
Adaptogen supplements can be added to your wellness regimen in a variety of ways. Teas, tinctures, extracts, powders and capsules are common modality choices. How should you choose which form to try? This depends on what type of plant, what you are most likely to consume and the targeted use.
The FDA has not approved these statements and this article does not replace medical advice. Always check with your primary care physician before changing your diet/exercise habits or trying a new supplement.