Learn How Adaptogens Keep Your Body in Balance
Stress is thrown at you every day - morning to night - and can come from anywhere.
Stress and health issues are invariably linked. As stress rises, so do your levels of cortisol - stimulating your sympathetic nervous system and adrenal glands, giving you that “fight or flight” feeling.
Sufferers of chronic stress may experience this several times a day, have an increased risk to their overall health, and are generally more susceptible to future stress.
Stress can be the cause of several health problems. Among a list of numerous, unpredictable issues, constant stress can lead to or exacerbate high blood pressure, heart problems, asthma, arthritis, depression, and unnatural aging, etc. According to WebMD, about 90% of all doctor’s visits are related to stress-associated issues(1).
The road to properly combating your daily stress will likely not be a simple one and could possibly involve every aspect of your life.
Adaptogenic herbs, (adaptogens) are a type of plant that contain agents known to generally keep the body in balance. Although not very clearly defined, adaptogenic herbs simply improve the “state of non-specific resistance(2)” to stress in the body.
When you’re stressed out, the door is opened in your body to several, often unpredictable medical problems. But with adaptogenic herbs, various substances spring into action and work at roping in all the harmful agents.
Studies show that adaptogens contain neuroprotective agents, anti-fatigue, anti-depressive, anti-anxiety, and memory-enhancing qualities. Adaptogens tend to promote activity that stimulates the central nervous system as well.
Here’s a list of just a few of these adaptogenic herbs.
Rhodiola has been used for centuries in Europe, Russia, and Asia, mostly growing in high-altitude areas. Historically, vikings used this plant for strength enhancement, while the Sherpa used it to assist them with mountain climbing.
Rhodiola is a powerful force against stress(3). It lowers cortisol levels and works at protecting against hormonal changes by improving the stress-tolerance of the substances opioid neuropeptides (a substance produced in the body with a similar effect to morphine), and beta-endorphins (a strong suppressor of pain).
Along with stress reduction, rhodiola has been studied for the following:
-Brain Function Improvement(4)
Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters associated with the brain’s memory, ability to focus, and general mood. Rhodiola helps increase the sensitivity of these two neurons to effectively improve your brain’s functions, meaning this herb can be utilized for its anti-depressive qualities, too.
In a study(5) of patients with depression, Rhodiola was tested against the drug Sertraline and found to have similar antidepressant qualities, but none of the side-effects.
Rhodiola can also raise the levels of 5-HT receptors, promote neural stem cells, and repair damaged neurons in the hippocampus, located in the brain.
-Increase Your Energy(6)
On top of the anti-inflammatory factors, rhodiola boosts erythropoetin - responsible for the body’s production of red blood cells. More red blood cells means oxygen can more efficiently reach your muscles and keep you feeling fresh and strong for longer.
2. Holy Basil
The adaptogenic herb used prominently in India as medicine as well as an effective anti-aging supplement. Studies have discovered its anti-inflammatory, analgesic (relieves pain), antipyretic (relieves fever), antidiabetic, hepatoprotective (liver health), hypolipidemic (reduces fat), antistress, and immunomodulatory activities. Holy Basil, also called tulsi, hosts other benefits as well:
Adaptogenic herbs are most associated with stress. In a study(8), patients with elevated levels of the stress hormone corticosterone were administered Ocimumoside A and Ocimumoside B (the main compounds in holy basil) to effectively subdue this hormone.
In addition to stress-relief, Holy Basil has also been tested(9) to promote the apoptosis process (a necessary process of cell-death that makes room for freshly generated cells in the body), improving antioxidant activities, altering gene expressions, and regulating angiogenesis (production of blood vessels) and metastasis (spreading of cancer).
Holy Basil could be used to safely lower cholesterol and regulate blood-glucose levels in cases of non insulin-dependant diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) (10).
A lot of mouthwashes use alcohol and even sugar among their ingredients. But studies(11) are showing we can start making mouthwashes without these counterproductive substances. An herbal oral cleanse containing holy basil may provide benefits including preventing tooth decay, bleeding gums, oral ulcers, and killing germs that cause bad breath. Of course, you should probably still be brushing your teeth and flossing on a regular basis - that's one thing adaptogens can't do for you.
Known as “strength of the stallion” in India, the most prominently researched adaptogenic herb, ashwagandha, has been tested as a natural stress-reliever with anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and neuroprotective agents.
In a study, subjects(12) given this adaptogen were successfully able to prevent stress-induced and chemically-induced ulcers, regulate levels of cortisol, ascorbic acid, and adrenal weight.
- Protection from Radiation
This adaptogen has also been studied(13) for it usefulness against radiation (such as in chemotherapy) and for its ability to promote the production of red and white blood cells.
- Thyroid Regulation
When your thyroid fails to produce enough hormones, various functions of your body begin slowing down. This is known as Hypothyroidism - it can lead to the inhibition of physical and mental growth in both children and adults. The body feels tired and colder more easily. The mind can become affected as well, and strained focus, memory loss, and even depression may result.
In a trial(14) testing the body’s balance of thyroid hormones, subjects given ashwagandha were recorded to show improvement in the gland’s T4 production - suggesting that Ashwagandha could be used to combat hypothyroidism.
- Alzheimer's Disease
Cognitive functions and memory is adversely affected by Alzheimer’s Disease in a gradual process of degeneration. Studies(15) have shown that subjects administered ashwagandha saw a reduction in the processes that lead to further cognitive degeneration.
Don’t let stress get out of control!
Stressing out and staying that way is simply unhealthy. Of course you want to do anything and everything necessary to combat whatever causes you stress in your day-to-day life. But that doesn’t usually give you very immediate relief.
Constant or chronic stress will likely result in medical conditions requiring doctor’s visits and treatments like prescribed medications, habit changes, and, in extreme cases, surgery.
These can be dangerous and expensive.
Natural solutions are generally safer than prescribed medications.
Meditation is a great first step. Calming your mind with measured breaths and manually peeling back the layers of stress can be an effective way of hitting the ‘reset button’ in your mind - get yourself into a frame of thought better suited to take on the things stressing you out.
Exercise, of course, is another good way to start from the ground up in finding stress relief. According to WebMD(16), exercise leads to the release of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which is associated with calming the mind and thus lowering anxiety.
Get your blood flowing and your systems going with a little workout to get the edge on your stress, as well as maintain general health.
Natural avenues like phytotherapy (therapy through plants - such as an adaptogen supplement and others) may provide a safe way to relieve stress without taking on the undesired side-effects and hefty bills that may come along with conventional medicine.
We'd love to hear your feedback and any additional questions you might have.
What steps do you take to lower your stress? Let us know what methods you have found to be safe and effective.
***This article is intended to provide information and general education only - please don’t use this information to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness or medical condition, or as a substitute for medical advice.***
I'll catch you in the next article.
To your health,
-Chris Ford - Director of Health Research