What Are Adaptogens, And Do They Really Work?

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Today, you’ll find many adaptogens in the market, but do they work? Read this post to get the answer.
RELATED: 13 Ways To Live A Stress-Free Life
In this article:

  1. What Are Adaptogens?
  2. List of Adaptogen Herbs
  3. How to Take Adaptogens for Wellness

Adaptogens: What Should You Take and Their Benefits

What Are Adaptogens?

Let’s start with the most basic question: what are adaptogens? These are plants that meet the following criteria:

  • They are non-toxic, safe, and can be medicinal.
  • These are plants or medicinal mushrooms that help fight the signs of acute and chronic stress.
  • They can improve immunity and balance in the body.

The use of adaptogen herbs has been around for hundreds of years. They are popular in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine.
Taking these plants doesn’t mean you will no longer feel stressed. Stress is and will always be present since it’s your body’s natural response.
It can even be your best defense against threats. For example, it keeps you alert when you’re driving.
What an adaptogen does is reduce the effects of stress. These can be mental, physical, or biological.
Some examples are:

  • Anxiety or depression
  • Brain fog
  • Weight gain
  • Poor cognitive function
  • Chronic fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Imbalance of the hormones
  • Low energy levels
  • Adrenal fatigue

One of the key adaptogen benefits is reducing oxidative stress. It refers to the imbalance between free radicals, which can damage healthy cells, and antioxidants.
High levels of oxidative stress can result in chronic inflammation. It increases the chances of having a hormone imbalance, adrenal fatigue, and other factors listed above.
To cope with stress becomes more challenging. Its symptoms are more evident, too.

List of Adaptogen Herbs

What adaptogens should you take? Here are some of the most popular options:

1. Rhodiola

Rhodiola rosea is a perennial flowering plant and one of the most powerful adaptogens:

  • It can reduce stress hormones such as cortisol during acute stress.
  • It may help improve cognitive function and fight against mood disorders like anxiety.

In a 2015 study, mildly anxious participants who took the plant’s extract for 14 days reported an improved mood. They had reduced feelings of anxiety, anger, confusion, and stress.
The researchers further believed the effects weren’t placebo since the changes were gradual.

2. Maca

Also called the Peruvian ginseng, maca is one of the adaptogens that can help enhance fertility and balance sex hormones.
Premenopausal and postmenopausal women, for instance, can benefit from maca in two ways:

  • It may alleviate sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressants.
  • It balances three of the critical hormones for women: thyroid, progesterone, and estradiol.

The last point is significant. Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone, and its more vital type is estradiol.
Progesterone, meanwhile, is necessary to control the production of estradiol. It is responsible for preventing estrogen dominance, which results in more obvious symptoms of menopause.
It also supports thyroid function. This promotes metabolism, mood, and cognitive function even after menopause.

3. Schisandra

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Schisandra may help with liver problems.

One of the medicinal plants in Chinese traditional medicine, Schisandra is a possible therapy for liver dysfunction.
The liver performs hundreds of different functions, including removing toxins. Oxidative stress and lifestyle may result in conditions such as a fatty liver.

What is a fatty liver? It is a condition where fat accumulates in the liver. When left untreated, it can lead to liver damage.

A 2014 research in the Journal of Medicinal Food revealed Schisandra may prevent alcohol-induced fatty liver. It reduced the levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides.
It may also reduce blood sugar and blood pressure levels and improve immune function. Schisandra is also a sexual tonic, possibly increase testosterone levels.

4. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha withania somnifera is a staple in Ayurveda, a traditional form of Indian medicine. They call it the rejuvenator for providing the following health benefits:

  • It can improve sleep through one of its active ingredients called triethylene glycol. It is abundant in the plant’s leaves.
  • Ashwagandha root can enhance sexual function in women.
  • It may even help fight obesity among those under chronic stress.
  • It fights depression and anxiety.
  • Ashwagandha boosts oxygen consumption to promote energy and endurance.

RELATED: Quiz: How Stressed Are You Really?

5. Eleuthero

The adrenal glands, which sit close to the kidneys, are responsible for regulating cortisol levels. Cortisol is one of the stress hormones that manage your heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose.
Due to a poor immune system and high cortisol levels, your adrenals get tired. In alternative medicine, people call it adrenal fatigue.
Eleuthero is an adaptogen herb that improves your stress response by supporting adrenal function.
Women may also need it, especially those experiencing menopause. It binds to estrogen receptors that reduce estrogen withdrawal symptoms.

6. Licorice

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Increase energy and boost immunity with licorice.

Don’t let the odd taste of licorice stop you from consuming it. As one of the popular adaptogens, it can boost your energy and endurance.
It can also support your immune system, especially when you’re stress levels are high, by protecting the thymus glands. These are responsible for the production of your immune system’s T cells.
Note: Licorice can raise blood pressure. Eat with caution or supervision.

7. Cordyceps

Cordyceps are fungi that can also work as adaptogens. They can:

Let’s talk about the last point. The immune system is your body’s defense against threats such as pathogens.
The problem is they can become overactive. It raises your odds of chronic inflammation.
It also makes you susceptible to autoimmune diseases. When these happen, your body’s immune system begins to attack your otherwise-healthy organs.
In one of the studies, cordyceps suppressed the production or release of inflammatory markers or proteins.

8. Reishi

Reishi is one of the medicinal mushrooms that holds a special place in Chinese traditional medicine. They deem it one of the secrets to immortality.
It could be because of its long list of benefits. A review of the many studies revealed:

  • They may protect the body from chronic illness by directly preventing its formation or modulating the immune system.
  • They fight common biological stressors by increasing the body’s antioxidants.
  • The mushrooms prevent viral and bacterial infections.
  • They shield the liver from injury due to excessive consumption of fat or alcohol.

9. Turmeric

One of the effective adaptogens may already be in your kitchen. This refers to turmeric.
Turmeric contains an active component called curcumin, and it does wonders for your body. A 2011 study in the Journal of Natural Medicines showed it could limit the effects of chronic stress.
It may reduce cognitive deficits, including poor memory retention. It may also improve your biological markers, such as glucose, cortisol levels, and cholesterol.
Turmeric may also support your adrenal glands and may even help you lose weight. They can balance your thyroid hormones, as well.

How to Take Adaptogens for Wellness

You can eat some of these adaptogens, such as reishi or licorice. Since most are difficult to attain in their natural forms, they are mostly available as supplements.
You can get them in either powder form like the Dr. Seeds Turmeric Tea Powder or as capsules.
Both are effective but make sure your adaptogen supplements are the best quality. Most of all, don’t take any of these without the guidance of your doctor.
Do adaptogens really work? The answer is yes.
They may not get rid of stress, but they can support your mind and body so you can cope better. This makes them beneficial for your overall health and well-being.
What adaptogens do you take for stress relief? Share your reasons in the comments section below!
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