Can Adaptogenic Herbs Improve Your Health?

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Herbal medicine has had an incredibly long history for its use for various ailments. But there’s one particular class of herbs – those that are derived from roots – that have been gaining popularity in recent years. They are called adaptogens, and they are plants that seem particularly effective at helping the body adjust to stress and find a better balance.

Let’s talk about the long history of adaptogenic herbs…

Compared to the length of times in which herbs have been documented for medicinal use, adaptogens are basically the new kid on the block. Scientists coined the term back in 1947 after they noticed that specific herbs and substances had a beneficial effect in animals studies that were related to stress tolerance.

Since then, adaptogens have been directly linked to many benefits including mental alertness and less fatigue to better mood and higher immunity. These same substances are also associated with easing many of the countless symptoms related to various stressors. These can include sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal upset, irritability and anxiety. Some experts even point to some advantages for weight loss and better hormone balance.

Studies and clinical trials will always be ongoing, so don’t consider these herbs to be the miracle cures you need quite yet. But, according to research on their effects, they do show promise as a natural complement to many other healthy lifestyle changes. This can include getting plenty of activity, eating a more plant-based diet, and getting enough sleep.

So what are adaptogens, really?

Although they were only given the “adaptogen” term about 60-70 years ago, these plant compounds have been part of herbal medicine for thousands of years.

To be considered an adaptogen, herbs have to actually offer support for the body and bring it back to equilibrium in some specific way. That’s an incredibly broad definition, but here is a list of some of the more common options:

  • Eleuthero (or Siberian ginseng)
  • Holy basil
  • Astragalus
  • Maca
  • Ashwagandha
  • Cordyceps
  • Reishi
  • Asian ginseng

These adaptogens can be taken in numerous ways. But they are usually sold as powders that can be added to smoothies and teas. Most of them are derived from the root of the plant, but a few come from the stem or, in the case of reishi, from mushrooms.

The tastiest of them may be something like holy basil, which you can cook with or chop up in raw leaves.

How do adaptogens actually work?

Adaptogens increase the body’s resistance to emotional, biological, and physical stress. They also provide a defense response to both acute and chronic stress.

That being said, they differ from most other substances. This is because they have an ability to restore the balance of endocrine hormones, modulate the entire immune system, and then allow the body to maintain optimal homeostasis.

For some people, adaptions have a beneficial effect on cortisol. Adaptogens are a great way for some people for them to bring cortisol back into healthy levels. They do this by helping tone the adrenal cortex and the pituitary system so they’re much more efficient.

Are there any possible side effects?

Like any other substance that could affect your physiology, adaptogens sometimes come with a few side effects. This is because many adaptogens can increase your levels of mental alertness and relieve fatigue. These effects are similar to what may happen if you overload on caffeine. You get irritable, anxious, and you have trouble sleeping!

As with any addition to your diet and supplements, pay attention to these effects. If they become troublesome or they persist for more than a couple of days, you should consider switching to another option. After all, there are many adaptogens out there. You have a wealth of choices!