I have written a little about adaptogenic herbs in the past and have woven them into other blogs but I wanted them to have their own story because with the world we are living in right now, they can really serve their purpose and help everyone. Adaptogens are specific herbs, roots, berries and mushrooms that help the body overcome stress, whether it be from physical, chemical or biological. Situated in the brain behind the bridge of the nose is our pituitary gland. This is called the master gland because it controls several other hormone glands in our bodies like the thyroid, adrenals, ovaries and testicles. When our bodies are in stress mode, the pituitary tells the adrenals to act fast. The adrenals then releases adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream which puts us in fight or flight mode. In small doses this mode is very helpful but if we are under constant stress, cortisol can inflict a number of harmful effects on the body.
These herbs have been traced back to 3000 B.C. in Chinese and Ayurveda practices. Studies show that adaptogens trigger the production of hormones that alter stress chemicals, helping the entire body from the brain to the immune system function normally. They work by targeting the body's three stages of stress: Alarm, resistance and exhaustion. They attach themself to cell receptors an activate their self defense mechanism, which in turn adapts the cell to the exposure of stress's harmful effects. The following are my favorite adaptogens:
Holy Basil - This spicy smelling herb promotes relaxation, relieves stress and anxiety
Rhodiola - The Vikings used this herb to help with long journeys and in battles. It has been studied to lower anxiety, fatigue and depression.
Ashwagandha - Helps the body cope with daily stress and can be used as a general tonic.
Siberian Ginseng - A fantastic pick me up, this provides energy and helps overcome exhaustion.
Chaste Berries - Estrogen rich, these can relieve premenstrual and peri-menopausal symptoms.
Wild Yam - Progesterone rich, this can regulate female hormone levels.
Reishi - Promotes healthy sleep patterns and helps the body adapt to stress.
Maca - Also estrogen rich, this improves mood and increases energy.
Licorice - Increases energy and endurance, boosts the immune system and stimulates the adrenal glands promoting healthy cortisol levels.
These herbs come in powdered, pill or herb form. They can be included in smoothies, drank as tea or sprinkled into food. Herbs like Astragalus can be used to keep immune systems up in those undergoing chemotherapy and another great herb, Bacopa Monnieri, can be used to protect the brain and improve memory and cognitive function. If you are in the market for something to help lower your stress, I highly recommend trying out an adaptogen. I wish you all well in these trying times.