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In traditional societies, people relied on herbs, both as food and medicine. Certain plants were found to have restorative and revitalizing properties, especially in Ayurveda.
Over the years, these have been categorized as adaptogenic herbs.
They are very useful when it comes to providing the body, either with coping ability or relief from stress.
Naturally, the human body produces the hormone cortisol in response to stress.
The longer you remain stressed, the more the levels of cortisol in the body, which could have a devastating effect on bodily function.
Since high levels of cortisol cause aging, prolonged chronic stress will make you look older than you are.
That’s mainly due to the effects that stress has on the digestive tract and adrenal gland.
But that’s not to say that feeling stressed sometimes is a bad thing.
What happens is that as soon as you get over the stress, the levels of cortisol dip, thus enabling your body to go back to normal.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are constantly dealing with chronic stress, then you should find a way of getting rid of it.
Adaptogenic herbs or also known as “adaptogens“ have been established to have the ability to help you deal with that stress.
In this article, we discuss how you can use these herbs to live more meaningfully.
Adaptogenic Herbs Definition
Basically, adaptogenic herbs are medicinal plants that are used to counter the devastating effects of stress.
Their work is to protect, restore, and balance the body. They give the body the ability to respond to a stressor and helps normalize the physiological functions.
It was during the Second World War when a Russian physician first described the non-specific effect of some herbs that helped the body better respond to stress.
Further research was done in the subsequent decades leading to the finding that adaptogenic herbs had a normalizing action to the body of a stressed individual.
Adaptogenic herbs work by regulating the way your body releases stress hormones.
They are, therefore, a type of biological response modifiers (BRMs) which restore your body’s natural immune function for better adaptation to different stressors.
They protect your body and prevent the compromising of the immune system.
It is now becoming clear how adaptogenic herbs naturally bring about relaxation and calmness, together with improved concentration and greater brainpower.
They are great when it comes to making you feel better in situations in which you are going through emotional, mental, and physical stress. You can use them for any of the following:
•Improving the focusing ability of people in environments with high stress and anxiety.
•Fighting depression at the brain level.
•Increasing the capacity of your brain to work better.
•Stimulating activity in the neuron synapses.
What Are Some Of The Well-Known Adaptogenic Herbs?
There is a variety of adaptogenic herbs that you may want to try out. Many of them can be used as spices for meals, taken in tea or as supplements in capsule form. They include the following:
1. Asian Ginseng
Also known as Panax ginseng, this herb has a lot of benefits. This adaptogen has been established to have the ability to bring about calmness and brain function in young adults who are in good health.
It is perhaps the most powerful adaptogenic herb given the way it can enable you to better adapt to stress.
Asian ginseng is also useful when it comes to regulating blood sugar levels as well as the ulcer index.
It also helps to reduce creatine kinase, an enzyme that’s released when there is an injury in parts of the body such as the circulatory system.
Asian ginseng also reduced serum corticosterone, which is one of the hormones triggered by stress.
It is due to these properties that Asian ginseng has been proposed as a proper treatment for stress and some of the things it leads to.
This herb also has antioxidant properties even as it promotes mental clarity and physical endurance.
Due to the antioxidant activity, it is very useful when it comes to supporting the proper functioning of the immune system.
2. Holy Basil
For centuries, Holy Basil has been a part of Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for skin diseases, common colds, coughs, hepatic disorders, and malarial fever.
It is also an effective antidote for scorpion stings and snake bites.
In recent years, Holy Basil has been established to have the ability to enhance cognition and reduce stress.
The herb contains three major phytochemical compounds, which help it fight stress.
These include ocomumosides-A, ocomumosides-B, and hydroxybenzene. Apart from helping lower stress-related hormones and parameters.
It has also been established that Holy Basil has the ability to curtail canker sores recurrence and gastric ulcers, which come due to stress.
It also reduces blood pressure, lowers seizure activity, kills fungi, fights bacteria, and combats viral infections.
Holy Basil also reduces response to pain and promotes an optimal immune response.
This is one of the adaptogenic herbs for depression that help soothe the nerves to reduce fatigue, anxiety, and insomnia due to stress, depression, and anxiety.
As one of the most popular herbs in Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha works by targeting stress tolerance, internal stress responses, and cortisol levels.
Preliminary studies on this herb have shown that it is able to reduce oxidative stress at the cell level by reducing lipid peroxidation.
Thus it prevents damage to the cells in the blood due to oxidative stress.
Ashwagandha is also one of the best adaptogenic herbs for weight loss as it prevents weight gain due to action by the adrenaline glands, prevents gastric ulcers caused by stress, stabilizes cortisol levels, and helps you resist stress in non-specific ways consistent with adaptogenic herbs.
In addition to reducing stress, Ashwagandha helps to improve cognition and memory, symptoms of certain neurodegenerative diseases, inflammation, arthritis, and cancerous tumors.
It also helps to make your brain health better.
4. Cordyceps Mushrooms
Cordyceps is a type of fungi whose healing and medicinal properties are recorded in the ancient books of traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine.
They are fungi but with a very high antioxidant content. Although they are not herbs in the true sense of the term, they still have powerful adaptogenic properties.
Clinical trials have found cordyceps mushrooms to have the ability to regulate oxidative stress and cortisol levels in the body.
In one such study, cordyceps mushrooms were found to be very good in regulating cortisol levels after physical activity, thus helping reduce the feeling of fatigue.
Apart from reducing the levels of cortisol, cordyceps mushrooms also reduce the stress hormone for a sustained period of time afterward.
It is one of the adaptogenic herbs that help to create a balance between the levels of testosterone and cortisol in the blood which brings quicker relief from chronic fatigue and stress, making it one of the best adaptogenic herbs for stress.
Cordyceps mushrooms have also been shown to contain high amounts of antioxidants, which helps to reduce oxidative stress.
This succulent herb is known to grow in the cool climate of the northern hemisphere.
It is found in countries such as Russia, Canada, and Scandinavia. For centuries, it has been used in Russia as a nerve tonic and antidepressant.
Also known as golden root, this is one of the strongest adaptogenic herbs. It Assists in fighting stress at a biological level.
A study was done by making roundworms ingest Rhodiola. It established that the herb causes mild stress, thus helping the organism develop a defense against greater anxiety. In technical terms, this is known as hormesis.
Rhodiola has also been established to be effective in treating stress-related fatigue.
In a 2009 study, the repeated administering of Rhodiola was found to have an anti-fatigue effect thus helping you improve mental performance.
It helps boost concentration levels and helps reduce the response to cortisol in people experiencing burnout.
While Rhodiola Rosea may not be very effective in righting mild stress, it has been found to have a huge effect on acute stress due to a short but intense physical exercise done by persons who were erstwhile sedentary.
This is one of the adaptogenic herbs with antioxidant abilities. It has also been established to improve the symptoms of appetite loss, irritability, sleep disturbances, headaches, and high blood pressure.
Despite these positive findings, more research is required to know how Rhodiola works to achieve those results.
6. Licorice Root
This adaptogenic root has been used in traditional societies as an energy and endurance booster.
It is also useful when it comes to improving the immune system even as it protects the thymus from damage due to increased cortisol levels.
Due to its effect on the levels of potassium and blood pressure, it is advisable to take the traditional licorice root only in 12-week cycles.
However, you can safely take DGL licorice in the long-term without having to fear any negative side-effects.
Studies done on humans have established that licorice has the ability to regulate the levels of stress-related hormones such as cortisol.
It is also known to prevent the worsening of gastric ulcers that come as a result of chronic stress.
In women, licorice helps to reduce the levels of testosterone and androgen levels. That’s beside helping burn body fat.
7. Astragalus Root
Astragalus is a staple in Chinese medicine for encouraging good health and fighting stress.
The Chinese have used it as an effective immunity booster. A preliminary study done on piglets established that astragalus root can reduce the amount of stress hormones corticosteroid and cytokine and improve response to lymphocyte proliferation.
By so doing, it enables the body to effectively and properly cope with stress. As one of the best adaptogenic herbs, astragalus root works by increasing the levels of cortisol in the short-term, so as to give the body an opportunity to positively respond to real stress.
Once the stressor is removed, the temporary spike in cortisol levels is reduced significantly.
It is due to this effect that astragalus has been found to help mice survive and heal from skin grafts.
In addition to reducing the cortisol levels in the body, astragalus is also known to be an immunity booster.
It is also an effective antioxidant, thus helping reduce oxidative stress. In a 2012 study, this adaptogenic herb was established to have the ability to improve physical performance.
It also has the ability to fight disease-causing free radicals, improve glucose absorption in the bloodstream, and protect the liver.
Also known as Siberian ginseng, this herb can be used by both men and women.
Individuals from all age groups can use it to support cognitive function and resistance against disease.
It can also provide benefits by improving the levels of good cholesterol in the blood, thus helping make better heart health in times when you are going through stress.
Eleuthero works by stimulating the brain to produce productive proteins when one is undergoing great stress.
It is one of the adaptogens that help speed up reaction times and mental processes, apart from improving stamina and endurance.
Eleuthero is also known to make the hearing and vision senses sharper.
If you work in a job that involves high levels of stress or erratic schedules, eleuthero will help you a great deal.
It also promotes good quality sleep at night and cuts down on waking instances without making you feel drowsy during the day.
This herb is also known to help lower blood sugar levels.
Due to its ability to boost immunity, eleuthero helps reduce the likelihood of acute illnesses and colds.
It can also help improve recovery time for individuals recovering from surgery and chronic illnesses.
This herb also goes by the names Indian gooseberry or Amalaki. It has been used for centuries as part of Ayurvedic medicine as a tonic for improving youthfulness, longevity, and Improved memory.
Amla is also known to improve immunity, nourish the blood, and acting as a tonic.
Thus, it supports liver health, restores appetite, and boosts hair, teeth, and bone health.
Due to its richness in vitamin C, it is loaded with antioxidants, which helps fight oxidative stress.
Adaptogenic herbs are definitely very beneficial to human health and for well-being in general.
That’s why many of these herbs have been used in traditional medicine in various places in the world.
Apart from relieving stress, they help to improve cardiovascular health and fight some neurological disorders.
They can help one cope better with exhaustion and fatigue. No matter how much you trust these herbs, ask your doctor for advice before taking supplements containing them.