By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
Chronic stress is a major public health issue. Whether it’s a stressful day at work or trying to keep up with a chaotic lifestyle, it’s normal to experience moments that demand a lot of your physical, mental, and emotional energy. While some stress is necessary for survival, prolonged and relentless stress can take its toll on you physically and mentally. If you’re struggling with persistent stress, adaptogenic herbs can help with relief and adrenal balance. But what exactly are adaptogenic herbs? Here’s everything you need to know.
When you’re feeling stressed, your adrenal glands can take a bit of a hit. When it comes to the stress response, your adrenal glands are star players. The small but powerful glands produce hormones that naturally help functions like blood pressure, metabolism, and blood sugar.
When the adrenal glands are fatigued, you may feel physically weakened and experience a low functioning immune system. It’s thought that optimizing adrenal function and rebalancing the glands can help combat stress. This helps you live a more balanced life. Adaptogenic herbs help by promoting stress relief and supporting adrenal function.
Adaptogenic herbs or adaptogens are a class of herbs that have been used throughout history to help the body adapt to stress. Despite the recent buzz around adaptogens, they have actually been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.
Although each adaptogen works in a slightly different way, as a whole, they help your body to deal with stress. When you adapt to stress, it can help you to perform and feel better. When you feel stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone energizes your body to take on the situation at hand. However, too much cortisol can be bad for your body and is often to blame for weight gain. It looks like stress may play a significant role in the development of obesity.
Adaptogens aid the body in reducing cortisol levels. Research shows that adaptogenic herbs can help fight fatigue, boost mental performance, and ease depression. When your calendar is brimming with deadlines, you’re having car problems, and your heart is racing, adaptogens may be another way to help you deal with the pressure.
Ashwagandha extract is well-known in the wellness world for its grounding properties. The medicinal herb helps your body manage stress as well as lower blood sugar and cortisol levels. It can also help to ease feelings of anxiety.
The adaptogenic herb has been used for over three thousand years to relieve stress and improve energy. Evidence shows that ashwagandha may help to lower cortisol levels, especially in people with chronic stress.
Maca root is slightly different in the way that it’s both an adaptogen and a superfood. It’s a root vegetable rich in protein, amino acids, calcium, and magnesium. Traditionally, maca has been used to enhance libido and fertility and treat symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
Maca helps to normalize the body’s stress response, regulate cortisol levels, and reduce exhaustion following a stressful event. All this helps bring balance back to the adrenal glands and gives your body the ability to deal with stress much more efficiently.
Unlike ashwagandha, maca is pretty tasty, so you can use it as a food as well as a supplement. It has a nutty flavor and mixes well with smoothies for an added boost.
Eleuthero is a plant that helps to mediate the body’s stress response and support adrenal function. It’s thought to help the body adapt and deal with stress and also acts as a stimulant. Also known as Siberian ginseng, herbalists use the adaptogen for the following:
Most often, eleuthero supplements use the root, and it comes as a tincture or extract. But you can use the leaves as well.
Evidence shows that supplementing eleuthero lowers the stress response. It’s thought to act as a natural stress reducer by supporting adrenal function.
Ginseng is a popular adaptogenic herb thought to increase energy and improve cognitive function. Ginseng regulates the hormonal changes and immune response caused by stress. When you feel overly stressed and have too much cortisol pumping through your body, ginseng supplements may help relieve the fatigue associated with chronic stress.
You can take ginseng as a supplement or tea. Ginseng herbal tea benefits include strengthening the immune system and helping to combat stress and disease.
Rhodiola’s benefits come from its ability to reduce the secretion of cortisol during stressful situations. Usually, when you’re in a stressful situation, you release cortisol to help you overcome it. But, if you’re constantly feeling stressed with cortisol coursing through your veins, it can result in weight gain, headaches, and put you at a higher risk for developing various chronic diseases.
One of the main benefits of rhodiola is its energy-enhancing properties and ability to fight fatigue. Evidence shows that the adaptogen may help people fight burnout as well as support concentration throughout the day. Rhodiola may enhance physical and mental resistance to stress in order to fight fatigue and depression.
Numerous herbs and plants have been used medicinally for thousands of years in different cultures throughout the world. Despite advancements in modern technology, the demand for natural, herbal remedies is on the rise. There are several reasons why people choose to use natural, herbal remedies over pharmaceutical drugs, including:
It’s important to be aware that some herbal medicines can interact with pharmaceutical drugs. It’s advisable to consult with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your medication regimen.
While adaptogens may help your body regulate cortisol levels and support your adrenal glands, it’s still essential to make healthy lifestyle choices. Things like getting plenty of sleep, eating a balanced diet, and regular exercise are all great for stress management and feeling a sense of control.
In today’s busy society, unfortunately, it’s common to experience stress daily. From long work hours to financial worries and health issues, it’s tough to avoid stress entirely. More and more people are turning to adaptogens for stress relief and adrenal support. They are more than just a buzzword; adaptogens may be the answer to dealing with modern-day stress.