Adaptogens are amongst the most popular ‘superfoods’ out there – resulting in a huge health buzz around them in recent years. Whilst they’re new to some, adaptogens have actually been widely used in traditional medicinal systems, including Ayurveda and TCM for thousands of years. There are around 100 known adaptogens most commonly prescribed by holistic doctors and now widely available in supplement form – ranging from fungi (Cordyceps, Reishi, Lion’s Mane) to herbs and flowers (Rhodiola, Tulsi and Schisandra).
So what do adaptogens actually do, and how can they help you to achieve your health and wellness goals? Here are five proven benefits of adaptogens.
1. They reduce stress
Adaptogens are perhaps best known for their stress-busting abilities. Whilst they can’t sort out that annoying co-worker, make your job less demanding or help you to juggle work and family life, they contain sophisticated compounds that work at a cellular level to balance and support both brain and body to deal with stress.
This is relevant because the body’s stress system is often found to be overactive – when in fact this sophisticated response is designed for life or death situations. When fight or flight mode is activated, the whole body goes into survival and stress hormone cortisol is released, affecting a variety of normal functions from nervous system to the digestive system. For many people a state of ‘fight or flight’ is a common everyday occurrence, which can contribute to a variety of chronic health issues.
Adaptogens such as Rhodiola, Ashwagandha and Reishi have been scientifically proven to reduce the impact of stress on the body. Studies on Ashwagandha have proven multiple times that it efficiently modulates the stress response in humans – including in double-blind placebo controlled tests. Further research on adaptogens has consistently shown that they work with the body to actively combat any short and long term negative effects associated with stress, whilst also helping to minimise feelings of stress itself.
Supporting our bodies and minds as we navigate life’s ups and downs in turn has a wealth of beautiful benefits for our overall health, too.
2. They can boost immunity
Our immune systems are closely linked to our general health. When we’re stressed and run down, our immune system function is impaired. Lots of people spend their lives in a state of chronic stress and exhaustion – causing long-term ill effects. If you find yourself picking up every illness going round the office or colds and flus from your kids, this is a sign of reduced immune function.
Adaptogens are a great way to enhance immunity. They do so in a couple of ways – firstly by minimising the impact of stress on the body, which significantly impacts upon the immune system function. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of healthy young adults showed that several adaptogens including ashwagandha, cordyceps and liquorice root help the body to recover more quickly from illness and fight oxidative stress related to an impaired immune system function.
3. They can enhance energy levels
Fatigue is incredibly prevalent in today’s society – a combination of burn-out and hectic lifestyles coupled with poor nutrition, hydration and impaired sleep. Fatigue shows up in many different ways in our lives, and can have a significant impact on our ability to function day to day.
Some adaptogens including Rhodiola, Ginseng and Astragulus have been shown to increase energy levels and alleviate short-term and chronic fatigue. Including these in an herbal, caffeine-free latte or with tea (which is naturally abundant in l-theanine to mitigate the impact of caffeine) is a great way to gently energise without causing energy crashes throughout the day.
4. They can boost brain health
Many adaptogens work directly in the brain to increase focus, enhance memory and improve cognitive function – which in turn positively affects performance and productivity. Multiple studies conducted on Schisandra Chinensis showed that it increased energy levels and sharpen focus, whilst also improving physical stamina. Meanwhile Tulsi (Holy Basil) was found to enhance memory and cognitive function in participants, and Lion’s Mane showed promising results for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia through protecting neural pathways and increasing blood circulation to the brain.
5. They can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety
The cause of depression and anxiety look different in everyone – but as the two conditions become increasingly prevalent any natural solution that can provide relief is welcome. Whilst adaptogens can’t be cited as a treatment for depression and anxiety, several studies have shown that they work well as a complementary therapy alongside medication and/or lifestyle changes. They do this in a number of ways, such as helping promote production of ‘happy hormones’ like serotonin and down-regulating the body’s stress response.
Many adaptogens have benefits for mental and emotional wellbeing – namely Ashwagandha, Reishi and Tulsi. Often a blend of extracts can provide the best support provided it is professionally formulated with high quality ingredients.
It’s important to note that whilst adaptogens are pretty powerful and have a wide variety of wonderful health benefits, they aren’t a magic bullet and need to be incorporated along with lifestyle changes in order to be as effective as possible.
Shop our carefully sourced, medicinal grade adaptogen blends here.