Whether you are going through a difficult period of life, constantly on the go, cannot find enough hours in day, feeling the pressure to be in a certain place by a certain time or simply find yourself struggling to navigate and stay well in our modern-day world - stress is something that deeply impacts us all. Everyday, we are exposed to a never-ending series of mental, emotional, physical, environmental and spiritual stressors that whether we notice it or not, are negatively impacting our health. From chemical filled households cleaners to our relationships, we are almost always exposed to stress in one form or another, making it incredibly important that combat stress and protect our minds and bodies from the side effects in whatever ways we possibly can!
Over recent years, "adaptogen" has become an incredibly popular buzzword within the health and wellness industry that you've likely seen all over your social media, on the shelves of every health food store (and even non-health food stores) and in the descriptions of many of your products! Despite being such a popular and commonly used word, the meaning and significance of the term "adaptogen" are still widely misunderstood or unknown by many. To put it simply, adaptogens are plants that are known for their ability to help the body and mind better adapt to stress. But that doesn't really answer the questions - what does the term adaptogen actually mean? How do they work? How can you decipher which plants are adaptogens and which ones aren't?
Maybe you have a general understanding of what an adaptogen is but feel like there's still more to know, or maybe all you know is that they're good for you but have no idea what an adaptogen actually is - either way, you are not alone and we're here to break it all down for you in a way that's easy to understand!
What is an Adaptogen?
First things first, let's discuss what an adaptogen is. Adaptogens are herbs or plant parts (including roots, leaves, berries, mushrooms and more), that are non-toxic and known for their ability to help our bodies and minds better regulate and "adapt" to stressors. Adaptogens help to keep our minds and our bodies in a state of homeostasis (or more simply put: a state of balance) in times or scenarios of mental, emotional, physical, environmental and/or spiritual stress. Much like you may have assumed, adaptogens quite literally help our bodies adapt to stress and our surroundings as well as help them to respond in a healthier, more balanced way. Adaptogens can help us to maintain a balanced mood, can restore our cognitive functioning, can regulate our energy levels and immune system, as well as so much more.
How Does an Adaptogen Work?
Adaptogens work differently for everybody, but in general they work by interacting with something known as our HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, which is a major neuroendocrine system that plays a key role in our the way that our bodies and minds are able to adapt and respond to stressors. Adaptogen's restore our bodies innate immunity, and can help to process and release stress hormones in our adrenal glands. By restoring our natural immunity, as well as regulating the build up and presence of stress within our bodies, adaptogens are able to keep our bodies in a state of enhanced health and wellbeing.
How do I know if a Plant is Considered an Adaptogen or Not?
There are three pieces of criteria for plants to be considered adaptogens:
- They must be non-toxic in regular doses.
- They must influence or impact various different parts of or systems within the body, meaning that they are non-specific in their actions and help the body adapt in a general sense.
- They must have a normalizing, or restorative effect on the body, helping it to maintain homeostasis (balance) in the face of different stressors.
A List of Adaptogenic Herbs:
Ashwagandha - Restorative/Rejuvenating, Calming, Cognition, Stamina
Rhodiola - Stamina, Endurance, Strength, Energy
Ginseng - Energy, Immunity
Reishi - Calming, Anxiety, Sleep
Holy Basil (also known as Tulsi) - Calming, Immunity
Astragalus - Immunity, Inflammation
Cordyceps - Energy, Endurance, Aphrodisiac
Licorice - Digestion, Feminine Hormone Balance, Inflammation, Calming
Amla - Skin, Hair, Immunity
Schisandra - Balancing, Harmonizing, Protecting
Shatavari - Feminine Hormone Balance, Harmonizing
There are various other herbs that are sometimes by certain people or in certain circumstances considered to be adaptogenic, but typically as more of a "secondary adaptogen" meaning that while the herb meets most of the criteria, it may not meet it to the same extent as those mentioned above.
Adaptogenic herbs are an incredible tool and ally in maintaining optimal health and wellbeing! Looking to add some adaptogens into your daily routine? Shop our collection here.