Do Adaptogens Really Work?

What are adaptogens, where can you find them and what do they do? This relatively new health and wellness element could be the way to help the body resist stress-induced damage and restore its regular functions! There are a selection of adaptogens to choose from. These foods make an excellent tool to put in your stress-reduction kit, and with the combination of regular exercise, sleep and mindfulness or meditation practices, could be a helpful additive to our stressful daily lives. Read on to learn more about these holistic, nontoxic ingredients.

What are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens have been used for hundreds of years in Eastern medicines like Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. Traditionally, the use of these herbs and mushrooms were used to help normalize the bodily functions, specifically those of the tissues and organs. In this medicine, they have been said to help increase the efficiency of certain organs and reduce overall inflammation. In world war ll, adaptogen pills were developed for the use by pilots. Researchers were looking for a way to allow healthy pilots to be able to fly longer, better and faster throughout the war.

Top 5 Types of Adaptogenic Herbs and Mushrooms Include:

  • Holy Basil – Also known as tulsi, this herb is used frequently in stir fries and soups because it adds a unique spicy or peppery taste
  • Ashwagandha – Sometimes called Indian Ginseng, its dried roots and berries are used frequently in an Indian seasoning called churna
  • Maca – The powder form of this root is popular when sprinkled on yoghurt or oatmeal, or when mixed into smoothies. Originally thought to be from the Andes Mountains in South America
  • Siberian Ginseng – One of the most researched adaptogen growing in China and Russia. Also referred to as eleutherococcus, This herb is a popular remedy for people who are feeling tired and run-down from stress.
  • Reishi – This mushroom has been used for centuries in Eastern Asia in powder form for savory dishes like soups, or steeped as a whole mushroom to make a bitter tea
Reishi Mushrooms

Remember, these herbs in moderation can be helpful, although some people may find they have adverse reactions. It’s important to consult a doctor before starting a regimen with these ingredients.

How do we Know Adaptogens Work?

There is still a lot of research to be done, but what we do know is that adaptogens have the ability to interact with our hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), our body’s stress response system. These ingredients have been found to help calm the hypothalamus (region of the brain), the adrenal glands (found at the top of the kidneys and responsible for the production of adrenaline, aldosterone and cortisol) and the pituitary gland (at the base of the brain).

Cortisol is a steroid hormone responsible for the control of our heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels during tense times. According to the Endocrine Society’s Hormone Health Network, while this hormone is important for our body’s “fight or flight” response, high levels can cause health issues like type 2 diabetes and Cushing’s syndrome. In normalizing stress hormones like cortisol, adaptogens have shown promise in the research that has been done. What we’re not yet sure on, is exactly how these herbs, mushrooms and powders really do work. Natural curative approaches to things like stress and mental health as an alternative to medications are becoming more and more popular. With this new trend taking hold in the health, wellness and beauty industry, we’re sure to see more research in the near future that explains some more of the science behind these curative plants and fungi.