ADAPTOGENS: the basics

Adaptogens are a powerful gift nature has given us which we can use to help our bodies better resist to stress on different levels. Needless to say, most of today's most common chronic disease as well as skin troubles are in one way or another related to a form of stress or inflammation of some sort. For this reason, any natural substance that can help offset it like these healing medicinal plants or that can help us build endurance to stress, help us prevent disease and inflammation are worth considering of incorporating in our day to day life- now more than ever!

I hope that this short article can help you better understand their overall functioning and perhaps entice you in learning more about how you could incorporate them into your own routine for wellness.

 

A little history

The first ever research made on adaptogens started in 1947 after the second world war by the USSR and was funded by the Soviet military. They wanted to boost performance and strength of their military soldiers. At the time, ginseng was the one of the only medicinal plant with substantial evidence in doing so, and the soviets refused to buy ginseng from their neighbouring fellow communist power, China. They were selling it for very expensive, and so the research and quest to find equivalents or better begun.

How to define adaptogens

The first ever definition made of adaptogens dictated that they should meet the three following criteria:

1. Adaptogens should be non-specific and capable of helping our human body in resisting a wide range of illnesses & health-hindering conditions, on a physical (i.e excessive tiredness), chemical (i.e harsh chemical exposure) or biological stress (i.e u.v induced oxidative stress) level. These can include environmental pollution, changes in climate, radiation, infectious diseases, and interpersonal disharmony.

2. Adaptogens have to help the body maintain what is called homeostasis, in other words, they can help our body by offsetting or helping it resist, overcome physical disorders that are caused by external stress. Homeostasis means the ''normal'' functioning of our body and everything that it needs to do so like maintaining hydration, its ability to adjust to temperature, its ability to respond to immune threats etc.

3.Third, adaptogens must do no harm to our normal functions of our body.

 

Not all adaptogens have equal amounts of evidence

Now while many think adaptogens are herbs from traditional healing medicine, they are actually a rather new way of categorizing medicinal plants. Of of all adaptogens, there are only about 11 actually well-researched species which are the following: Asian Ginseng, American Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Shisandra, Reishi, Rhodiola, Rhaponticum, Holy Basil and Cordyceps.

While they all have their own unique set of beneficial properties to offer that can target different ailments or parts of the body, they each meet the three characteristics above that define them as adaptogens. An important amount of research has proven their abilities in helping our bodies "modulate'' to stress as well as a few other properties they each contain that gives them a ''profile''. Reishi for example fits a profile for immune-strengthener, Ashwagangha for stress, anxiety, and low to moderate depression, whereas Rhodiola first a more cognitive (memory, adhd, focus) enhancing profile. Again, they are all considered immune-modulators but would be recommended differently per the person's lifestyle and other needs.

There are many, many other medicinal plants considered to be fit the adaptogen category but I personally follow what research has proven and proven over again for the rest, I keep in mind how many intricacies there are to medicinal herbs just as there to prescription medications and prefer to wait for additional evidence before recommending any of the others to the exception of the 11 above. While extremely healing, packed with antioxidants, and nutrients they can also have a powerful effect on heart, blood pressure, mood & hormones so it is very important to select the most versatile, most ''proven-to-be-safe'' with little side-effects ones when starting and to consult your doctor if you are on any medication before trying any of these as a supplementation. For the rest of us, these are really a beautiful, natural tool we can use cyclically in other words not taking them every day but rather before or during times where we're more exposed to stress on whichever level.

Where beauty is wellness, and balanced skin cannot be with chronic inflammation these superplants can definitely improve health, and support beautiful skin while also preventing aging caused by stress.

would love to know your thoughts, comments and experiences with adaptogens if you have any in the comments below!

Lots of love,

 

Alex

 

Eleuthero | Siberian Ginseng

Although it can be quite stimulating, this adaptogen is not nearly as stimulating as Panax Ginseng (Chinese Ginseng).

It can help improve memory & boost energy levels all while boosting the immune system.

 

Reishi

This adaptogen's benefits cater to the immune system on two levels: it's been found to be both immune-stimulating/boosting and immune-modulating. It's used for helping the body in fighting infections and viruses, while also balancing blood pressure and hormones. It also has anti-cancer properties.

 

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, although not recommended for pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding, nor those who have thyroid problems, it is most commonly used to help improve stress, anxiety & restlessness.

 

Cordyceps

This odd looking adaptogen is one of that really fascinates me. It has been found to have anti-tumor properties and to increase oxygen in the body. Due to its ability to increase oxygen in cells, its used to boost exercise performance.