Completely overwhelmed with stress? Itâ€™s not uncommon! Adaptogenic herbs can help our bodies cope with stress, and the benefits go pretty deep.
The official adaptogenic definition is: a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes.
Basically, adaptogens help neutralize the bodyâ€™s stress response.
Remember, stress can be caused by many things. Chronic pain, illness, undereating, a fight with your spouse, traffic jams, financial worries, a hectic scheduleâ€¦ all of these things (and many others) can trigger the stress response in your body.
Your body responds to stress by releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones come from your adrenal glands.
Stress hormones are helpful for overcoming short-term stressors, but if theyâ€™re chronically elevated (which they often are in modern society) you can actually experience a lot of health issues:
Adaptogenic herbs have a balancing effect on the adrenal system. They help regulate adrenal function so your body isnâ€™t overreacting to normal stressors (a common side effect of chronic stress â€“ even the little things start to seem like disasters!).
Herbs that work as adaptogens interact with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathoadrenal system (source).
These systems regulate many other systems in your body, including your emotional health, reproductive health, thyroid function, and energy regulation.
The benefit of adaptogens is they donâ€™t just target one system, which risks creating even more imbalance. Adaptogenic herbs work on balancing multiple systems in your body and so they have a holistic (whole body) effect.
Cordyceps are often used in traditional Chinese medicine. They are known to increase endurance and enhance energy. If youâ€™re under a lot of physical stress or have an overwhelming schedule, cordyceps is a great adaptogen for you.
Rhodiola has an uplifting effect on your mood. It can help balance energy levels, improve clarity of mind, and enhance feelings of calm. If stress is getting you down, disturbing your sleep, and making it hard to concentrate, then rhodiola can help.
Ashwaganda is one of the more famous adaptogenic herbs. Itâ€™s especially good for soothing the effects of long-term stress and helping you cope with stressful events out of your control.
Holy basil is a calming herb for the body and mind. It soothes away inflammation and stress, making it the perfect match if you deal with chronic stress that is physical or emotional.
Siberian ginseng is another good adaptogen if youâ€™re under a lot of physical stress. Itâ€™s known to increase endurance and improve athletic performance. It may also help support your immune system and improve sleep.
Each herb works a little differently, so pay attention to the instructions for the specific adaptogen you want to use. I tend to use capsules since itâ€™s most convenient and cost-effective, but you can also use teas and tinctures.
I like to rotate my adaptogens, since each one has slightly different benefits. I will typically use one adaptogenic herb for 3-4 weeks and then switch to another. I wait a couple of months before trying the same adaptogen again.
Elizabeth is the founder of The Nourished Life and has been writing about natural living for 12 years. Her work has been featured at Shape, Bustle, and Mother Earth Living. Her mission is to help you lower your stress levels and find fun ways to become happier and healthier. Read more about Elizabeth here.