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What Are Adaptogens and Why Do People Take Them?

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You’ve probably heard the word Adaptogens pop up in the health and wellness industry more recently than ever. Adaptogens, or Adaptogenic herbs, are known for their abilities to combat stress and fatigue. Adaptogens are unique in the sense that they are not a single plant or even a single family of plants. But rather, they are a variety of reactions and results produced by plants that help protect the body against mental, physical, and emotional stressors. Since we’re living in such a fast-paced society, stress and fatigue are at an all time high. Stress can have many negative effects on a person. Adaptogens help regulate and stabilize the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands which are involved with our stress response.

So, how exactly do Adaptogens work? To discuss Adaptogens we first we need to understand how stress works and the effects it has on our bodies. When your body is stressed, the response is to release a hormone called cortisol. Since stress has become so persistent in today’s world, when cortisol levels remain high for a long period of time, chronic stress can begin to take its toll on our adrenal and thyroid glands. When cortisol levels are raised our bodies go into “fight or flight” mode. This evolved as a method of survival. But in our modern society many people experience the fight or flight mode on a regular basis, which eventually exhausts the adrenal glands. If there is long-term adrenal stress, this can lead to adrenal fatigue or other health concerns. So, when an Adaptogen is taken it doesn’t necessarily target a specific stress reaction. The Adaptogen will help alleviate and regulate your overall physiological functions to adapt to stress when it is induced.

Here are five popular Adaptogens and what they can be used for:

  1. Ashwagandha: Reduces stress and anxiety, reduces inflammation, supports adrenal function (read more about Ashwagandha here)
  2. Holy Basil (or Tulsi): Protects against infections and diseases, promotes mental balance, reduces stress and anxiety
  3. Licorice Root: Increase energy and endurance, regulates stress response, boosts the immune system
  4. Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea): Reduces stress related fatigue, boosts mental focus, has antioxidant properties
  5. Cordycep Mushrooms: Boosts exercise performance, enhanced antioxidant activity, anti-fatigue abilities

If you’re thinking of adding an Adaptogenic herb to your routine, consider one of the five listed above. More importantly, the first thing you should always do is your research. Some herbal supplements can interact with prescription medications. There are many other Adaptogens available. There are also many ways to add Adaptogens to your diet. You can find these herbs in teas, tinctures, capsules, or pure powder form and add them to anything — smoothies, soups, granola, or even pancakes.

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