There are several categories of herbs out there… we have digestive herbs that help support the digestive system, we have nervines which help support the nervous system, we have stimulants that give you energy in one way or another, we have antibacterial herbs help fight off bad bacteria, the list goes on!! But there is one category of herbs that has been popularized in recent years known as adaptogens…
Adaptogens are natural substances (typically plants, but can be made of other natural materials as well) that essentially, enhance the body’s ability to regulate the stress of everyday life and experiences. Here are a few important points that may shed some light on this amazing category of herbs…
Adaptogens have a normalizing effect on the body
This means that an herb classified as an adaptogen has the ability to bring the body back to homeostasis after it has been exposed to a stressful situation or a stressful environment. One of the most unique tidbits about adaptogens is that they work in both directions to normalize the body - if the stressful situation has overworked a certain system in the body, it can bring that system back up to where it should be, and if the stressful situation has caused the body system to underperform, the adaptogen will give it a boost to make sure it is working at the appropriate rate. It is almost as if the adaptogen is reading our bodies, as if it has a special intelligence and knows exactly what our body needs at that point in time. (NATURE IS A FASCINATING AND BEAUTIFUL THING!!!)
Adaptogens are nontoxic
An herb can only be classified as an adaptogen if it is nontoxic over time. With herbal medicine, patience is very important, we cannot expect the herb we take in the morning to magically fix us by the end of the day. This is why it is important that adaptogens are nontoxic over time. They need to be consumed for a few weeks to allow your body to begin adjusting to their effects. An herb that is potentially dangerous when taking consistently cannot be considered adaptogenic.
Adaptogens effect the neuroendocrine system
The neuroendocrine system has to do with the nervous system and the endocrine system. Adaptogens help to calm this connected system, particularly the adrenal glands by helping to regulate the secretion of cortisol. This, in turn, helps the body adapt to its stressors, hence the name “adaptogen”.
Adaptogens are tonic
Adaptogenic herbs tend to increase adaptive energy in the body, which according to traditional medicine systems like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda, can be called tonic. Tonic herbs are known to tonify a system in the body by alleviating conditions of weakness. Tonics are a very important aspect in TCM because they mitigate deficiencies and increase energy and well-being.
Adaptogens build strength
Adaptogens help our bodies to build strength. They enhance anabolic processes happening in the body. In his book, Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism, Donald Yance states:
The process of anabolism influences bioenergetics, cell communication, cell proliferation, endocrine function, including behavior and mood. I think of anabolic metabolism as an energy-inward process that keeps the body and mind running smoothly.
So being that adaptogens are anabolic, they tend to build strength where they resonate most in the body, and different adaptogens have affinities for different part of the body. For example, ashwagandha will have a strong impact on the thyroid and the sexual glands, whereas eleuthero will improve stamina and the ability to build muscle, furthermore, astragalus will build up a very strong immune system.
Adaptogens improve immunity
This bullet point overlaps with others, but I separated it because I think it is a very important and notable benefit of adaptogens. Several adaptogens, possibly all, are known to ward off disease because not only do they support the regulation of the entire immune system, they also help us to manage internal and external sources of stress, therefore causing less oxidative damage to our bodies on a cellular level and increasing the body’s overall immune response. Adaptogens also increase the body’s production of certain cells that strengthen the immune system, such as cytotoxic T lymphocytes, macrophages, natural killer cells, interleukin-2 & interleukin-12...when these are activated, the overall immune system is more apt to fighting off diseases caused by oxidative stress.
Adaptogens are often rich in antioxidants
Adaptogens are quite rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants are a big part of the reason and method in which these herbs work the way they do. The antioxidant properties of adaptogens are known to (as mentioned above) inhibit disease from developing or to help tame some illness that already exists in the body.
Needless to say, adaptogens are loved by many different systems of medicines throughout the world. If you feel like you are having a difficult time managing your stress or you just want to give one a shot, check out literature by David Winston or Donald Yance. They have loads of wonderful and insightful information on how you can begin your journey to optimal well-being stat!
If you want to give adaptogens a shot, check out Wild Sun Wellness’s Loco Hot Cocoa Herbal Powder or the Stay Golden Herbal Powder.
I hope you all enjoyed this informative read. Keep learning and exposing yourself to nature’s wonders! Until next time…
Love & Light,