Adaptogens, a unique class of herbs. What are adaptogens and why are they so important? As the name suggests they are called adaptogens because of their unique ability to “adapt” their function according to your body’s specific needs. They work by regulating a balance between the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands (the system that is in charge of regulating your body’s hormonal response to stress).
Adaptogens have been used in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine for centuries traditionally referred to as rejuvenators. The term adaptogen was first coined by Dr. Nikolai Lazarev in 1947 to describe a plant that helps you adapt to stressful circumstances. Later, the definition of an adaptogen came to be a plant that meets the following criteria:
- Nourishing – bring nutritive strength.
- Normalising – raise what is low and lower what is high.
- Non-specific – act on multiple parts of the body at the same time.
- Non-toxic – be completely safe when used over extended periods of time.
Adaptogen herbs with strong supporting evidence include:
Rhodiola: Strengthens the nervous system, fights depression, increases physical endurance, mental performance and helps aids in weight reduction.
Schisandra: Improves concentration, endurance and improves physical performance offering great benefits for athletes . Schisandra helps to prevent mental fatigue and demonstrates superior mind-sharpening powers. Schisandra also provides liver-protective properties.
Ashwaganda: Has a mild sedative effect on the central nervous system, helps relax muscles, strengthen the immune system and contains antioxidants properties.
Panax Ginseng: Stimulates and relaxes the nervous system, supports physical endurance, increases mental clarity and improves memory.
Maca: Sometimes called Peruvian ginseng but is unrelated to Asian ginseng. Maca helps to regulate hormones, it is especially good for women who are stressed out, worn out, depressed, or anxious due to PMS or menopause.
Sounds too good to be true!? Well, according to research they are actually as good as they sound. Read more from Pub Med
So which adaptogen should you use?
Adaptogens are not a replacement for a healthy lifestyle, they are however a great supplement during times of low energy, stress and anxiety. Always consults with your naturopath on the right formula for your individual requirements.
Balch, P.A. (2010). Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Camberwell (Australia): Penguin Group.
Thomsen M, & Gennat Hanni (2009 4th edition). Phytotherpay desk reference: Global Natural Medicine PTY LTD.