Adaptogens are a special category of herbs and mushrooms that help keep your body and mind in balance and increase your resilience to stress.
Their main property is to regulate stress by adjusting the body's responses to different stressors.
They do this by stimulating and balancing the endocrine (hormone) system, the neurological (nervous) system and the immune system.
Adaptogens are closely connected to several stress related processes in your body and help to increase your adaptability to stressors. This result in a decrease of production of stress hormones such as cortisol and allows the body to regain balance and recover.
You can read more about how this works in this article.
What are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi, Chaga and Cordyceps and herbs such as Ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea and Tulsi.
They help to reduce the activity of hyperfunctioning systems (hormone overproduction) or to enhance the activity of hypofunctional systems (hormone underproduction), thereby providing a normalizing effect.
This way adaptogens can contribute to good physical and mental resistance, vitality, concentration, relaxation, stamina, healthy sleep, faster recovery after physical activities and a sense of well-being.
Most adaptogens are also known to have antioxidant properties and are rich in nutrients.
The history of adaptogens
The use of adaptogens has a long history in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, indigenous tribes on the American continent and in Central and Eastern Europe.
In the late 1940s, a large-scale study of adaptogens was started by the Russian botanist and scientist Dr. Lazarev and his team. This was continued during the following decades by the scientist Dr. Brekhman.
More than 4000 plants, herbs and mushrooms were investigated and a selection was categorized as adaptogen. These special plants were found to survive extreme living conditions such as temperatures of -50 ° C. It was understood that if the plants constantly adapt to external stress, they can also help our bodies adapt to stressful modern life, help prevent or minimize diseases and strengthen the body.
In this article you can read more about the work of Dr. Lazarev and Dr. Brekhman.
The definition of an adaptogen
In 1968 Dr. Brekhman determined the following definition of adaptogens:
1. An adaptogen is nontoxic to the recipient and causes no or minimal side effects on physical or mental health.
2. An adaptogen produces a nonspecific response in the body. This means the power of resistance or adaptation to keep the body in balance when affected by multiple stressors.
3. An adaptogen has a normalizing influence on physiology, irrespective of the direction of change from from physiological norms caused by the stressor.
Simply said, adaptogens are nontoxic, produce a nonspecific defensive response to stress and have a normalizing influence on the body.
You may think that being "non-toxic" is obvious, but many plants, including those used to make regular medicines, are toxic in a certain amount.
The use of adaptogens is very popular in countries such as the United States and Australia, however they are not well known in the Netherlands yet. This is changing however, as more and more people are now discovering them.
These are some examples of adaptogens, what they are used for and what they can do for you:
Relaxation, healthy sleep, anti-aging, male reproductive system
Physical and mental energy, focus, stamina, positive mood
Immune system, mental clarity, relaxation
Tulsi | Holy Basil
Relaxation, positive mood, cognitive functions
Relaxation, anti-aging, female reproductive system
Energy, immune system, stamina
Immune system, anti-aging, memory
Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, David Winston, Steven Maimes
Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism: Elite Herbs and Natural Compounds for Mastering Stress, Aging, and Chronic Disease, Donald R. Yance
A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens, Lian-ying Liao,Yi-fan He, Li Li,Hong Meng, Yin-mao Dong, Fan Yi and Pei-gen Xiao
Always consult with your doctor in case of physical or psychological complaints.
The information provided here is educational in nature and is not a substitute for regular medical care in the form of advice, diagnosis and treatment.