They have been known in ancient forms of healing for thousands of years, such as traditional Chinese medicine or Ayurveda. They have also found their way into western wellness offers: we are talking about plant-based adaptogens.
As powders, teas, or dietary supplements, adaptogens are experiencing a new hype among those interested in health.
The healing powers of these specific herbs and roots are said to help you find your center and work wonders when you are under stress.
However, the research on them is still fragile.
So it’s all just hocus-pocus with a good marketing strategy? Or is there perhaps more to the wonder weapons of alternative medicine than one might initially think?
Herbal Stress Blockers
Adaptogens are biologically active plant substances intended to help the organism increase the body’s resistance to stress.
The term derives from the English “to adapt,” i.e., “to adapt.” Because that’s what it’s all about: the body should be able to adapt better to physical and emotionally stressful situations with the help of medicinal plants.
But there’s a lot more to it than just feeling less stressed.
Because stress has much more far-reaching consequences than the consciously perceived feeling of tension.
Strictly speaking, the body is brought into a state of emergency by the increase in cortisol levels, the body’s stress hormone, which means “fight or flees!”.
As a result, all other bodily functions that seem irrelevant at this moment, such as the digestive system, fade into the background. At the same time, blood pressure rises to ensure the best possible activity.
After the stressful situation, however, the body is relatively quickly able to reduce the increased cortisol level and return to its normal, fully functional state.
However, those regularly exposed to stress deny the body the opportunity to shut down again.
This can lead to nervousness and sleep disorders on a psychological level, exhaust the digestive system and the adrenal glands, and contribute to premature aging.
Therefore, de-stressing the body regularly is a necessary prerequisite for staying healthy for as long as possible.
And this is where adaptogens come into play.
How Adaptogens Work
Certain plants have the property of training both the animal and the human body in terms of stress.
These adaptogens do for the adrenal glands what a workout does for muscle building, “When we train, it puts a strain on our muscles. But if we train them repeatedly, the body will eventually adapt and be better able to handle this strain. Over time, we endure more and tire less quickly,” says Powell.
Instead of muscles, adaptogens interact with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathoadrenal system, both of which are involved in the body’s response to stress.
This positively influences hormone production and physiological reactions to stress the entire immune system and one’s energy balance.
The Main Adaptogens
Unfortunately, there is still a lack of scientific studies that profoundly and comprehensively examine the effect of adaptogenic plants.
However, in 2003, scientists conducted a study in rats on ginseng, known to be one of the essential adaptogens.
The research team observed that the ginseng minimized ulcers and adrenal gland weight and reduced blood sugar and fat levels and some enzymes and hormones involved in triggering stress in the rat’s body.
Accordingly, the researchers concluded that giseng has significant anti-stress properties and promises success in treating stress-related symptoms.
Ginseng is not the only plant that is said to have apoptogenic properties.
Others are, for example:
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Maca root (e.g., as a powder for smoothies)
- Holy Basil (also called “Tulsi”)
- licorice root
They can now be found more and more in powders, teas, or tablets, especially in health food stores.
Risks And Limitations Of Adaptogens
No matter how natural and original apoptogenic agents are, they are still not free from side effects.
Many of them have interactions with drugs, and pregnant women and patients with certain previous illnesses, in particular prescription, should refrain from self-therapy and discuss their plans with a doctor first.
“Some people just can’t get enough of adaptogens because they suffer from chronic stress that they can’t otherwise manage,” the doctor explains.
It is, of course, easier to take a pill than to find the cause of the stress and change your lifestyle in the long term.
However, in the end, only that would lead to a sustainably healthier lifestyle.
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