First, let’s learn more about adaptogens and stress. Some adaptogens can help our body adapt and maintain their ideal equilibrium that is otherwise disturbed when we’re feeling stressed. It does this by combating the cortisol spikes; less cortisol equals less stress.
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a group of herbs and mushrooms that are thought to provide a range of superior health benefits. You can find adaptogens used frequently in Ayurvedic medicine, a natural alternative medicine used in India. One of the health promoting benefits of adaptogens is to help fight stress, which will be our focus for this blog post.
What Is Stress?
Stress is your bodies response to an event, thought, or circumstance that can be emotional or physical and usually includes tension. Examples of when we might feel stressed are with an upcoming work deadline, when we’re having financial struggles or after a sleepless night. Stress can be acute (short-term) which can cause migraines, diarrhea, constipation, upset stomach, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, acne, eczema, increased heart rate and more. Chronic or persistent stress can increase inflammation and cortisol levels in the body, which can wreak havoc on our health. Chronic stress has been linked to an increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, menstrual abnormalities, heart disease, depression, anxiety, decreased immune function and more.
Adaptogens Worth Looking At:
1. Ashwagandha: Also known as Withania Somnifera or Winter Cherry, is an evergreen shrub found in the Middle East, some regions of Africa and India. It is a root is ground up and can be taken in a capsule, powder, tea, or in a tincture. Taking it can help reduce stress, combat anxiety, decrease inflammation, calm the brain, improve sleep, and lower blood pressure. Prescribed daily use of this supplement is safe for up to 3 months; however, some individuals may experience side effects like diarrhea, vomiting, and an upset stomach when taking a normal dosage.
2. Tulsi: Also known as Holy Basil or Ocimum Tenuiflorum, is a perennial plant found in India, Taiwan, Africa, and Asia. According to the Journal Of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, Tulsi has been shown to increase the body's level of antioxidants and enzymes, helping to reduce free radicals that can cause anxiety, cough, asthma, diarrhea, fever, cardiac disorders, and arthritis among other conditions. As an adaptogen, it can help promote resilience and general wellbeing. Some ways to consume Tulsi is by taking a capsule, tincture or drinking it as a tea. Possible side effects of consuming this adaptogen can include diarrhea, nausea, slow blood clotting and inhibiting thyroxine levels which can be dangerous for those with Hypothyroidism. Ask your doctor about taking Tulsi before consuming. 3. Panax Ginseng: This medicinal herb is found in China and Korea. It has a powerful natural antioxidant called Ginsenosides, which are extracted from the roots, leaves and stems. This adaptogen can help bring the body back to homeostasis after responding to stress; it triggers an immune response by reducing the excess inflammation. It has also been shown to alleviate some of the side effects of daily stress like depression/anxiety, cardiovascular disease, erectile dysfunction, menstrual irregularities and improve memory. It is available in a tincture, capsule, and tea, and is considered safe when taken up to 6 months. Possible side effects of consuming this adaptogen are trouble sleeping, developing a rash, potential for liver damage and severe allergic reactions. 4. Turmeric: also known as Curcuma Longa, is the root of a flowering plant and is part of the ginger family. Turmeric is commonly used to flavor curries in Japan, teas in Thailand, and even in beauty products in China. Therapeutically it has been found to potentially increase serotonin levels which can help combat stress, decrease anxiety and depression, and improve sleep quality. This herb can be taken orally by capsule, in a tincture, or in powder form. The supplement form Curcuminoids, has been approved by the FDA as generally recognized as safe when for up to three months. Potential side effects of consuming turmeric as a supplement (higher doses) can be upset stomach, dizziness, diarrhea, and nausea. 5. Reishi Mushrooms: Also known as Ganoderma Lingzhi, these are known for being functional foods and are found in China, Japan, and Korea. Reishi can calm the nervous system and balance neurotransmitters; beneficial for reducing stress, boosting the immune system, and increasing energy. Reishi comes in a liquid tincture, a capsule, tea, or powder. Possible side effects of consuming Reishi Mushrooms may include an upset stomach, rash, headache, dizziness, nosebleeds, and potentially bloody stool. The Bottom Line Different adaptogens have the possibility to help you combat and build tolerance to your body's response to daily stressors. A supplement can be a great addition to a well-balanced diet and physical activity regimen. However, before taking a supplement or introducing a new adaptogen into your diet- always consult your doctor first- as there are potential side effects and drug and nutrient interactions that could arise. To learn more about recent nutrition topics and wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays. Written by: Charity Garland, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern Sources: 1. WebMD