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What Are Adaptogens? 5 Key Health Facts - Nummies

What Are Adaptogens? 5 Key Health Facts

In the US alone, it is estimated that over 50% of the population lives with some form of stress (¹). This means that a vast majority of people are not living in a state of optimal health. One way to help combat stress and promote optimal health is by using adaptogens.

But what are they? Adaptogens are a type of herbal supplement that helps the body "adapt" to stressors. 

They can help improve overall energy levels, sleep quality, and digestion.

In this article, we will take a closer look at adaptogens, what they are, and how they can improve health for you.

Here are five key health facts about adaptogens that every wellness-minded individual should know, so keep reading.

What Are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are a type of herbal supplement that help the body "adapt" to stressors. They can help improve overall energy levels, sleep quality, and digestion.

The term comes from the Greek word "adaptor," which means "to change or adapt." These herbs have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.

Adaptogens have been used for centuries in traditional medicine. This is to support the body's natural balance during times of stress.

Our modern understanding is that adaptogenic herbs interact with our HPA axis (²). This helps regulate how we respond physiologically and mentally when faced with a threat or challenge.

This includes calming areas like your brain (the hypothalamus), pituitary gland at the base of the skull, and kidneys atop one's backbone. All key components are involved in generating cortisol, a necessary hormone released during periods when you feel stressed out.

There are many different types of adaptogens, but some of the most popular ones include ashwagandha, holy basil, and ginseng.

Adaptogenic Mushrooms

Adaptogenic mushrooms are a type of medicinal mushroom that can help improve your health in a variety of ways.

Mushrooms have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and are now gaining popularity in the Western world as well.

Some popular adaptogenic mushrooms include cordyceps, reishi, and chaga. These mushrooms are known to improve energy levels, cognitive function, and immunity.

They do this by helping to regulate the body's stress response and by providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

The Methods of Action Behind Adaptogens

Adaptogens work by helping the body to better cope with stress. When we're stressed, our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol (³).

Cortisol is great in small doses because it can help us to feel more alert and focused. But when cortisol levels get too high, it can lead to negative health effects like anxiety, weight gain, and poor sleep quality.

Adaptogens help to regulate cortisol levels, keeping them within a healthy range. This helps to reduce the negative health effects of stress and improve overall well-being.

There are three main mechanisms of action behind adaptogens:

  1. They help to increase antioxidant activity in the body
  2. They help to modulate the stress response by regulating cortisol levels
  3. They help to support the adrenal glands, which are responsible for producing cortisol

Furthermore, adaptogens are unique in that they can help the body to adapt to both physical and psychological stressors. This is why they're often used to improve performance during exercise or to decrease anxiety levels.

Let's take a look at the five key health facts in relation to adaptogens.

Adaptogens and Sleep Quality

If you've ever had a tough time falling asleep or staying asleep, you know how important good sleep is for your overall health.

According to the National Institutes of Health (⁴) , adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per night. But more than one-third of American adults don't get that much sleep on a regular basis.

Lack of sleep can lead to a number of health problems, including weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. It can also affect your mood, memory, and ability to concentrate.

Adaptogenic herbs can improve sleep quality (⁵) by reducing stress and anxiety levels. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), an adaptogenic herb, improved sleep quality in people with insomnia.

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) reduced sleep disturbances for stress-related insomnia. Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) improved sleep quality in people with burnout.

Adaptogens and Digestion

One of the most interesting health facts about adaptogens is their potential to improve digestive function (⁶).

This is because adaptogens help to regulate stress hormones like cortisol, which can wreak havoc on the digestive system.

Other research has shown that adaptogens can help relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including bloating, gas and abdominal pain. What's more, they may also help prevent ulcers by reducing stomach acid production.

Furthermore, adaptogens may improve gut health by promoting the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Rats given an adaptogen called Rhodiola rosea had increases in two types of beneficial gut bacteria, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Adaptogens and Immunity

It is shown that adaptogens can help bolster the immune system. For instance, people who took an adaptogen called astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) had results. They took it for six months and had significantly higher levels of white blood cells than those who didn't take the herb.

White blood cells are a key part of the immune system, as they help fight off infection. What's more, astragalus has also been shown to help improve the function of immune cells, including natural killer cells and T-cells.

Other research has shown that adaptogens may help reduce the severity and duration of colds and flu (⁷) . People who took Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) for four months had fewer sick days. They had less severe symptoms when they did get sick than those who didn't take the herb.

Adaptogens and Stress

One of the most well-known health benefits of adaptogens is their ability to reduce stress. This is because adaptogens help to regulate stress hormones like cortisol. This can have damaging effects on the body if levels get too high.

People who took an adaptogen called Rhodiola rosea for four weeks had significantly lower levels of stress. Furthermore, they also had reduced feelings of anxiety and depression. Furthermore, they also had reduced feelings of anxiety and depression.

Other research (⁸) has shown that adaptogens can help improve cognitive function during times of stress.

People who took ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) for eight weeks had improved memory. Their attention span was greater when compared to those who didn't take the herb.

Adaptogens and Exercise Performance

Research suggests that adaptogens may help improve exercise performance (⁹). Supplementation with the herb Rhodiola rosea reduced exercise-induced fatigue and improved mental performance in young, healthy adults.

Rhodiola rosea is a popular adaptogen. It's thought to help the body adapt to stress by increasing levels of enzymes and proteins. It increases antioxidant activity, cell protection and energy metabolism.

Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) can improve physical endurance. Cyclists who took Siberian ginseng before exercise were able to bike for longer periods of time than those who didn't take the herb.

Common Mistakes Made By New Users of Adaptogens

Despite the many potential health benefits of adaptogens, there are a few things to keep in mind when taking these herbs.

First, it's important to start with a lower dose and increase gradually as needed. This is because adaptogens can have stimulating effects, so its best to start slow to see how your body reacts.

Second, adaptogens should be taken consistently for at least two weeks to see benefits. This is because they work to help the body better adapt to stress, and it may take some time for the effects to be noticeable.

Finally, it's important to choose a quality product when purchasing adaptogens. Look for products that are certified organic and free of fillers or additives.

How to Find the Right Adaptogen for You?

The process of selecting adaptogens that fit your needs can be daunting, but luckily there are a few key things to look for that can help.

First, consider what health concerns you'd like to address. Do you want to improve your energy levels, reduce stress or support your immune system? Once you know what you're looking for, you can narrow down your choices.

Next, please consult a healthcare practitioner to get their opinion on which adaptogen would be best for you. They can offer guidance based on your individual needs and health history.

Finally, pay attention to how your body responds when taking adaptogens. Start with a lower dose and increase gradually as needed. And be sure to listen to your body if you feel any negative effects, stop taking the herb and consult with a healthcare practitioner.

How to Take Adaptogens for Increased Effectiveness?

There are a few things to remember when taking adaptogens to ensure maximum effectiveness.

First, it's important to take them consistently for at least two weeks. This is because adaptogens work to help the body better adapt to stress, and it may take some time for the effects to be noticeable.

Second, its best to start with a lower dose and increase gradually as needed. This is because adaptogens can have stimulating effects, so it's best to start slow to see how your body reacts.

Finally, pay attention to how your body responds when taking adaptogens. If you feel any negative effects, stop taking the herb and consult with a healthcare practitioner.

Some other ways you can take adaptogens for increased effectiveness include:

Taking them with a meal or snack that contains fat. This will help to slow down the absorption of the herbs and reduce any potential side effects. That is how we suggest taking our gummies.

Adding them to smoothies, soups or other recipes. This is an easy way to get your daily dose of adaptogens without having to take them in pill form.

Making tea by steeping adaptogenic herbs in hot water. This is a relaxing way to take adaptogens and can also help you to better absorb their nutrients.

 

Other Supplements That Enhance Adaptogen Efficiency

If you want to increase the effectiveness of adaptogens even further, there are a few other supplements that can help.

Vitamin C is an important nutrient for immune system function and stress management. Supplementing with vitamin C can help the body better absorb and use adaptogenic herbs.

Magnesium is another mineral that's essential for stress management. It works by helping to regulate levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Taking a magnesium supplement can help to enhance the effects of adaptogens.

B Vitamins are also important for stress management. They work by helping to convert food into energy, which can be helpful when dealing with stress. Taking a B-complex vitamin supplement can help to improve the effectiveness of adaptogens.

Who Should Avoid Taking Adaptogens?

While adaptogens are generally safe for most people, there are a few groups who should avoid taking them.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid taking adaptogens. This is so unless directed by a healthcare practitioner. This is because there is not enough research on how they might affect pregnant and nursing women.

People on medication for high blood pressure, diabetes or thyroid should also avoid taking adaptogens. This is because adaptogenic herbs can interact with these medications.

Adaptogens: The Right Way

Adaptogens are a class of herbs that can help the body better adapt to stress. These herbs have been used for centuries in traditional medicine systems. They are gaining popularity today for their potential health benefits.

Adaptogens can be taken in a variety of forms, such as capsules, gummies, powders, or tinctures. When choosing an adaptogen, it's important to start with a lower dose and increase gradually as needed.

Additionally, be sure to choose a quality product and consult with a healthcare practitioner if you have any questions or concerns.

 

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Sources: 

(¹) State of Stress - https://www.everydayhealth.com/wellness/united-states-of-stress/

(²) The Hypothalamic-Pitiutary-Adrenal Axis - https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnbeh.2020.601939/full#:~:text=A%20major%20component%20of%20the,autonomic%20nervous%20system%20(ANS).

(³) Cortisol - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22187-cortisol

(⁴) Seven to Eight Hours of Sleep - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24039808/

(⁵) Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32021735/

(⁶) Effect and Outcome of Adaptogenic Herbal Medicine - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7309667/

(⁷) The Role of Adaptogens in Prophylaxis and Treatment of Viral Respiratory Infections - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32911682/

(⁸) Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19500070/

(⁹) Effects of heavy physical exercise and adaptogens on nitric oxide content in human saliva

- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10228607/

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