Adaptogens: Plant-Based Stress Resilience
The Stress-Busting Power of Plants
Stress is a normal and often necessary part of life. When it comes and goes, it’s nothing to, well, get stressed about.
However, if stress is your constant companion, it can lead to some serious health issues.
You’ve probably heard that yoga, breathing exercises and meditation can help with stress, but what about plants?
Adaptogens are a special group of plant-based ingredients used for centuries to help people cultivate resilience to the negative symptoms of stress.
They include traditional Chinese medicine herbs, Ayurvedic herbs, medicinal mushrooms, algae and more. Each one provides a unique benefit and they are easy to integrate into a healthy lifestyle as part of a meal, brewed into teas, or taken as a supplement.
The name comes from what they help the body and mind do, i.e., adapt.
They do this by working with the body’s stress response systems, including the adrenal glands.
These tiny organs, situated on top of each kidney, produce important hormones our bodies need to function optimally.
If the adrenal glands aren’t doing their job – known as adrenal fatigue – the body stops getting the hormones and neurotransmitters it needs to assist with important functions such as sleep, memory, immunity and emotion.
By supporting the adrenal glands, adaptogens help strengthen immunity and regulate hormone responses, guiding the body to an overall sense of homeostasis or balance.
What’s the Problem with Stress?
Over the long term, chronic stress can contribute to problems within many of the body’s critical systems, including cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, endocrine, nervous, and reproductive. Stress also accelerates aging and depresses immunity.
That’s why it’s good to do all you can to combat stress.
Regular exercise, a healthy eating plan, sufficient sleep, and meditation or mindfulness techniques can all play a part in managing stress.
Add adaptogens to this mix, and you’ll experience some surprising benefits. For example, adaptogens can help decrease anxiety and calm the mind while simultaneously giving you a boost of energy.
Get Started with Adaptogens
It’s important to understand which adaptogens are right for your individual health needs. To get you started, here’s some information on specific adaptogens from your herbal medicine experts in Breaux Bridge, LA at Nature’s Link Wellness Center.
The herb with the cool name is perhaps the best known adaptogen. Ashwagandha grows in India, the Middle East and Africa. It’s a small evergreen shrub and its medicinal value comes from its roots and berries.
Ashwagandha has many uses including calming the mind, reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure and boosting the immune system. It’s calming and soothing effects help ease insomnia too. In fact, it’s Latin species name, somnifera, means ‘to induce sleep’. It’s an ideal herb to help you unwind after a stressful day.
Another popular adaptogen, Siberian ginseng, also known as eleutherococcus senticosus, is not a true ginseng. This small, woody shrub grows in China and Russia and its root is used for medicinal purposes. It’s ideal for combatting feelings of overtiredness and is perfect for anyone feeling run down, particularly with the common cold. Siberian ginseng helps bolster the immune system, increase physical stamina, improve cognitive function, and is often recommended for sexual health.
Rhodiola, known commonly as ‘arctic root’, grows in Arctic and Northern European regions. Its root is valued for its medicinal properties. Rhodiola is an energy booster, helping to combat fatigue and enhance performance by improving attention and concentration. Rhodiola is also good for enhancing memory.
Schisandra is native to Northern China and the Russian Far East. It’s a woody vine and its fruit is used as a food and medicine. Schisandra contributes to improved liver function by stimulating enzymes in this vital organ and promoting liver cell growth. Schisandra also helps prevent early aging, regulate blood sugar and pressure and boost the immune system.
The reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum and lingzhi, is native to Asia, where it is highly valued for its many medicinal qualities. Reishi is used in Asia to fight infections and as a treatment for pulmonary diseases and cancer.
In the US, reishi mushroom is popular for reducing stress, boosting the immune system, improving sleep and fatigue. Typically, reishi is used in a dried, powder form which can be added to your favorite recipes or steeped and drunk as a tea.
Ocimum tenuiflorum, commonly known as holy basil or Tulsi, is used in both traditional Ayurvedic medicine as well as Eastern medicine. Its loved for its outstanding calming effects. It can be steeped into tea or added to favorite recipes. It has a spicy, peppery taste, and is known to calm the digestion, so it’s perfect for adding to meals.
Maca is ideal for helping to soothe your body’s stress response. It comes from the Andes mountains and is known for its nutty, sweet flavor. Maca is mostly found in a powder form which is perfect for adding to smoothies, oatmeal and any of your other favorite foods.
Choosing The Right Adaptogens for You
It’s important to choose the right adaptogens in the appropriate formulations and combinations for your particular symptoms and lifestyle. Seeking the guidance of an experienced herbalist will ensure that you get your best results.
Kristine Devillier is a dedicated natural health practitioner and board-certified Naturopathic Doctor in Lafayette, LA. After a consultation to discuss your health history, diet, lifestyle and goals, Dr. Devillier will develop personalized herbal remedies to assist you with health issues and improve your overall wellness. As a naturopath, she may also recommend nutritional, lifestyle and other alternative healing modalities to help you achieve optimal wellness.
Nature’s Link Wellness Center offers herbal medicine in Breaux Bridge, Lafayette and the entire Acadiana area. Contact us today by calling 337-332-2705 or request an appointment online.