by Amy Myszko
What are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are plants with compounds that support the body in handling the damaging effects of stress. Herbs, like Panax ginseng, have been used throughout the world to heal and strengthen the body for millennia, particularly in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. There is a large and growing body of scientific research when it comes to the positive effects of adaptogen herbs, including their ability to boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, support natural sleep/wake cycles, decrease mental fatigue and overall protect against oxidative stress in the body. When taken regularly, adaptogens may help promote optimal health.
Using Adaptogens to Improve Sleep
If you’re having trouble sleeping, consider taking organic Panax ginseng, a Traditional Chinese tonic reported promoting deep sleep cycles—especially if the underlying cause of your sleepless nights is stress. A recent study found ginseng to be beneficial for treating overall sleep dysfunction, with a significant reduction in total wake time. Ginseng has also proven helpful in people with fatigue due to chronic illness.
Adaptogens for Stress Management
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of taking adaptogens in controlling stress. In particular, ginseng has been shown to help the body regulate hormone changes caused by stress, thus maintaining balance. Researchers also believe that ginseng has the potential to combat stress-related anxiety and depression. Most research on the positive effects of adaptogens on stress focus on long-term use. However, at least one study shows that adaptogens can reduce stress from acute stressors when taken in a single dose shortly after the stressful event.
Using Adaptogens to Improve Energy
In one recent review, scientists demonstrated that adaptogens can improve mental performance and reduce mental fatigue in patients with acute and chronic fatigue. In the review, several mechanisms for improved mental and physical improvement were demonstrated, with the conclusion that adaptogens may also increase overall longevity. According to MD and master herbalist Aviva Romm, adaptogens support healthy energy levels by strengthening the adrenal glands and helping to combat adrenal burnout. This is a crucial aspect of why adaptogens are so helpful for modern humans, since many of our common nutritional practices—like consuming excess sugar and caffeine, along with getting inadequate sleep—can unduly tax the adrenals to the point of developing diseases like chronic fatigue syndrome.
How to Take Adaptogens
To get the most out of adaptogens, it is best to take a consistent, daily dose for at least two weeks and up to six months. In order to incorporate adaptogens into your daily life, it is helpful to include them in a normal part of the daily routine, which can be done as a supplement. But, an easy way to add adaptogens into your daily routine is through cooking. Tonic roots including ginseng add a sweet, earthy flavor to soups and stews while medicinal mushrooms (think shiitake, lion’s mane, etc.) are a hearty addition to soups, stir-fry, pizza, and pasta.
What inspiring choices would you make in your life if you had more energy and less stress? Start incorporating adaptogens in your daily life and find out.
Amy Myszko is a certified clinical herbalist and nutritional consultant, who has been helping people find greater health and balance through diet, lifestyle, and natural remedies since 2006. She received her certification from the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism in Boulder, Colo. Myszko also holds a B.A. in literature from the University of Colorado.