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Stressed? Adaptogens may help your body cope naturally.

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Exploring the World of Adaptogens and Their Potential Health Benefits

01 February, 2024

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Oliver Anderson

Stress is a common problem in our modern society. It can affect our physical and mental health, and lead to various issues such as fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and chronic diseases. While there are many ways to cope with stress, such as exercise, meditation, and therapy, some people may also benefit from using natural substances that can help the body adapt to stress and restore balance. These substances are called adaptogens.

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are plant-based compounds that have been used for centuries in traditional medicine systems, such as Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. They are believed to help the body cope with different types of stress, such as physical, mental, emotional, or environmental, by modulating the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is the main system that regulates the stress response. Adaptogens may also support other systems in the body, such as the immune, nervous, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems, and provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.

According to the original definition, adaptogens have to meet three criteria:

  • They are non-toxic and safe to use in normal doses.
  • They help the body cope with stress in a non-specific way, meaning they can work against different types of stressors.
  • They have a normalizing effect on the body, meaning they can restore the body’s functions to their optimal levels.

Some examples of adaptogens are ashwagandha, ginseng, rhodiola, reishi, and cordyceps.

What do adaptogens do?

Adaptogens may have different effects depending on the type, dose, and duration of use, as well as the individual’s health status and needs. However, some of the general benefits that adaptogens may offer are:

  • Reducing the levels of cortisol, the main stress hormone, and other stress-related biomarkers, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation.
  • Enhancing the levels of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are involved in mood, motivation, and cognition.
  • Improving the function and resilience of the mitochondria, which are the energy-producing units of the cells, and thus increasing the energy levels and reducing fatigue.
  • Boosting the function and balance of the immune system, and thus protecting the body from infections and inflammation.
  • Supporting the function and regulation of the hormones, such as thyroid, sex, and growth hormones, and thus influencing the metabolism, reproduction, and growth.
  • Protecting the brain and nervous system from oxidative stress, inflammation, and neurodegeneration, and thus enhancing the memory, learning, and cognitive performance.

Are adaptogens safe?

Adaptogens are generally considered to be safe and well-tolerated when used in appropriate doses and for short to moderate periods of time. However, some adaptogens may have side effects or interactions with other medications or supplements, so it is important to consult with your doctor before using them, especially if you have any medical conditions or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Some of the possible side effects or interactions of adaptogens are:

  • Ashwagandha may cause stomach upset, diarrhea, or vomiting in some people, and may lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels, so it should be used with caution by people with diabetes or hypotension, or those taking medications for these conditions.
  • Ginseng may cause insomnia, headache, nervousness, or allergic reactions in some people, and may interact with blood thinners, antidepressants, stimulants, or hormone therapies, so it should be used with caution by people with bleeding disorders, mood disorders, or hormonal imbalances, or those taking medications for these conditions.
  • Rhodiola may cause drowsiness, irritability, or insomnia in some people, and may interact with antidepressants, stimulants, or thyroid medications, so it should be used with caution by people with mood disorders, thyroid disorders, or those taking medications for these conditions.
  • Reishi may cause dry mouth, nosebleeds, or liver toxicity in some people, and may interact with blood thinners, immunosuppressants, or chemotherapy drugs, so it should be used with caution by people with bleeding disorders, autoimmune disorders, or cancer, or those taking medications for these conditions.
  • Cordyceps may cause nausea, diarrhea, or allergic reactions in some people, and may interact with blood thinners, immunosuppressants, or diabetes medications, so it should be used with caution by people with bleeding disorders, autoimmune disorders, or diabetes, or those taking medications for these conditions.

How to use adaptogens?

Adaptogens can be found in various forms, such as capsules, powders, teas, tinctures, or extracts. The dosage and frequency of use may vary depending on the type of adaptogen, the desired effect, and the individual’s response. However, some general guidelines are:

  • Start with a low dose and gradually increase it until you find the optimal dose for you. A typical dose range is between 100 to 1000 mg per day, depending on the type and potency of the adaptogen.
  • Take adaptogens in the morning or early afternoon, as they may have stimulating effects and interfere with sleep if taken too late in the day.
  • Cycle adaptogens, meaning take them for a certain period of time, such as 2 to 6 weeks, and then take a break for a week or two, to prevent tolerance or adverse effects.
  • Combine adaptogens with other healthy lifestyle habits, such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and practicing relaxation techniques, to enhance their benefits and reduce stress.

Conclusion

Adaptogens are natural substances that may help the body cope with stress and restore balance. They may have various benefits for the physical and mental health, such as reducing fatigue, improving mood, boosting immunity, and enhancing cognition. However, adaptogens are not a magic bullet, and they should be used with caution and under medical supervision, as they may have side effects or interactions with other medications or supplements. If you are interested in trying adaptogens, talk to your doctor first, and choose the type and dose that suits your needs and goals. Remember, adaptogens are not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle, but a complement to it.

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