A closer look at the history, functions, and benefits of adaptogenic herbs
The word “adaptogen” was first used to describe herbs that helped the body react to and recover from the effects of mental and physical stress due to lifestyle choices and environmental factors. Adaptogenic herbs were also thought to stimulate concentration, work capacity, vitality and efficiency. Think of adaptogens like a thermostat that can regulate the body’s stress response, much like a thermostat controls the temperature in your home.
Some of the most well researched and confirmed adaptogenic herbs include:
- Withania somnifera (ashwagandha)
- Rhodiola rosea (rhodiola)
- Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng)
- Panax ginseng (ginseng)
- Schisandra chinensis (schisandra)
For an herb to be an adaptogen, it must:
- Assist the body in adapting to stressors in our environment – things like environmental pollution, infectious diseases and social conflict or tension
- Aid in recovering from physically strenuous activities, such as a difficult workout, physically demanding jobs or even spending more time on your feet than you typically do
- Offset or resist physical disorders or diseases caused by environmental stress
Be safe and non-toxic and not cause harm to the body
One very important function of adaptogens is their ability to help manage our body’s response when we feel alarmed, overwhelmed or stressed. They work by reducing or calming negative reactions to stress and preventing the onset of exhaustion. The stimulatory and stress-protection effects of these herbs are common to all adaptogens. Certain adaptogenic herbs have also been shown to support a healthy inflammatory and immune response.
What are the benefits of adaptogens?
- Enhance energy or physical stamina
- Support a healthy response to stressors, helping the adrenal glands return to a calm state more quickly
- Support optimal cognition, alertness and concentration
- Support a healthy immune response
- Support normal cortisol levels
- Reduce fatigue
The powerful effects of adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and rhodiola are now widely recognized in North America where stress-related health issues have reached epidemic proportions and show minimal signs of slowing down.
Rightful’s Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer, Tieraona Low Dog, MD, said adaptogens “could be the most important class of plants that we are going to find in the 21st century. On top of daily meditation, healthier eating and writing daily in a journal, these herbs could be an essential part of helping you manage your stress.”
While adaptogenic remedies have many beneficial properties and hold great promise as powerful herbal supplements, they should not be considered a “miracle cure.” Instead, they should be used as part of a holistic wellness strategy incorporating the three pillars of health: proper nutrition, regular physical activity and adequate sleep.