Adaptogens. You’ve probably heard this word about a million times, but what exactly does it mean? While the term “adaptogens” has gained steam over the last several years, it refers to a set of powerful herbs that have been used for centuries in Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal medicine as a way to improve the body’s ability to respond to stress, fight fatigue, increase energy, and improve mental cognition. In today’s stressed-out and overworked world, it’s no wonder that adaptogens are making such a strong comeback.
Some of the best adaptogens for helping you lower stress while boosting your well-being overall.
Are all medicinal herbs considered adaptogens? The answer is no. In order for an herb or plant to be considered an adaptogen, it needs to meet three very strict criteria. It needs to:
- Be safe for consumption and non-toxic
- Help calm stress levels
- Balance your hormones
Basically, adaptogens work in the body by aiding our ability to react to physical or mental stress. When we have the ability to adapt to stress, our overall health and wellbeing are also improved. Adaptogens are also known to reduce pain, lower inflammation, regulate sleep patterns, and boost our mood. Sound too good to be true? Fortunately, it’s not, and there is actual research to back it up.
Each adaptogen has a different effect on the body, but for these purposes, we are going to focus on the heavy hitters known for their mood-boosting and stress-fighting abilities.
The top mood-boosting and stress-fighting adaptogens are:
Otherwise known as the “mood booster,” Ashwagandha is famous for its ability to reduce stress, improve mental cognition, and improve mood and energy levels. It does so by regulating cortisol levels and supporting optimal thyroid function, so if you suffer from mood swings, this may be the perfect adaptogen for you.
Rhodiola works to temper cortisol emission, helping to raise it or lower it as needed. It is known to increase energy and stamina, ward off physical and mental fatigue, enhance concentration, and improve mood and overall sense of well-being. The energizing properties in this adaptogen make it ideal as a morning supplement.
- Tulsi (Holy Basil)
This adaptogen is known for its unique ability to increase mental cognition, lower stress, and level out mood. It is recommended by Ayurvedic practitioners to drink holy basil as tea using the plant’s leaves. Not only is the act of drinking tea therapeutic and calming, but it is also caffeine-free, so it can be consumed any time of day.
There are many types of ginseng, but the most commonly used are American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng). American ginseng is thought to work as a calming agent, while Asian ginseng has an energizing effect. Both of them, however, are believed to improve brain functions like memory and mood. Ginseng root is also easy to incorporate into your diet. It can be consumed raw, lightly steamed, steeped in water to make tea, or added to recipes like soup.
Maca is known for its ability to both boost energy and also calm nerves associated with stress. It is also a rich source of vitamin C, so it also works well as an immune booster. Maca powders are either red, yellow, or black, and while they are all known to have medicinal properties, the black variety has traditionally been used to improve memory and learning.
This adaptogenic herb is known to boost one’s mood by lowering mental and physical stress levels and enhancing cognitive function. The medicinal properties are found in schisandra’s bright red berries that are hailed for their ability to fight adrenal fatigue. These berries can be dried and used for teas and tinctures, or fresh berries can be pressed for juices and smoothies.
In addition to adaptogens, there are other powerful plants that can improve energy levels, boost our mood, and reduce stress and tension. American ginseng root, for example, helps to reduce fatigue and improve physical and mental endurance. The mushroom cordyceps militaris increases stamina by enhancing blood oxygenation. Lemon balm works in the body to relieve stress and promote overall well-being. Kava root is a favorite for calming the mind and relaxes tense muscles.
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