Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants. They help restore, protect the body, and balance the body’s resistance to stressors (adrenals/HPA axis) while boosting resistance to viruses and bacteria.
The term adaptogen was coined in 1947 by a Russian scientist, N.V. Lazarev, who was interested in substances that helped the body adapt to physical and emotional stress. Adaptogens produce a nonspecific (total body) response that increases resistance against harm from physical and emotional stress (disease, anxiety, etc.). Adaptogens have a normalizing effect, improving the function of many body systems and are nontoxic, causing no significant side effects
TOP 5 ADAPTOGENIC HERBS
Ginseng is the most well-known adaptogen, and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) is considered the most potent. Research has validated Asian ginseng’s use for improving mental performance and your ability to withstand stress. Ginseng also has antioxidant effects, antidepressant effects, and can help naturally lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Holy Basil also called tulsi, is known in India as the “elixir of anti-aging.” Holy basil contains several compounds that contribute to the support it lends to virtually every system in the body. As an adaptogen, it helps modulate the stress response, which can have far-reaching effects in every aspect of health.
Ashwaganda is often referred to as Indian ginseng. Often used in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwaganda regulates the immune system and eases anxiety and has been used in eastern medicine for over 2,500 years and has immuno-modulating effects that boost your immune system and aid the body in lowering cortisol levels.
Astragalus root has been shown to lower blood pressure, support heart health, and to strengthen and regulate the immune system. It possesses adaptogenic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, cardiotonic, and liver-protective properties.
Licorice root can increase energy and endurance, boost the immune system, and protect the thymus from being damaged by cortisol, but its use requires professional supervision because of how it may affect blood pressure.
Types of Adaptogens
There are many different types of adaptogens, but some of the best-known herbs used to protect the body against degeneration and aging fall into the following three categories:
Global system regulators
These herbs are known to have a global impact on the body and to prevent aging. They are Pamax, ginseng, Siberian ginseng (eleuthero), rhodiola, ashwagandha and Holy Basil.
Cellular and immune regulators
These herbs, also called companion adaptogens, are used specifically to support the immune system of the cells and to prevent degenerative diseases. They include turmeric, green tea, rosemary, grape seed (proanthocyianidin), grape skin (resveratrol) and ginger.
These herbs target specific issues and include licorice and fo-ti (for energy and sleep), gotu kola (for connective tissue), ginkgo biloba (for circulation) and royal jelly (for mental alertness).
- Axe, Josh, MD. n.d. “7 Adaptogen Herbs to Lower Cortisol.” Dr Axe. http://draxe.com/7-adaptogen-herbs-to-lower-cortisol/.
- Bauman, Ed. 2013. Theraputic Nutrition. Bauman College.
- Castleman, Micheal. 2008. 6 Top Herbal Adaptogens. June/July. http://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/adaptogens-zamz08jjzmcc.aspx.