Stress is a fact of life for almost everyone. Whether it’s work, family, or something more, stress can weigh heavily on us. However, adaptogens may just be the thing that we’ve all been looking for! These remarkable plants possess a unique ability to help our bodies handle the ups and downs of life.
Adaptogens are a category of botanicals that act in a general and gentle way to support the body’s stress response.* Whether the stressor is external (a demanding job, worrying about money, caring for a sick loved one) or internal (physical trauma, infection, lack of sleep), adaptogens go where they’re needed to help you.
Adaptogens have a long and storied history of use by cultures around the world. Treatment with adaptogenic herbs goes back thousands of years in Ayurveda, the ancient healing system of India, as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The Vikings were said to imbibe adaptogenic tea by the hornful to fortify themselves before heading into battle, and Inca warriors reportedly relied on adaptogens to boost strength and vitality.*
Adaptogens are set apart from other medicinal plants by their ability to bring your body back into balance. Feeling wound up? Adaptogens can calm you down. Can’t seem to drag yourself out of bed in the morning? Adaptogens provide an energy boost.
Because there are such a wide array of adaptogens, no matter your challenge, adaptogens can meet you where you are, centering you without disrupting your body’s normal functions.
With such a wide array of benefits hidden inside adaptogens, it’s important to be cognizant of the type of adaptogen you take and the time of day you take it. Recognizing the subtle differences between how these plants work is crucial for unlocking the power from within them.
Wildcrafter founder Tieraona Low Dog, MD, who is considered to be one of the world’s leading experts in botanical medicine, has seen the power of adaptogens firsthand during her more than 40 years of practice. Knowing how well they work to support the body’s response to stress, she has used them for many years. Some of her favorites include:
This herb is considered by many to be the queen of adaptogens, and there are few among us who couldn’t benefit from its calming, stress-relieving effects.* In a study of 64 people with a history of chronic stress, subjects who took an ashwagandha supplement every day for six months were significantly better able to handle stress than those who took a placebo, and their levels of the stress hormone cortisol were substantially reduced.
Ashwagandha has an ability to help people with chronic stress and possibly food cravings.* It’s no secret that many of us reach for unhealthy comfort foods when we’re stressed, a tendency that scientists suspect may be partly responsible for the link between chronic stress and eating habits, or “stress-eating.” Researchers looking at whether ashwagandha could help a group of chronically stressed individuals manage their weight found that it lowered perceived stress and reduced food cravings.
Remember the Vikings and their hornfuls of adaptogenic tea? That was rhodiola they were guzzling. Thriving in cold and mountainous climates, this hardy Arctic root is revered for its energy-boosting, mood-lifting properties.* It’s Dr. Low Dog’s go-to herb for those who are feeling tired, run down, or a little blue and having trouble focusing.*
What does the science say about rhodiola? There’s scientific evidence that rhodiola helps with focus, cognitive function and mental performance in cases of fatigue.* Rhodiola has even been shown to ease symptoms of a problem that’s affecting more and more of us — burnout.* No wonder the Vikings were such big fans of this amazing adaptogen!
Like ashwagandha, bacopa plays a prominent role in Ayurvedic medicine. Prized for its ability to enhance mental function, this adaptogen was reportedly used by Vedic scholars to help them memorize long passages of sacred texts.* Modern science supports bacopa’s unique ability to enhance focus and boost brain power, all while promoting a sense of calm.*
Many studies have examined the effects of bacopa on cognition and memory, and results indicate that supplementing with this adaptogenic herb can help with mental tasks like recall, retention, and spatial memorization. And bacopa’s power to promote a feeling of composed concentration may be beneficial for people who have trouble focusing.* Two studies looking at the cognitive effects of bacopa on kids and adolescents found that it improved attention while reducing hyperactivity.
Life is full of ups and downs, and even the ups can be stressful. Getting married, having a baby, and buying a house are some of the most joyful things you’ll ever do, but they’re also among the most challenging! No matter what life throws at you, adaptogens are there to help.
Whether you’re spinning too fast, struggling to motivate, or can’t seem to concentrate, adaptogenic herbs can provide the support you need to get your body and mind back into balance.