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What About Adaptogens?

In this fast-paced world, constant stress has become a way of life. In fact, 77% of people in the US regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress.

This prolonged state of stress can have a large impact on the body, especially the immune system, adrenals, and endocrine system. Developing a healthy lifestyle can certainly be of benefit, but sometimes our bodies could use some extra help adapting to stress.

There are multiple herbs known as adaptogens: natural substances that help the body adapt and are known to assist the normal stress response. They promote a response in non-specific ways, for example, helping create a store of adaptive energy that is used in response to a stressor. Each adaptogen is unique in how it affects the body, but there are some qualifications each adaptogen must possess:

  1. They have a normalizing effect.
  2. They increase the body’s resistance to stressors of different kinds—physical, emotional, or chemical.
  3. They are non-toxic.

The normalizing effect occurs as an adaptogen exerts influence on a system within the body. Whether the system is hyperfunctioning (over-performing) or hypofunctioning (under-performing), the adaptogen attempts to bring the system into a balanced, normal state.

Many adaptogens have a normalizing effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sympathoadrenal system (SAS), which regulate the fight or flight response. The HPA axis controls the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Having too much cortisol can create difficulty sleeping due to diminished production of melatonin and serotonin. Adaptogens can help the body maintain homeostasis and adapt to continued stress.

The adaptogenic herbs can be a great complement to a balanced, healthy lifestyle as we try to adapt to new and existing stressors. Consider how adaptogens might fit into the picture.