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Adaptogens | What They Are and Why You Need Them

More than ever people are looking for natural ways to beat everyday health and wellbeing issues that relate to stresses on the body. Whether that is struggling with the everyday stress of life, weight loss, trauma, anxiety, painful periods, menopause symptoms or insomnia, natural methods seem very appealing. 

Here is where the best adaptogens come in. 

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are herbs, mushrooms and natural substances that can help our body to adapt to mental and physical stress. I’m not just talking about the stress of a big meeting at work. I mean the stress that poor sleep, the menopause, your period and anxiety all put on your body.

The herbs all have different functions to help target specific issues. Some are great for helping you relax, others perfect for boosting your energy when you are tired or optimising your body’s stress response. 

These natural products are popular today, however, they are nothing new. Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine has been using these for centuries. 

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How do adaptogens work? 

Adaptogens help to fight off stress and delay the exhaustion phase. When we are stressed the hormone cortisol is released into our system. This then triggers a response called General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). The three stages of this response are:

  • Alarm
  • Resistance
  • Exhaustion

During the alarm stage cortisol is released. The resistance stage is where our bodies adjust to the stress. If our body can not handle the stressor or adjust to it, then you go to the exhaustion phase.

Exhaustion phase can lead to burnout, depression, fatigue, anxiety and even lead to adrenal fatigue.

So where do adaptogens come in?

The best adaptogens can help to maintain the resistance phase and avoid the exhaustion phase. Using adaptogens may help you to be able to deal with physical or mental stress easier without reaching the final stage that can lead to more issues.

In this ultimate guide to adaptogenic herbs we are going to cover the best adaptogens for the following. Want to skip ahead? Use the quick links below. 

  • Best adaptogens for sleep
  • Best adaptogens for stress and anxiety
  • Best adaptogens for periods
  • Best adaptogens for menopause
  • Best adaptogens for for fertility
  • Best adaptogens for adrenal fatigue 

Best adaptogens for Sleep – Valerian Root

Valerian root is a herb found in Asia and Europe. While the flowers are used in perfumes, the roots have long been used in traditional medicine as a sleep aid.

This powerful root contains valerenic acid, isovaleric acid as well as a host of antioxidants. These active ingredients are thought to help ease anxiety as the valerican inhibits the GABA breakdown in the brain, promoting feelings of calm. 

The antioxidants found in valerian root also have been known to have sedative properties. Suffer from poor sleep, insomnia or frequent night wakings? This could be the perfect addition to your bedside table! 

Best adaptogens for stress and anxiety – Holy Basil

Holy basil, also known as Ocimum Sanctum or Tulsi, is a green herb native to Southeast Asia. This adaptogen may help to reduce stress and anxiety and has long been used in traditional medicine for this purpose. 

Research suggests that taking holy basil twice a day after meals may help to reduce anxiety, stress and depression in people who suffer from GAD. 

Lots of people take holy basil in the form of tea. Taking a moment to sit down with a warm drink may also aid your stress and anxiety.

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Best adaptogens for periods – Schisandra Berries

Whether periods are painful or not, they are a stress on the body. Your body’s working overtime during your period dealing with an influx of hormones, low energy and quite possibly some pain. 

The best adaptogen for periods could be schisandra berries. Schisandra is native to northern and northeastern China.

This berry could be ideal to help deal with the low energy, stress and PMS symptoms that come with your monthly cycle. Schisandra is thought to have a positive effect on hormone production and balance. For this reason it may help to reduce symptoms of PMS and even boost libido.

Try a tea blend featuring these powerful berries. 

Best adaptogens for menopause – Ashwagandha

During the menopause years you might feel a little less like yourself. Battling with tiredness, memory issues, hot flushes, insomnia and low mood will all take its toll on your body.

There are lots of adaptogens that could work for menopause symptoms, but one we like is ashwagandha

This small evergreen shrub is found in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. The root and red berry have long been used to make medicines. 

Are you someone who notices the one or all of following symptoms during the menopause

  • Insomnia
  • Low mood
  • Stress
  • Low energy

This adaptogen may mimic the neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for feelings of wellbeing. It may help you to feel more positive and in a better mood.

Ashwagndha also may help to bring you a sense of calm, reduce inflammation, stress and boost your energy. There is some thought that it may help to help a low libido, now there is an added bonus!

Best adaptogen for fertility – Maca 

There will be lots of debate around the best adaptogen for fertility. Maca is an edible plant native to South America. It is part of the cruciferous family along with cabbage and cauli, and it thrives in the Andes mountains of Peru. For centuries, maca has been harvested from Peru to help people with fertility issues. 

If you are trying to conceive, chances are someone has said ‘relax and it will happen’. So annoying, we know. But, helping the body to cope with stress and balance hormones may help to improve your chance of conceiving. 

Maca supports the endocrine system and helps to balance hormones. Perfectly balanced hormones are also key to helping conception. 

This powerful plant also helps give you energy. Energy will be much needed for your body to go about growing another human! It will also be important if you have decided to give up caffeine when you are trying to get pregnant. 

Best adaptogens for adrenal fatigue – Liquorice Root

Lots of the adaptogens we have mentioned in this blog could well play a part in helping with adrenal fatigue. One we haven’t yet mentioned is liquorice root. Liquorice root is found in the root of the liquorice plant. 

It is thought to help assist the adrenals by preventing the breakdown of cortisol. When cortisol is used sparingly it can help you to maintain energy and respond better to stress.

 The best adaptogens – wrap up

Adaptogens are a natural solution to help your body to deal with mental and physical stress. That stress may be from an injury, your period, the menopause or even a big interview.

Whatever the stress is on your body you may find the best adaptogen can help. These all natural ingredients have been used in traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. 

If you are taking meds for a condition, then you shouldn’t replace it with an adaptogen without talking to your doctor. Also, discuss any possible drug interactions with your doctor.  

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