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Adaptogenic Plants: The Head Honchos for Our Health

In the 1940s, the Russian scientist N. V. Lazarev (1) was commissioned by his country's government to further investigate plants that had been successfully and traditionally used for centuries to increase performance, combat fatigue, reduce stress and strengthen the body. At the time, Russia had realized that in regions of the Far East, hunters were using natural products to fight off fatigue and improve personal performance, no matter the conditions. The purpose of Lazarev's research was to create a formula using those plants that would help soldiers stay energized and in good health during World War II.

What Lazarev discovered was a group of herbs, fruits, mushrooms and roots that he termed adaptogens. Many of these were used by ancient Egyptians to support overall wellness in a holistic way. Adaptogens achieve this by attacking the worst enemy of all: stress. As we know, if stress becomes chronic it can quickly deteriorate our health, affecting our digestive, nervous and immune systems.

What does it mean if a plant is ‘adaptogenic’?

The original word is phytoadaptogenic, which means the plant can help our body adapt to different needs. Adaptogens don’t necessarily support a particular organ, instead they promote different functions that help our bodies respond to health issues that are stress-triggered.

As time has passed and research into these plants continued, we have obtained surprising results. (2) If at first the United States did not recognize the term adaptogen, this is likely more due to political issues as most research was conducted in Russia for a long time. (3In 1998, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accepted adaptogens as a new type of metabolic regulator that can help our body adapt to environmental triggers and prevent harm.

How does an adaptogen plant work differently than a regular plant?

By adjusting our biology according to our body’s individual needs. Using ashwagandha as an example, if we are under a lot of pressure and use it at night, it will help you relax and rest. On the other hand, using it during the day can help you remain focused, energetic and calm.

Each adaptogenic plant has specific characteristics. Some specialize in regulating stress hormones such as cortisol, while others activate mood improving hormones such as serotonin, and yet others are anxiolytic and fight inflammation. (2) A series of clinical trials have shown that adaptogens also provide anti-fatigue benefits, resulting in higher tolerance to mental exhaustion and improved attention, among other benefits. There are certain requirements that each plant must meet to qualify:

  • The adaptogen does not promote assistance to a particular organ. According to a study published by Pharmaceuticals in 2010, all adaptogenic plants reduce the harmful impact that chronic stress has on our health in a non-specific way (2)

  • The plant helps the body cope to adverse conditions related to physical, chemical or biological stress, including environmental pollution, infectious diseases and interpersonal relationships, among others (3).

  • Strengthens the organ systems in the body that are negatively affected by stress and helps better regulate their functions (3).

  • Non-toxic and cause no harm to the normal functioning of the human body. No presence of significant side effects such as insomnia or excessive energy (3).

    What are some adaptogenic plants?

    • Arctic root

    • Ashwagandha

    • Asiatic pennywort

    • Astragalus (Huáng Qí)

    • Basil

    • Brahmi

    • Chamomile

    • Cordyceps mushroom

    • Drumstick tree

    • Ginger

    • Indian gooseberry

    • Korean ginseng

    • Licorice root

    • Maitake mushroom

    • Milk Thistle

    • Nettle

    • Peruvian ginseng

    • Reishi mushroom (lingzhi)

    • Rosemary

    • Siberian ginseng

    • Turmeric

    • Wild yam, among others.

    What are some considerations when taking adaptogenic plants?

    • The results are better when adaptogens are combined because they work in synergy, to support each other’s adaptive effects.

    • Do not mix adaptogens on your own. Research combinations recommended by specialists.

    • The effects of adaptogens are not like those of an analgesic that you feel within a few minutes of consumption. It can take up to several weeks to feel the benefits of adaptogens.

    • Some adaptogens can produce ill side effects if taken for too long or in very high doses. For example, licorice root can raise your blood pressure and lower potassium after extended use.

    • Adaptogens should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women.

    • People with chronic illnesses should consult their doctor before taking adaptogens.

    • ALWAYS consult your doctor before adding any product or supplement to your routine.

    In addition to good sleeping habits, proper nutrition and regular physical activity, adaptogenic plants can surprise you with their wide range of significant benefits to your overall health and well-being. That's the exact combination we're looking for!

    Let's be healthier, together!

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