Adaptogens are special plants and fungi that can help your body adapt to stress. They work by helping the body cope with physical and psychological stressors, increasing its resistance to both mental and physical fatigue.
Adaptogens have been used for centuries in traditional medicine throughout the world and are gaining popularity today as an increasingly popular way to naturally improve our physical and mental wellbeing. Each of the herbs below are known to help you cope with stress and anxiety, helping to improve your overall wellbeing.
1) Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)
Holy Basil, or Tulsi, is known as “The Mother Medicine of Nature”. It’s a plant often found in Ayurvedic medicine. It has been used for centuries to reduce stress, fatigue, and anxiety. Like many traditional or plant-based medicines, scientific research into Holy Basil’s efficacy is still in early stages. That said, growing evidence suggests the herb can help improving the body’s response to a variety of stressful situations.
Several in vivo studies show that tulsi can help protect organs and tissues against chemical stress caused by pollution or heavy metals. It can also help the body cope with physical stress from prolonged exertion, exposure to cold and excessive noise. Tulsi has also been shown to counter metabolic stress by helping to normalize blood glucose, blood pressure and lipid levels. It counters psychological stress through its positive effects on memory and cognition, along with its mild anti-depressant properties.
When it comes to adaptogens for stress, tulsi is a very versatile option.
2) Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)
Rhodiola is one of the more extensively studied adaptogens for stress relief.
It has been used for centuries to stimulate the nervous system, increase energy, decrease depression and eliminate fatigue, and a summary of in vitro and in animal studies on rhodiola supports these pharmacological effects.
Similar to other adaptogens, Rhodiola can protect the body from oxidative stress that can block our ability to detoxify, repair and regenerate. Rhodiola also appears to have an antidepressant-like effect by targeting various components of the neuroendocrine system and neurotransmitter receptors which can help uplift your mood.
*Note: Do not take Rhodiola past 3pm as it can increase energy.
3) Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
This small shrub with yellow flowers has the ability to combat the effects of oxidative stress, anxiety and can help with sleep problems or sleep disorders.
A double blind placebo controlled study found that taking Ashwagandha safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life with regards to cognition and function.
Studies have have also shown that ashwagandha affects cortisol levels and helps moderate adrenal activity. This means it works to both reduce stress and improve the body’s ability to respond to it, making it one of the most effective adaptogens for stress relief.
*Note: Ashwagandha is an immunostimulant and may affect those who have an autoimmune disorder. Please consult your practitioner before using.
4) Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
Schisandra is a berry native to East Asia, where it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Compounds found in schisandra berries have been shown to help protect against stress-related depression, anxiety and insomnia.
One study performed a 2-10 week treatment on patients with nervous disorders where there was an increase in general well-being and working capacity, as well as a decrease in sleepiness and exhaustion.
5) Panax Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
Ginseng has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years. In TCM it is known as a general tonic to create vital energy, alleviate fatigue and stress, and improving cognition and function. Scientific research shows that it also has cardiovascular benefits.
Research studies have also concluded that ginseng is an effective adaptogen for stress relief, making it a good candidate for improving the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Using adaptogens for stress
Adaptogens are a group of herbs and mushrooms that have been used for centuries to improve the body’s response to physical, mental and emotional stress. They work by helping the body adapt to stressful situations by normalizing its physiological functions.
Holy basil, rhodiola, ashwagandha, schisandra, and ginseng are all known for their calming effects on the nervous system, making them ideal adaptoens for stress relief. Incorporating these adaptogens into your daily routine may help provide you with support needed to stay calm and relaxed in stressful times.
That said, it’s important to consult with your doctor before embarking on any new health practices, particularly if you have any existing physical or mental health conditions, or are taking any prescriptions.
Photo by Brooke Lundmark