By Claire Kelly / Guest Columnist
How Herbal Adaptogens Can Support the Adrenal Function & Beat Stress
Herbal adaptogens are a category of herbs that help the body do just that, adapt to extreme circumstances including stress.
When we are exposed to stress the body releases cortisol, adrenaline and glucose into the bloodstream.
Physical strength, reaction speed and mental alertness are all temporarily optimised by the body to enable it to either fight or flight (escape) the stressor, this is an essential survival response and at one time would only have been triggered when there was danger.
However, in modern life this stress response is regularly triggered for both real and imagined danger.
In fact, many of us are experiencing constant chronic stress and the fight or flight response is constantly turned on, the adrenal glands are burnt out and the body is flooded with the stress hormone cortisol.
The adrenal glands are responsible for releasing hormones like cortisol, so under conditions of extreme ongoing stress, adrenal fatigue sets in.
This is where adaptogens come in, they have been shown to increase the resilience to physical and emotional stress by balancing the release of hormones and assisting the the parasympathetic nervous system in restoring balance.
The 5 Best Adaptogenic Herbs
Consultant Herbalist to Indigo Herbs - Leyla El Moudden suggests her 5 best adaptogenic herbs
1. Siberian Ginseng - Eleutheroccocus sentiosus
Thanks to Professor Brekham in Russia, there is an abundant amount of research into this adaptogen.
Brekham’s conclusions showed that this root can increase the body’s capacity by 500% - meaning you can do 500% more activity on Siberian Ginseng before reaching exhaustion.
It also reduces sensations of fatigue and increases immune cells in response to exposure to viruses or bacteria.
2. Brahmi -Bacopa monieri
It is a grounding adaptogen best known for its ability to improve memory and concentration.
Brahmi is well known for reducing the stress hormone cortisol and in this way counteracting the effects of stress.
It can also decrease anxiety by improving the production of serotonin (the happy hormone).
This is an important ayurvedic herb that has been used for centuries as a "nervine" - a herb that calms the nervous system.
Brahmi is a fat-soluble herb and should be taken with a fat source for best effect, try adding it to hot water with a spoonful of oil, butter, ghee or honey.
3. Rhodiola Rosea
Is commonly known as arctic root, as it grows in the arctic regions of Europe.
Russian researchers tested Rhodiola on Russian cosmonauts, military personnel and sportsmen and found that it this adaptogen would increase stamina, modulate their stress response and improve their recovery time.
Rhodiola is a very uplifting herb, with studies evidencing that it can reduce the symptoms of fatigue and exhaustion. It is also a powerful anti-viral and appears to reduce vulnerability to viral infection after a period of stress.
4. Astragalus Membrenaecaous
Astragalus is a herb that is commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to help the body mount a stronger immune response to invading viruses or bacteria.
During a period of stress, cortisol is increased.
Cortisol suppresses the actions of the immune system, creating vulnerability to illness during stressful episodes leading to coughs, colds and infections.
By reducing cortisol, the immune response is therefore strengthened.
Research into the precise mechanisms of Astragalus show that administration of Astragalus increases the body’s T-Cell count. T Cells are immune cells that help the body mount an immune response to an invader.
5. Schisandra chinensis
Schisandra is a bright red little berry, used to make wine, powders and tinctures.
It is popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine where it is nicknamed “the five flavoured fruit” as it is sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy.
It has a 2000-year history of use in China and is recorded as being the herb of youth and vitality.
Modern day interest in Schisandra has shown that it is an uplifting adaptogen that is most often used to improve physical performance and mental agility.
The 5 Best Adaptogenic Foods
Consultant Nutritionist to Indigo Herbs - Jenny Tschiesche suggests her 5 best adaptogenic foods
1. Turmeric –Scientists in India found that Turmeric helped the body stay healthy, based on numerous metrics such as weight, blood pressure, immunity and inflammation, whilst under stress.
It is believed that Turmeric can support the body’s innate antioxidant function, so decreasing inflammation and boosting immunity, as well as helping the body to maintain healthy levels of stress hormone production.
Turmeric can be enjoyed as an addition to Asian-themed foods, soups, curries and in drinks as an infusion or as a turmeric latte made with warm, frothy coconut milk.
2. Moringa – This leaf been shown in studies to have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar levels.
This is helpful as unstable blood sugar levels can trigger the stress response and often be the cause behind fight or flight in the body.
The leaf of the Moringa tree is dried and ground into a powder, it makes a great addition to a green smoothie or juice.
3. Maca – This Peruvian root vegetable is a member of the cruciferous family i.e. linked to cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage.
It is a powerhouse of nutrients containing seven essential amino acids and lots of fibre.
It has been found to be a great use when trying to balance hormone levels and the glucosinolates in Maca create a much-needed energy boost in the face of fatigue.
Maca powder can be added to smoothies, porridge, breakfast bowls and home bakes.
4. Liquorice Root – Modern living places a lot of strain on our adrenal glands.
Liquorice root has been found to help regulate cortisol, the stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands.
In fact chewing on Liquorice root can serve two purposes because whilst it is giving our adrenals a break it also can distract from the state of anxiety by providing something to hold and chew.
Liquorice can also be enjoyed as a tea by infusing the shredded or powered root in boiling water.
5. Medicinal Mushrooms such as Reishi, Cordyceps and Chaga – They help to support the immune system, especially during times of stress.
Reishi and Chaga are immune-modulating, which means that they contain substances that help to promote the production of immune cells to prevent disease.
Dried, powdered mushrooms can be consumed by making a tea infusion, adding to hot chocolate or including in a soup, stew or curry.
By Claire Kelly
Claire is a co-founder and director of Indigo Herbs and is passionate about natural health solutions. Following a background as a holistic therapist, Claire brings together a wealth of natural superfood and herbal ingredients with inspiration on how to achieve your optimum health and wellbeing.
ABOUT INDIGO HERBS
Indigo Herbs supplies a broad range of Natural health ingredients including herbs, superfoods, wholefoods and natural botanicals. We are passionate about supporting people on their journey to optimum health and wellbeing.
Sourcing the finest quality ingredients from around the globe since 2005 it is Indigo Herbs mission to make good quality, 100% pure, natural health ingredients available and affordable to all. We also publish a natural health guide, blog and recipe collection as we believe that empowerment is the key to optimum health and that begins with information and inspiration.
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