We tend to think stress is mainly a result of trauma or high-pressure situations. But our bodies are constantly reacting to physical, chemical, and environmental stressors – we just may not realize it: We deal with it all day long, and it has a damaging effect on our health. Stress results from exercising too much, sleeping too little, getting stuck in traffic, over-consuming sugar or caffeine, being on a crowded subway car, poor air quality… the list goes on and on.
Basically? Stress in an unavoidable part of modern life.
LET’S DEAL WITH IT
When we experience stress, whether in obvious or subtle ways, our body releases cortisol. An excess amount of cortisol can result in depression, anxiety, mental illness, fatigue, increased (or decreased) appetite, weakened immunity, weight gain/loss. If you’re cool with being sick, fat, tired, anxious, and the like – you can stop reading now. If you’re curious about how to combat the ill effects of stress – you may want to get familiar with adaptogens. These magic herbs (and mushrooms) might be on trend and gaining popularity, but like most tried and true holistic remedies, they have been used for centuries – particularly in Chinese and Ayruvedic medicine. By definition, adaptogens are, “‘a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes.” In other words, they help to maintain a state of balanced health by regulating levels of stress hormones: think of it like installing your own personal stress thermostat to maintain the optimal, health promoting temperature. Adaptogens can both calm and energize, and unlike coffee or sugar, they do not over stimulate or result in an energy crash. Studies have found them to be safe for long term use, and have shown a possible link to improved brain function, heart health, digestion, and immunity.
THE NITTY GRITTY
Generally, adaptogens are not for treating a specific condition, but rather for promoting overall wellbeing. That being said, adaptogens can have a wide range of effects. I think it’s a good idea to think about how you react to stressful situations. If you tend to experience fatigue, mild depression, mental fog, decreased memory, or trouble concentrating you may want to try a stimulating adaptogens. Maca, ginseng, rhodiola rosea and cordyceps (mushrooms) are all touted for their invigorating properties. If you are prone to anxiety, insomnia, jittery energy, and/or a racing mind, you may want to steer towards calming adaptogens; ashwaghanda, tulsi (holy basil), astragulus, he shou wu, and reishi (mushrooms) are known for soothing the nervous system. I encourage you to read about specific adaptogens before to decide what may be the best fit. Many holistic practitioners also suggest a blend (there are plenty available for purchase) for maximum efficacy.
Adaptogens are most commonly available in capsule, tincture, tea, or powder form. There’s not a right or wrong way to take them. Rather, it’s important to figure out the best way to integrate them into your routine on an everyday basis. I’m terrible at taking pills – I always forget and never stay on track. The same goes for tinctures. But I’ve been successful using adaptogens in tea or powder form – which I simply add to my teas or smoothies – something I have daily. You get the most benefits from adaptogens by taking them regularly over a long period of time. So figure out which adaptogens will best suit your unique constitution and enjoy them in whatever form works for you. Either way, you’ll be keeping calm and carrying on with the best of ‘em.
Here are links to a few of my favorite adaptogens in various forms. Like any supplement, it’s important to source from high quality, reputable brands.
*It’s also important to remember that these are healthy foods, not magic cures. These foods are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
+used to tonify blood, liver, skin, nervous system, endocrine glands
+may help increase stamina
+rumor has it that it helps prevent/reverse graying hair
+I love adding it to Dandyblend (along with Tocos and Reishi) for my after dinner adaptogenic tonic of choice
+used to increase strength and endurance
+tonifies endocrine system
+known for its stimulating effects
+a good addition to smoothies
+a blend of adaptogens said to promote awareness, creativity, and joy
+promotes a peaceful mind
+an energy blend to benefit physical and mental harmony
+mix in any cold or hot beverage. I like adding to homemade nut milks.
+mushroom used as a ‘general rejuvenator’
+remedy for fatigue and weakness
+may increase vital energy when recovering from illness
+I like enjoying this as a tea for an afternoon energy boost. I also take these packets with me when traveling.