what are adaptogens?

If you’ve ever felt stressed, either physically, mentally or emotionally, then you may be interested to learn about a unique class of healing plants called ‘adaptogenic herbs’. Just like the name suggests, an adaptogen helps our bodies ‘adapt’ to modern day stressors (which let’s face it, we all know about!)

There are naturally occurring substances in adaptogenic herbs and roots that have been shown to help relax our bodies and mind during stressful times, recover after illness, and even provide us with a boost of much needed energy. (Basically like a smart device in the plant world.)

An adaptogen will be…

Nourishing:  bringing nutritive strength to the body and mind

Normalising: help lower hormones that are too high (cortisol and adrenaline) and raise what is too low (energy)

Non-Specific: will work on a variety of body parts at one time (i.e brain/mind, thyroid, heart etc.)

Non-Toxic: be completely safe and natural with no toxic side effects

In order for our bodies to feel good, we have three elements in our brains that need to work together: the adrenal axis (stress hormones), the thyroid axis (thyroid hormones) and the gonadal axis (sex hormones).

When one or more of these is out of whack thanks to too much physical, emotional or mental stress, looking at supplementing with an adaptogenic herb or blend of herbs may help bring things back into alignment.

It’s always best to speak with a qualified naturopath who can tailor a specific adaptogenic herb to suit your need.

Below are five of our favourites:

Reishi Mushroom is often referred to as the supreme protector as it helps support the immune system, heart and liver. It’s works well to calm the mind, promote restful sleep (especially if taken before bed) and reduce feelings of stress. It can be added to hot drinks, smoothies, savoury and sweet dishes.

Ashwagandha (Indian Ginseng) is a member of the nightshade family and an important Ayurvedic herb. It has been used extensively for years to support overall wellbeing and benefits many body systems including the heart, brain, thyroid and reproductive systems.  It also helps to increase muscle strength, stamina and endurance. An excellent all round adaptogen.

Tulsi (Holy Basil) is one of the most sacred Indian plants and often referred to as “queen of the herbs” thanks to its spiritual and restorative properties. Tulsi is extremely rich in minerals and antioxidants and can help increase stamina and endurance, reduce stress, support gentle detoxification and bring harmony and balance. It also makes a delicious tea (try the Pukka Three Tulsi Blend).

Moringa is another Ayurvedic tree, native to India that has been nicknamed ‘vitamin tree’ thanks it’s potent and bioavailable array of minerals and antioxidants. Moringa is an excellent tonic to help your recover after illness or injury as it has been shown to reduce inflammation, heal tissue and muscle and boost immunity. Try taking one to two teaspoons of Moringa powder in your smoothie or even in hot water. Find out more about Moringa here.

Liquorice Root is a perennial herb native to the Mediterranean that contains an active compound called Glycyrrhiza. Now we’re not talking about the chewy, sweet liquorice straps you see in the lolly shops. Although these do contain liquorice root extract, they also contain lots of other bulking agents including sugar. True liquorice root will come in powder or capsule form and is particularly powerful at helping regulate our cortisol levels (stress hormones). On top of this, it may help soothe digestive upset, reduce mucus and phlegm, fight virus and bacteria and relieve constipation. Please consult an expert to advise dosage.

Maca is a root based vegetable native to Peru and an incredible multi-tasking superfood with a range of nutritive benefits. Maca’s ability to help balance both male and female hormones, increase energy levels, improve libido and combat stress, means it’s a useful staple to keep in your pantry. Purchased as a powder, Maca has a mild, nutty and slightly caramel like flavour which can be added to smoothies or desserts.

This blog is not intended to take the place of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a health care professional.

written by Emma H for go natural foods

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