Tag Archives: Adaptogens

Stressed? Consider Adaptogens

Adrenal_Support_StressJacquieIconBy Jacquie Eubanks
BSN, RN

Chronic stress is widely believed to accelerate biological aging and have adverse effects on immune function and the inflammatory response. Health concerns, finances, job insecurities, and family and personal responsibilities are the top sources of stress in the U.S., with 25% of the population feeling financially stressed and 80% reporting stress related to employment. While a majority of Americans say they are chronically stressed, many are likely to address high stress levels in unhealthy ways, including increased alcohol consumption and a failure to focus on healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as a nutritious diet, adequate sleep and daily exercise. While occasional stress can be a positive, motivating force, the reality is that we are living in an unhealthy, chronically overstressed society.

Biological stress begins with our basic bodily processes that produce and utilize energy. Most of us may think of metabolism as part of our digestive process, but metabolism is all about energy and includes many life sustaining metabolic processes, including breathing, circulation, muscle contraction, elimination, body temperature control and brain and nervous system functions. Researchers who study the relationship between biological stress and aging suggest a direct cause-and-effect relationship between stress resistance and age-related diseases. According to the National Institutes of Health, age-related damage to DNA and proteins may often be reversible and may not cause problems until the damage evokes a stress response, suggesting that the stress response is the actual culprit when it comes to age-related health deterioration.

As part of the endocrine system, the adrenal glands have multi-functional roles. They regulate and maintain many internal processes, including metabolic functions, immune and inflammatory responses, essential hormone production, electrolyte balance and the fight-or-flight reaction to a threatening or stressful situation. While impaired adrenal function can be related to disorders or medical conditions, chronic stress is believed to be a major cause of adrenal dysfunction. Recognized in many parts of the world, but not yet recognized as a clear medical diagnosis in the U.S., adrenal fatigue is often cited when the adrenals are unable to adequately meet the demands brought on by stress.

AskTheNurseAdrenal fatigue or insufficiency is a term applied to a collection of symptoms that may include ongoing cycles of fatigue, nervousness, irritability, insomnia, depression, anxiety, lack of libido and weight and hormonal imbalances. With adrenal fatigue the glands still function, but not well enough to maintain optimal body balance or homeostasis. While identifying the causes of our individual stressors and taking steps to reduce or eliminate them is very helpful and healthy advice, many of us could use a bit of extra support for our very overworked adrenal glands.

By definition, adaptogens are a unique group of traditional therapeutic botanicals that work at the cellular level to aid the adrenals in managing our response to stress. Used extensively for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, adaptogens aid in normalizing body imbalances, supporting homeostasis and providing a sense of calm along with energizing influences. Calming and energizing at the same time? Yes, adaptogens can counteract the effects of mental and physical stress, restore energy, strengthen the immune response and normalize the inflammatory response by adapting to exactly what your body needs. In other words, adaptogens have self-limiting properties — they work hard when we need them and slack off when we don’t. Their broad-spectrum actions can help to optimize the health of the entire body.

To qualify as an adaptogen, an herb must be safe and effective, must have active substances with certain special qualities, must offer no harmful effects and must specifically be able to reduce the effects of mental and physical stress. Adaptogens are available in a single herb formulas as well as in combination formulas. Here are just a few of the more well known adaptogenic herbs:

Rhodiola Rosea – Used in China and Russia since ancient times, Rhodiola Rosea is believed to have many beneficial qualities that help to balance cortisol levels and support cellular energy metabolism, cardio health and healthy brain function.

Ashwagandha – Some of the best known benefits of Ashwagandha include increased vitality, energy and stamina. Traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha is believed to enhance endocrine function and aid in treating exhaustion brought on by physical and mental strain. In addition to improving stress resistance, Ashwagandha supports immune response, a more regulated sleep cycle and healthy thyroid and nervous system function.

Holy Basil – Also known as Tulsi, this is one of India’s more revered and powerful herbal remedies. Holy Basil is believed to help reduce stress by calming the nerves, lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation. As an antioxidant, Holy Basil helps minimize oxidative stress caused by free radicals.

Panax Ginseng – Valued for thousands of years as a medicinal plant, Ginseng is believed to positively influence cellular metabolism, promote longevity, strengthen the immune response and provide an overall sense of wellbeing.  

Eleuthero Root – Traditionally used in Chinese medicine to address insomnia, fatigue and impaired concentration, it is also believed to improve memory, support general health and promote feelings of wellbeing.

Astragalus – This traditional Chinese herb helps protect against physical, mental and emotional stress. It has anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and antioxidant properties and is believed to support immune health and cardiac function.

Schisandra – This potent general wellness tonic helps to decrease fatigue and promote physical performance and endurance. It is believed to counter stress by reducing the levels of stress hormones in the bloodstream.

Professional Supplement Center offer these and other fine products for adrenal support:

Adapten-AllAdapten-All by Ortho Molecular – This unique blend of key micronutrients and adaptogenic botanicals is specifically formulated to strengthen the body’s stress response and support healthy energy levels. Adaptogens include standardized extracts of Eleuthero root, Rhodiola rosea root, Schisandra berry and Ashwagandha root. Gluten, soy and dairy free, vegetarian formulation.

Adaptogen-R3Adaptogen-R3 by Premier Research Labs – This invigorating formula features key nutraceutical blends containing traditional adaptogenic herbs to promote the entire adaptogenic process that includes whole body rejuvenation. Excipient free, vegan formulation.

 

Adaptogen, Q.
Adaptogen, Q. by Quantum Nutrition Labs – This quantum-state product features the perfect adaptogenic triple blend. Highly rated for customer satisfaction, this formula is designed for optimal effect. Excipient free, vegan formulation.

 

ExhilarinExhilarin® by Metagenics – This formula provides a proprietary blend of time tested Ayurvedic adaptogenic botanicals in support of cognitive function and a strategic stress response. The formula includes Holy Basil, Ashwagandha, Amla and Bacopa. Gluten free, Non-GMO vegetarian formula.  

References:
How stress affects your health. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress.aspx
Seniors. The American Institute of Stress. http://www.stress.org/seniors/
Metabolism: Does stress really shorten your life? https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/biology-aging/metabolism-does-stress-really-shorten-your-life
Stimulating effect of adaptogens. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16261511
Astragalus. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/astragalus

Tired and Stressed? Adaptogens Can Help

AdaptogensCanHelpJacquieIconBy Jacquie Eubanks
BSN, RN
 

Adaptogenic herbs have been successfully used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia to boost both energy and resilience to stress. By promoting balance and stability, known as homeostasis, these natural herbs are believed to balance the endocrine system and strengthen the immune system, thereby aiding the body’s ability to cope with anxiety, fatigue and trauma. The term “adaptogen” was coined by Dr. Nikolai Lazarev in the 1940’s to identify an agent that raises the body’s resistance to stress while countering undesired physical, emotional, chemical or biological stressors.

This means that, by definition, adaptogenic herbs have the potential to reduce the negative impact of all these different forms of stress which can adversely affect our physiological and psychological wellbeing. Chronic stress can upset hormone balance, disrupt digestion, negatively impact the immune system and trigger an unhealthy inflammatory response. To be considered an adaptogen, an herb must possess three qualities:

  • It should produce a response that allows the whole body, including multiple organ systems, to increase resistance against harm from stress, anxiety or trauma. Adaptogens are thought to normalize the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis which, among other functions, regulates the body’s response to stress.
  • It should aid the body in a return to homeostasis by tamping down hyper-functioning systems or ramping up hypo-functioning systems. In other words, they must be able to adapt their functions according to the body’s specific needs.
  • It must be non-toxic at normal doses, causing no significant side effects even with prolonged use.

Adaptogenic herbs are believed to naturally restore vitality, protect the body against degeneration and support healthy aging. They are believed to produce generalized health benefits for the entire body by their ability to normalize immune and endocrine functions, improve circulation, control inflammation, and their ability to act in a self limiting capacity.

Adaptogenic herbs are categorized as:

Global system regulators – Herbs such as ginseng, rhodiola, ashwagandha and Holy Basil fall into this category for their healthy aging benefits and for their ability to have a global impact on the whole body.

Cellular and immune regulators – These herbs provide immune support and aid in preventing degenerative diseases and can include turmeric, resveratrol and ginger.

Specific regulators – These herbs target specific areas, such as ginkgo biloba for circulation, gotu kola for connective tissue and licorice for the gastrointestinal tract.  

Some of the more widely known adaptogenic herbs used to balance, restore, support and protect the body are:  

Ashwagandha – Known for its powerful balancing and antioxidant properties, ashwagandha is used to help increase vitality, energy, endurance and stamina. It is also believed to promote longevity, strengthen the immune system and relieve symptoms associated with exhaustion by enhancing endocrine function and encouraging more optimal bodily functions.

American Ginseng – Notably used as an overall health tonic, ginseng is believed to improve immune function, support cognitive function and counterbalance stress by reducing the secretion of stress-related hormones.

Eleuthero – Also known as Siberian ginseng, eleuthero is believed to increase energy and stamina, improve immune function and support cardiovascular health.

Rhodiola – Known to increase stamina, rhodiola is thought to balance the levels of stress-related hormones, while boosting the body’s endorphins or feel good hormones. As a powerful antioxidant, rhodiola helps prevent cell damage, supports cellular energy metabolism and is believed to aid and support the liver’s detoxification processes.

Reishi mushrooms – Known as the mushroom of immortality in Chinese medicine, reishi mushrooms are believed to promote immune function, fight fatigue and support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Reishi has antibacterial, antiviral and antioxidant properties.  

Holy Basil – Also known as Tulsi, this herb has been valued for centuries for its antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. It is believed to have its greatest potential in stress relief and relaxation. As an adaptogen, Holy Basil helps the body to function optimally during times of stress by enhancing the body’s natural response to both physical and mental stressors.

For maximum benefits, these natural herbs are meant to be used as tonics and are generally taken over a period of time, often at least 3 months, to strengthen and benefit the entire body. However, if you are taking any medications or have a chronic illness, its best to consult your healthcare professional before use. Adaptogenic herbs are not recommended for use by pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Here are some great suggestions for supplementation:

Adapten-All
 
Adapten-All by Ortho Molecular – This product provides comprehensive adrenal support with a special blend of nutrients, botanicals, and adaptogens such as eleuthero, rhodiola, ashwagandha and licorice root extracts. Gluten-free formula.
 
 
 
HPA Adapt
HPA Adapt by Integrative Therapeutics – This formula combines 5 powerful adaptogenic herbs to aid in a healthy mental and physical stress response via the HPA axis. Contains key ingredients such as rhodiola, ashwagandha, Holy Basil and eleuthero extracts. Gluten and soy free formula.
 
 
 
Rhodiola (SF755)
Rhodiola by Thorne Research – This botanical adaptogen provides support for the neurotransmitters that aid in resistance to chemical, biological and physical stressors while also supporting beta-endorphins. Non-GMO, gluten, soy and lactose free.
 
 
 
Ashwagandha (Standardized Extract)
 
Ashwagandha by Pure Encapsulations – This formula supplies 500 mg of standardized ashwagandha extract to counteract the effects of occasional stress and for the support of overall wellness. Gluten and soy free formula.
 
 
 
References:
 
Adaptogens. Online. http://www.healthline.com/natstandardcontent/alt-adaptogens#2
 
Adaptogenic Herbs: The Key to Longevity and Optimal Health. Dr. Bertrand Babinet, Ph.D., LAc. Online. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-bertrand-babinet-phd-lac/natural-herbs_b_1167592.html
 
Ayurveda. Online. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/treatment/ayurveda