What are the 12 best adaptogenic herbs?
As herbal treatments, adaptogens date back hundreds and maybe thousands of years in the Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions, but they’re having a renaissance today.
They have become the buzzword in the wellness world, and they are popping up in every podcast, health study and lifestyle blog. What we know is that they help us counteract the effects of stress. But what are they, really? How do they work? And what are the 12 best adaptogenic herbs that will, ultimately, make your life easier?
I don’t know about you, but with all that’s going on in the world right now, any help, and I really mean any help, is welcome! I have only used a few of them but I believe that these adaptogenic herbs can really help in alleviating the weight of many modern stressors like pollution, noise, unhealthy foods, job uncertainty, difficult relationships, etc. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, according to research on adaptogens, they might actually be as good as they sound. Keep on reading, and discover what these 12 best adaptogenic herbs can do for you!!! To be more precise Part 1 will unveil the first 6, and Part 2, the others!
What are adaptogen herbs?
Adaptogens can be thought of as herbal pharmaceuticals that support the body’s natural ability to deal with the effect of both short and long term biological and physical stress. They are called adaptogens because of their unique ability to adapt their function in accordance with the specific needs of the body. Some of them are stimulants and others are relaxing, they are found in a growing list of teas, drinks, extracts and powder. They are also used as a healthy alternative to prescribed medication like anabolic steroids and stimulants containing caffeine and sugar and have no side effects. There are dozens of these plants that grow naturally around the world in the harshest environments, and in the list below, I have included 12 of the most popular ones with their associated benefits.
How do adaptogens work?
Stress can cause real physical changes in the body, by harming the neurological, endocrine and immune system. Dr Brenda Powell, co-medical director of the Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute says,” Adaptogens may do for your adrenal glands what exercise does for your muscles. When we exercise, it’s a stress on our body. But as we continue to train and exercise, our body becomes better at dealing with the stress of it, so we no longer get as tired or get as high a heart rate”.
Powell says the plants do this by interacting with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathoadrenal system, both of which are involved in the body’s response to stress. Adaptogens may tweak hormone production and physiological responses to stress to ensure that your body—from your mind to your immune system to your energy levels—functions as it should, Powell says.
DrTeiraona Low Dog, a well-known western doctor who specializes in herbal medicine, said ¨Adaptogens could be the most important class of plants that we are going to find in the 21st century. “On top of daily meditation, healthier eating, and writing daily in a journal, these herbs could be an essential part of helping you manage your stress.”
Adaptogens should not be considered as a ‘miracle cure’, experts caution. They should be considered as part of a whole-body treatment that includes a proper diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep. Researchers have found they have several effects on the body:
- neuroprotective elements
- anti-fatigue properties
- antidepressive effects
- stimulant for central nervous system
- Increase mental work capacity
- Enhance attention
As a word of caution, while there are some health benefits to adaptogens, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor the quality or purity of herbs and supplements like over-the-counter products. Talk with your doctor before taking adaptogens.
What are the best adaptogenic herbs? And what are they used for?
Studies now show over 75 different plants could be classified as adaptogenic herbs. The list down below will contain some of the most researched adaptogens and what they are used for, including Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Astragalus (Astragalus Membranaceus), Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi), black seed oil, Curcumin (Turmeric), Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Garlic, Ginger, Ginkgo Biloba, Ginseng, Rhaponticum (Rhaponticum carthamoides) and Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea).
Ashwagandha: Indian Ginseng
Both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine have used Ashwagandha as a popular adaptogenic plant, and now its popularity is growing in the western world.
Ashwagandha is popularly used for boosting immunity, anti-ageing, joint pain and insomnia. Due to its active ingredient called withanolides, Ashwagandha is also used as an “adaptogen” to help the body cope with daily stress, as a general tonic and for improving thinking ability. It also improves the brain’s memory functions like attention and concentration, hence helping with the symptoms of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. It enables the body to reserve and sustain vital energy throughout the day while promoting sound, peaceful sleep at night.” These varied benefits are what makes Ashwagandha a go-to choice in Indian herbal medicine.
Ashwagandha, Indian ginseng, delivers clinically proven anti-anxiety effects comparable to lorazepam. Dosages vary depending on your needs, but 250–500 mg per day for at least one month seem effective.
Astragalus (Astragalus Membranaceus)
Astragalus is an essential Chinese anti-ageing adaptogenic herb with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which can be used topically for wounds.
Possessing antiviral properties, astragalus has been used as an immune-stimulant in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.
Recent studies are showing astragalus might be the top kidney and urinary system adaptogenic supplement.
Dosage and use: Proteinuria clinical effects in kidney disease studies are achieved using 15 grams of astragalus per day. Patients with kidney disorder, nephrotic syndrome, using 7.5 to 15 grams of daily astragalus after three to six months experience a 38% improvement in their condition.
Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi)
Bacopa monnieri is a perennial, creeping herb native to the wetlands of southern and Eastern India, Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia, and North and South America. It is known by the common names water hyssop, Brahmi, thyme-leaved gratiola, herb of grace, and Indian pennywort.
Bacopa monnieri is a popular nootropic supplement from traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
Multiple studies confirm Bacopa’s adaptogenic benefits through lowering cortisol levels during stress while improving cognitive performance for individuals dealing with chronic stress.
Naturally, bacopa is thought of as an adaptogenic supplement for anxiety and cognition.
While studies show bacopa anti-anxiety effects as mild, studies show its effects on memory improvement as notable.
Dosage and use: Standardized extract of 300 to 450 mg per day is the average bacopa dosage range.
Black Seed Oil
Nigella sativa is a small flowering shrub with purple or white-tinged flowers that grows in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and western Asia.
While it may look unsuspecting, the shrub produces fruits that have tiny black seeds. These black seeds have been used in remedies for thousands of years.
Archaeologists even found black seeds in King Tut’s tomb, emphasizing their importance in history for healing and protection. They’re also used in cooking to add flavour to bread, curries, and pickles. When eaten, the seeds have a bitter flavour that’s often compared to cumin or oregano.
With Islamic historical records showing black seed is, “a cure for every disease (except death)¨, black seed oil or black cumin oil can protect against cellular damage.
Pressed from the seeds of Nigella sativa shrub, black seed oil is a plant loaded in thymoquinone, a phytochemical compound we believe to possess anti-cancer properties, along with an array of other benefits.
With antioxidant, immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antihistaminic, antiallergic, antitussive, and bronchodilatory actions, black seed is also likely effective for other respiratory disorders, such as asthma. Lung protective black seed oil is an effective adaptogenic supplement for allergies and nasal congestion.
In use for thousands of years for medicine, food, and even cosmetics, many use black seed oil in the same way as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Black seed oil is being researched as a COVID-19, coronavirus inhibitor, because of similar effects on previous respiratory viral infections.
Dosage and use: Standardized extract of 500 mg one to two times per day is the average black seed oil dosage.
Curcumin is arguably the top overall supplement for health optimizers, after the 5 core supplements.
As the “King of Adaptogens,”, curcumin acts as “Nature’s Anti-inflammatory.”
Inflammation and our immune system are critical wellness regulators as they are both involved with practically every known modern disease.
Studies show curcumin can promote healthy cells while improving our immune system’s response in detecting and interfering with the replication of pathogens and cancer cells.
With 4,000 years of use and as a member of the ginger family, turmeric, (Curcuma longa), is a sacred plant in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, and now has growing support for its use in western medicine.
From antioxidants to anti-inflammatory actions to cardiovascular and cognitive support, and beyond the polyphenol, curcumin is a top supplement for all health optimizers.
Curcumin acts as a popular anti-inflammatory with extensive supporting research offering noteworthy body and brain benefits.
• Turmeric contains curcumin, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Most studies used turmeric extracts that are standardized to include large amounts of curcumin.
• Chronic inflammation contributes to many common Western diseases. Curcumin can suppress many molecules known to play major roles in inflammation.
• Curcumin has powerful antioxidant effects. It neutralizes free radicals on its own but also stimulates your body’s own antioxidant enzymes.
• Arthritis is a common disorder characterized by joint inflammation. Many studies show that curcumin can help treat symptoms of arthritis and is in some cases more effective than anti-inflammatory drugs.
• Curcumin leads to several changes on the molecular level that may help prevent and perhaps even treat cancer.
• Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and has been shown to lead to various improvements in the pathological process of Alzheimer’s disease.
• Curcumin boosts levels of the brain hormone BDNF, which increases the growth of new neurons and fights various degenerative processes in your brain.
• A study in 60 people with depression showed that curcumin was as effective as Prozac in alleviating symptoms of the condition.
•Due to its many positive health effects, such as the potential to prevent heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer, curcumin may aid longevity.
• Curcumin has beneficial effects on several factors known to play a role in heart disease. It improves the function of the endothelium and is a potent anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant.
Dosage and use: Up to 2,000 mg per day in standardized extract form depending on the indication. Quality and type are critically important in getting curcumin to work as an adaptogenic herb.
Eleuthero or siberian ginseng
Eleuthero is a small, woody shrub. People use the root of the plant to make medicine. Eleuthero is sometimes called “Siberian ginseng”. But eleuthero is not related to true ginseng. Don’t confuse it with American or Panax ginseng.
Eleuthero is often called an “adaptogen.” This is a non-medical term used to describe compounds that might improve resistance to stress. But there is no good evidence showing that eleuthero has adaptogen-like effects.
Eleuthero is used for diabetes, athletic performance, memory and thinking skills (cognitive function), the common cold, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence supporting most of its uses.
The next 6 adaptogens will be revealed next week, in part 2...
Adaptogen herbs could be an essential part of helping you manage stress, but they should not be considered as a ‘miracle cure’. Instead, they should be used in conjunction with a whole-body treatment and care that already includes;
- a well-balanced diet (with fasting periods)
- regular exercise routine (alternating low, moderate and high intensity)
- adequate sleep (7 to 9 hours)
- daily meditation ( at least 10 mins)
- the continuous thirst for learning new skills
- ever-growing social connections to family and friends
I believe stress in small and controlled ways can be a good thing because it can mobilize our body to cope with changes and challenges. But on the other hand, too much stress can damage your health. So maybe the key to a long and healthy life is being able to manage this fine line between too much and too little stress. In this continuous tug of war, adaptogens can be a great help.
The list of adaptogen herbs here above is non-exhaustive, and if you know of others please share them with the community.
Until next week, take care my friends.
Smart Living To 100.
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