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What are Adaptogens? You’ve probably heard this word thrown around and being praised for their healing powers and stress reduction. But do they actually work? Or are they just the next fad pill or powder designed to take your money?
Adaptogens may seem like another trending thing to add to your diet, but they’ve actually been around for a long time!
Adaptogens have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries! The’ve been used to enhance physical and mental health, help with the body’s defense mechanisms, and to promote longevity.
Sounds too good to be true right?!
WHAT ARE ADAPTOGENS
Adaptogens are “stress-response modifiers that increase an organism’s nonspecific resistance to stress by increasing its ability to adapt and survive (1).” Adaptogens help to reduce stress in the body and help the body maintain homeostasis.
Stress can come in many forms. Adaptogens work on an intracellular and extracellular level and help with endocrine, immune and neurological stress that the body may be under.
Adaptogens have been shown to have beneficial effects against neurodegenerative cognitive impairment, metabolic disorders, chronic inflammation, cancer, atherosclerosis, and other age related disorders (1).
ADAPTOGENIC HERBS – ADAPTOGEN SUPPLEMENTS
- Bacopa monnieri
- Holy basil
- Licorice root
- Lion’s mane
- Mucuna pruriens
- Rhodiola Rosea
- Siberian Ginseng
WHAT IS ASHWAGANDHA
Ashwagandha is also known as Withania somnifera and Indian ginseng. It is a shrub plant where the roots, leaves and berries have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine.
Ashwagandha has been demonstrated to reduce anxiety and stress, reduce chronic inflammation markers (C-reactive Protein), and have anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects. It has also been shown to significantly reduce cortisol concentrations and the immunosuppressive effect of stress (2).
In Indian Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha has been used to help with inflammation, sexual issues, nerve tissue damage, stress, anxiety, insomnia, and many other ailments. It has also been shown to improve physical performance and reduce of fatigue sensation in both sedentary people and athletes (2).
WHAT IS ASTRAGALUS
Astragalus is a genus of flowering flowering plants consisting of annual and perennial herbs and shrubs, There are more than 2000 species of Astragalus. Out of the over 2,000 different species, only A. membranaceus and A. mongholicus are primarily used for medicinal purposes (3).
Astragalus has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant, antioxidative, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, and antiviral activities (3)
In traditional Chinese medicine, Astragalus is used as as antiperspirants, diuretics, and tonics for a wide array of diseases such as nephritis, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cirrhosis, leukaemia, and uterine cancer (3).
Some species of Astragalus have been shown to have properties of intensifying phagocytosis of reticuloendothelial systems, stimulating pituitary-adrenal cortical activity, and restoring depleted red blood cell formation in bone marrow (3).
WHAT IS BACOPA MONNIERI
Bacopa monnieri is most commonly referred to as “bacopa.” Also, every time I try to type “bacopa,” my mac book pro autocorrects it to “bacon.” I think my laptop knows how much I like bacon hahaha.
Bacopa has been used in Ayurvedic medicine as a nootropic, an herb that sharpens the mind.
BACOPA MONNIERI BENEFITS
Bacopa uses include treatment for memory loss, anxiety, poor cognition, and loss of concentration as well as to treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
In a recent study, Bacopa was shown to inhibit the release of inflammatory cytokines and inhibit enzymes associated with inflammation in the brain (4).
WHAT IS CHAGA
Chaga also know as Inonotus obliquus, is a parasitic fungus that grows on hardwood trees in the northern hemisphere, mostly in Europe, Canada, the northern US, Kazakhstan, Siberia, Ukraine, Japan, South Korea, and in China (5).
Chaga has been used since the 12 century as an anthelminthic, as an anti-tubercular, to cure digestive disorders (gastritis and ulcers), or even to prevent cardiac or hepatic illnesses.
In recent years, Chaga has been used in the Eastern hemisphere for its effects on lipid metabolism, cardiac function, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antitumor activities (5)..
WHAT IS CORDYCEPS
Cordyceps, also known as Chinese caterpillar fungus has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Cordyceps are a parasitic complex of a fungus and a caterpillar, where the fungi live on the larvae of caterpillars of moths (6).
Cordyceps have been shown to have immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-tumor effects. It has also been used to treat colorectal cancer and lung cancer (6)
WHAT IS HOLY BASIL
Holy basil, grown in India is also know as Ocimum sanctum. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine, and has been worshipped for over 3,000 years being called “elixir of life” due to its healing properties. Holy bail also goes by “The Queen of Herbs,” “The Incomparable One,” and “The Mother Medicine of Nature” (7).
HOLY BASIL BENEFITS
Holy basil has been suggested to possess anti-fertility, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, cardioprotective, analgesic, and anti-spasmodic actions (7).
WHAT IS JIAOGULAN
Jiaogulan, also known as Southern Ginseng and Gynostemma pentaphyllum, is a plant that grows in China. It has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to treat hepatitis, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. (8).
Jiaogulan has been found to have many different pharmacological properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, lipid metabolism regulatory, antiproliferative, neuroprotective and anxiolytic activities.
Recent evidence suggests that Jiaogulan may have anti-cancer activities through multiple mechanism, including cell cycle arrest, the induction of apoptosis, inhibition of invasion and metastasis, glycolysis inhibition and immunomodulation (8).
WHAT IS LICORICE ROOT
Licorice root, also known as Glycyrrhiza glabra or “sweet root” grows in Greece, Turkey and Asia. It consists of the dried unpeeled or peeled, whole or cut roots and stolons (9).
LICORICE ROOT BENEFITS
Licorice root has been used for centuries as antitussive expectorant, relaxant, to relieve pain that occurs because of a sudden nervous breakdown of muscle or tissue, to reduce weight gain, to increase white blood cell count, and also because of its diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects (10)
New research suggests that licorice root exhibits not only estrogenic, but also anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-cancer, hepato- and neuroprotective properties (9).
Nowadays people use licorice root for digestive problems, menopausal symptoms, cough, and bacterial infections (11).
WHAT IS LION’S MANE
Lion’s mane, also known as the Hericium erinaceus “Yamabushitake” and “Satyr’s beard,” is a mushroom that grows on both living and dead broadleaf trees in Asia, North America and Europe (12).
LION’S MANE BENEFITS
Lion’s mane has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to support longevity. More recently it has been shown to have nootropic capabilities including improved recognition and memory (12).
Nowadays Lion’s mane is used to reduce anxiety, increase insulin sensitivity, improve gut health, increase energy, and act as an anti-inflammatory agent.
WHAT IS MACA
Maca, also known as Lepidium meyenii or “Peruvian Ginseng”, grows way up high in Peru’s Central Andres mountains. The Maca plant is a cruciferous vegetable related to cauliflower and broccoli. The root is most often used to create powders or made into capsules to be consumed.
Maca has been used for centuries for its fertility enhancing and libido boosting properties. It also is used to treat anxiety and depression. There are two main types of Maca, black maca and red maca.
Black Maca shows the best results on spermatogenesis, memory and fatigue. While red Maca has been shown to reverses the benign prostatic hyperplasia and experimentally induced osteoporosis, as well as reduces glucose levels and lowers blood pressure (13).
WHAT IS MUCUNA PRURIENS
Mucuna Pruriens, a legume also know as Fabaceae or “Velvet Bean” is found in tropical and sub-tropical regions. It is safe for human consumption and is 23-35% protein (14).
MUCUNA PRURIENS BENEFITS
Mucuna Pruriens is an herbal drug that has been used for male infertility, nervous disorders and as an aphrodisiac. It has been shown to have anti-parkinson and neuroprotective effects, which may be related to its antioxidant activity. It has also been used to treat nervous disorders and arthritis (14).
WHAT IS REISHI
Reishi, also known as Ganoderma lucidum “lingzhi” is a fungus that grows on decaying wood, that cause white rot on a variety of tree species. It’s also been referred to as “the mushroom of immortality.”
In ancient Chinese and Japanese artwork Reishi has been associated with royalty, wisdom, sexual prowess, and eternal life (15).
Reishi has been used for centuries and is traditionally used for it’s anti-inflammatory and immune enhancement features.
Nowadays Reishi is used for boosting the immune system, reducing fatigue, anti-cancer properties, and treating depression (15).
WHAT IS RHODIOLA ROSEA
Rhodiola rosea, most common known as “Rhodiola” “arctic root” and “golden root” grows in the cold Northern Hemispheres of Europe, Asia and in the Arctic.
RHODIOLA ROSEA BENEFITS
Rhodiola has been used for centuries for anxiety, fatigue, anemia, impotence, infections, headache, depression related to stress, to increase physical endurance, work performance, longevity, and improve resistance to high-altitude sickness..
Nowadays Rhodiola is used to increase energy, stamina, strength, memory enhancement, decrease stress and to reduce anxiety (16).
WHAT IS SCHISANDRA
Schisandra, also known as Chinese magnolia vine, have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine.
In the past Schisandra was used in the treatment of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory failure, cardiovascular diseases, body fatigue and weakness, excessive sweating and insomnia.
In traditional Russian medicine, it was used as a tonic which could reduce hunger, fatigue, delaying the aging process, increasing vitality, and improving mental health (17).
WHAT IS SIBERIAN GINSENG
Siberian ginseng, also known as Eleutherococcus senticosus is native to Russia, Japan, Korea and China. It is a thorny shrub which can grow up to 15ft high, who’s roots of are used for medicinal purposes.
SIBERIAN GINSENG BENEFITS
Siberian ginseng has been used for centuries to boost immune systems, reduce fatigue, enhance endurance, and for longevity. It has now been shown to act as an antioxidant, antibacterial, and lower insulin levels (18).
What are adaptogens good for? Adaptogens can be used to treat stress‐induced fatigue and cognitive function, mental illness, and behavioral disorders (1).
How do adaptogens work? Adaptogens help to regulate our adrenals, pituitary and hypothalamus. Particularly how they respond to stressors. “Adaptogens exhibit multi-targeted actions and the shared use of a number of different receptors, including receptors for corticosteroid, mineralocorticoid, progestin, estrogen, serotonin (5‐HT), N‐methyl‐d‐aspartate, and nicotinic acetylcholine, receptor tyrosine kinases, and many G protein–coupled receptors (1).”
What is the best adaptogen? That depends on what you are hoping to achieve by taking adaptogens. Some of our favorite adaptogens are ashwagandha, cordyceps, holy basil, maca and rhodiola.
Will lowering cortisol help lose weight? When cortisol turned on, insulin is released from the body. When insulin is release, glucose is stored and our fat burning mechanism are switched off.
Adaptogens are very popular among people who Intermittent Fast and those who follow a keto diet. If you’re new to keto and don’t know where to start, check out our Keto FAQ page and our guide to calculate your macros for a keto diet.
- Panossian, A. (2017), Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1401: 49-64. doi:10.1111/nyas.13399
- Deshpande, A., Irani, N., & Balakrishnan, R. (2018). Study protocol and rationale for a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to evaluate the effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on nonrestorative sleep. Medicine, 97(26), e11299. http://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000011299
- Li, X., Qu, L., Dong, Y., Han, L., Liu, E., Fang, S., . . . Wang, T. (2014). A Review of Recent Research Progress on the Astragalus Genus. Molecules,19(11), 18850-18880. doi:10.3390/molecules191118850
- Nemetchek, M. D., Stierle, A. A., Stierle, D. B., & Lurie, D. I. (2017). The Ayurvedic plant Bacopa Monnieri inhibits inflammatory pathways in the brain. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 197, 92–100. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2016.07.073
- Géry, A., Dubreule, C., André, V., Rioult, J.-P., Bouchart, V., Heutte, N., … Garon, D. (2018). Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), a Future Potential Medicinal Fungus in Oncology? A Chemical Study and a Comparison of the Cytotoxicity Against Human Lung Adenocarcinoma Cells (A549) and Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells (BEAS-2B). Integrative Cancer Therapies, 17(3), 832–843. http://doi.org/10.1177/1534735418757912
- Lee, H. H., Lee, S., Lee, K., Shin, Y. S., Kang, H., & Cho, H. (2015). Anti-cancer effect of Cordyceps militaris in human colorectal carcinoma RKO cells via cell cycle arrest and mitochondrial apoptosis. DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 23(1), 35. http://doi.org/10.1186/s40199-015-0117-6
- Rastogi, S., Kalra, A., Gupta, V., Khan, F., Lal, R. K., Tripathi, A. K., … Shasany, A. K. (2015). Unravelling the genome of Holy basil: an “incomparable” “elixir of life” of traditional Indian medicine. BMC Genomics, 16(1), 413. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-015-1640-z
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