Everybody feels stressed at some point of the day! Adaptogenic herbs are natural remedies against stress whether mental or physical. These plants restore our natural good vibrations, helping our body to adapt to environmental factors that threaten our internal balance.
In our frantic and busy life, we all deal with stress and our bodies strive to adapt and keep balanced and healthy. It is well known that a short period of stress doesn’t compromise our health, it is important primarily for our adaptation and thus for survival. However, a prolonged state of stress can have unpleasant consequences for our health, especially in the long run. This is because over-exposure to stressors suggests a set of biochemical reactions – in particular the over-release of stress-hormones - that our body is not able to handle for a long time.
In relation to this concern, there is a class of plants defined “adaptogens” - primarily certain roots, barks, berries, leaves and mushrooms - that when taken over a period of time help our body to perform better under stress.
Specifically adaptogens help our body to adapt, and to restore quickly our internal balance, normalizing the body’s release of stress hormones.
As far as stress as a condition of threatened homeostasis (a set of regulated internal conditions that allow us to maintain balance), is concerned, adaptogens’ active components make each cell of our body more intelligent in dealing with stress and thereby reduce the negative impact of all stressors on our physical and psychological well-being.
Interestingly plants that contain adaptogenic compounds have to contend with a good deal of stress themselves: most adaptogens grow in some of the harshest climates on earth. In this sense “adaptogen” refers to a plant's ability to adapt to its surroundings.
Ever since ancient times humankind have included plants on their daily diet both for nutritional and healing purposes. Nowadays we still use plants as food in forms of spices, teas or condiments to enhance our physical and mental health. For instance, we have all taken at least once, a good cup of chamomile to sleep better and feel restored the day after. However, uses of plants can be different depending on directions, customs and traditions.
Adaptogen plants, for instance, have been used in many traditions for millennia - especially in China and India – as “rejuvenating herbs”.
These plants are, in fact, essential for cellular metabolism to restore the function of all the body systems. Adaptogens are within the category of “functional food”, which are defined as foods that thanks to specific active components provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Modern research has proven that many of these herbs can be used for the prevention and treatment of a variety of common ailments thanks to their phytochemical compounds.
By definition, adaptogens are unique herbs that help us to adapt to all forms of stress, including emotional and psychological stress. Adaptogenic active components have in fact the potential to reduce the cellular sensitivity to stressors helping our neuroendocrine system to re-regulate the excess of hormones produced in case of prolonged-stress conditions. Interestingly, adaptogen plants characteristically grow in environments with large shifts in day to nighttime temperatures. This ability to adapt to these fluctuations is in part what increases their adaptogenic properties.
Adaptogens’s phytonutrients act improving our non-specific response to stressors. “To clarify, a non-specific response in an organism implies the power of resistance or adaptation – the building of “adaptive energy” to keep the body balanced (i.e. homeostasis) when affected by multiple stressors or harmful influences.”* Adaptogens stimulate, activate or promote a healthy response of the body in multiple non-specific ways. For this reason frequent and long-term use is highly recommended so as to have a good reserve of adaptive energy always “ready to use” in case of prolonged stress.