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What are Adaptogens?

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help increase your body’s ability to handle stress and fatigue. The idea behind the name “adaptogen” is that they “adapt” to your body’s individual needs.

These important herbs date back to Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurvedic practices. Studies show that adaptogens have neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties.

Long term stress results in overactivity of the brain’s HPA axis (hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands). 

When the HPA becomes overactive, it leads to the release of too much epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol (chemicals involved in the fight-or-flight response). This can result in a variety of health problems, including mental health disorders, insomnia, diabetes and heart disease.

Adaptogens can impact how much cortisol and adrenaline is released, which can help combat adrenal fatigue.

Below are some of the adaptogens we offer at Siesta Botanicals.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, is an ancient Ayurvedic herb. It’s been used for more than 3,000 years to help reduce stress, improve stamina and increase concentration levels. 

Ashwagandha has been shown to support the adrenals by regulating cortisol levels. It has also been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels.

Many of ashwagandha’s health benefits are attributed to its high levels of withanolides, hormone precursors that can convert into human physiological hormones to help bring balance to the body. Studies have shown that ashwagandha can help improve sleep and reduce stress. 

In one review, ashwagandha was shown to outperform psychotherapy by reducing anxiety in a group of subjects by 56.5% compared to only 30.5% in the psychotherapy group.

In Sanskrit, ashwagandha means “smell of the horse,” which may be applied to its unique smell and its ability to increase strength.

Research shows that ashwagandha can help improve sleep and reduce stress. Many of ashwagandha’s health benefits are attributed to its high levels of withanolides, hormone precursors that can convert into human physiological hormones to help bring balance to the body. 

In one review, ashwagandha was shown to outperform psychotherapy in reducing anxiety in a group of subjects by 56.5% compared to only 30.5% in the psychotherapy group.

In another study, a research team looked at the safety and efficacy of a high-concentration extract of Ashwagandha to see whether it could reduce stress and anxiety and improve the general well-being of 64 adults with a history of chronic stress. 

The results show that participants who were given the high-concentration full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract had a notable reduction in scores on all the stress-assessment scales on Day 60, compared to the placebo group. 

In one study, researchers looked at the ability of ashwagandha to increase stamina among swimming rats. 

They write, “Ashwagandha was shown to increase swimming performance in rats as judged by [an] increase in swimming time during [the] physical endurance test.”

“Ashwagandha treated animals showed a significant increase in the duration of swimming time as compared to control. The control group of mice swam for a mean time of 385 minutes, whereas the drug-treated animals continued to swim for a mean duration of 740 minutes. Thus, the swimming time was approximately doubled after Withania somnifera (WS) treatment.”

In a review looking at the effects of ashwagandha on rat anxiety, the authors write, “Ashwagandha induced a calming anxiolytic effect that was comparable to the drug Lorazepam in all three standard Anxiety tests: the elevated plus-maze, social interaction and the feeding latency in an unfamiliar environment.”

“Further, both Ashwagandha and Lorazepam, reduced rat brain levels of tribulin, an endocoid marker of clinical anxiety, when the levels were increased following administration of the anxiogenic agent, pentylenetetrazole.”

“Ashwagandha also exhibited an antidepressant effect, comparable with that induced by imipramine, in two standard tests, the forced swim-induced ‘behavioral despair’ and ‘learned helplessness’ tests. The investigations support the use of Ashwagandha as a mood stabilizer in clinical conditions of anxiety and depression.”

Who should not take ashwagandha?

It is recommended that pregnant and nursing women not take ashwagandha, as well as those with hyperthyroidism. There is some evidence that ashwagandha can cause miscarriage. The herb may also interact with sedatives or certain medications.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea, also called Arctic root or golden root, has anti-stress, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. 

Rhodiola has been shown to reduce mental fatigue and improve sleep patterns.

One study evaluated the effects of a 20-day regimen of Rhodiola rosea supplements on stressed-out students. The results show that participants experienced significantly reduced mental fatigue, better sleep patterns and an increased motivation to study. In fact, their exam scores were 8% higher than students in the placebo group.

Several clinical trials have shown that a Rhodiola extract improves mental performance and attention after single and repeated doses, and also prevents physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion in people with fatigue syndrome. The extract was also found to be effective in treating mild to moderate depression and generalized anxiety.

Holy Basil (Tulsi): Reduce stress and fatigue and improve mood and sleep

Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), or Tulsi, is widely consumed as an herbal tea. It is commonly used in Ayurveda, and has a place within the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism, in which devotees perform worship involving holy basil plants or leaves. 

Holy basil also has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Many people consume holy basil as a potent stress reliever. 

Research has shown that holy basil can improve mood, reduce fatigue and improve sleep. In addition, scientific studies in vitro, animal and human experiments have shown that holy basil exerts a unique combination of actions that include antimicrobial, anti-diarrheal, antioxidant, anticataract, anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective, cardio-protective, anti-diabetic, memory enhancement, anti-asthmatic, anti-arthritic, adaptogenic and anti-stress activities.

Reishi

Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lingzhi) is a fungus belonging to the genus Ganoderma. In Chinese, the word “lingzhi” suggests spiritual potency and immortality. Reishi is considered the “herb of spiritual potency,” symbolizing success, well-being, divine power, and long life. Among mushrooms, Reishi mushrooms are unique in that its pharmaceutical rather than nutritional value is paramount. 

Reishi mushrooms are full of antioxidants and are a powerful immune system booster. They have historically been used to treat infections, improve sleep and reduce fatigue.

Research in cancer patients has found that some of the molecules in Reishi mushrooms can increase the activity of helpful white blood cells known as natural killer cells.

 

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