What are Adaptogens and how do they benefit our health?
Adaptogens are real plant based heroes. They can help improve your stamina, boost immunity, help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and resistance to physical stress. They are plants that regulate our physiological state when we are confronted with physical, emotional and environmental stressors, creating a state of balance within the body. Adaptogens help the body adapt to stress, support normal metabolic function, modulate the immune system and regulate endocrine hormones.
Balance in your body.
There are structures within your brain that constantly monitor everything in your body. For example, your temperature, how much carbon dioxide you have in your lungs and your sugar levels. This system monitors and then adjusts in order to maintain a balanced system. The hypothalamus controls this balancing act. This area of the brain looks after those functions that do not happen automatically. It links brain and body via the neuroendocrine system. This partners brain monitoring (neuro) with your endocrine system, which is the hormone producing part of your body. Your brain speaks to the endocrine system who then send out its messengers (hormones) into the system. This communication system controls your sleep, waking time, heart rate, blood pressure, memory, mood, appetite, temperature and even libido.
Upsetting the balance
When we talk about ‘stressors’ these includes mental and emotional stress, physical illness, the ageing process and even exercise. Think about the many things that can literally throw you off balance. An illness, fluctuating female hormones and prolonged stress. We are living in times of perpetual stress and anxiety which means, for some, rarely returning to the rest and digest state of relaxation. In these challenging times a perpetual cocktail of stress hormones including cortisol and adrenalin are flooding our systems, contributing to both mental and physical disease.
Addressing the balance.
Many of the plants we define as adaptogens grow in inhospitable places. In order to survive in extreme conditions, they developed clever adaptations and strategies that helped them to survive and thrive.
The active compounds found in these plants called phytochemicals can affect the human body. This is because the plant equivalent of a compound can stimulate the processes of the body in the same way as the human compound equivalent. For example, phytoestrogens found in the pea plant family such as soy are sufficiently similar to our own sex hormone oestrogen to stimulate our oestrogen production. Some adaptogens increase stamina by improving energy metabolism and others such as ginseng have been found to act on the hypothalamus to help the body recover more quickly from the effects of stress.
Adaptogens can help us regain our health and achieve equilibrium. Think of them as self-care support. Working alongside your own stress management strategies to reduce the harmful effects of anxiety. Helping you balance hormones, reduce inflammation, improve immunity, increase mental clarity and reduce fatigue.
A 2010 study in the Research Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacodynamics confirmed that the leaves of the moringa tree are a powerful, natural adaptogen. Moringa increases the bodies resistance to stress whatever the source. Studies have also shown it to balance blood sugar levels so an all-round superfood for balance in these anxiety inducing times.
The ginger like spice has been used for centuries for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. Turmeric helps the body maintain balanced blood glucose and cholesterol. It is an adaptogenic herb that supports the body’s antioxidant function while helping to regulate corticosterone.
Evolved to survive the high altitude of the Andes, Maca is a good example of a plant that has adapted to survive. Maca is a nutrient dense superboost that balances hormones and regulates the endocrine system. It regulates hormones without being hormonal, therefore, Maca is good for perimenopause and menopausal symptoms.
The most famous adaptogen, Ginseng regulates the hypothalamic – pituitary – adrenal (HPA) axis of endocrine glands to support adrenal function and reserves by regulating the release of stress hormones by the adrenal glands. This means that stress hormones are released in smaller amounts, reducing the negative effects on the body. This is helpful during prolonged periods of stress and anxiety. This has been shown to reduce the time spent in fight or flight mode.
Ginseng has also shown to balance the immune system, lower cholesterol and reduce blood sugar levels. As a stimulant adaptogen Ginseng increases blood flow and improves circulation.
The superhero of adaptogenic herbs and the most prolifically studied. In the largest human trial using ashwagandha, the herb was shown to reduce cortisol levels up to 26%. Chronically elevated cortisol increases inflammatory and degenerative processes in the body. Additionally, the participants had a lowered fasting blood sugar level and improved lipid profile patterns. Ashwagandha has also been shown to support the regeneration and reconstruction of nerve cells and synapses. This suggests that ashwagandha could help reverse states of brain and nervous system degeneration.
Ashwagandha is in our Golden Goddess Superfood Powder
The endocannabinoid system in our bodies is responsible for regulating many physiological processes such as appetite, pain sensation, mood, sleep, memory. There are three types of cannabinoid that interact with receptor sites of the endocannabinoid system. Our own naturally produced endocannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids produced in a lab and finally plant cannabinoids such as the phytocannabinoid CBD. Regardless of type, cannabinoids act as neuromodulators and help regulate every physiological system such as our nervous system, digestive system, reproductive system, immune system, endocrine and muscular system. Cannabinoids are an essential component involved in keeping the body in balance, creating homeostatic balance.