Excessive stress inhibits the normal functioning of our bodily systems, making it the root cause of many physical and mental illnesses.
hat exactly is stress?
When we say we feel stressed, what do we mean?
Are we feeling overloaded and unable to cope? Are we tense… moody… agitated?
Do we find ourselves being unable to switch off our minds when we lay down to sleep at night?
Perhaps we're flipping between exhaustion and being hyper-alert while experiencing headaches, digestive problems and susceptibility to illness?
Stress can come from external factors, such as work deadlines, complicated relationships, and even traffic. We often forget, though, that stress can come from internal factors as well, such as the weight of our personal goals and self-expectations, our perceptions, and even our desires.
Regardless of the cause though, stress activates the nervous system to release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which bring about changes in the body to help us survive; this is known as 'fight or flight'.
Prolonged physical stress on the body from excessive exercise, lack of sleep, exposure to toxins and poor nutrition, also puts extra pressure on the nervous system and our adrenal glands, leaving us poorly equipped to cope with mental and emotional stress.
A little bit of stress now and then is healthy and normal, and it can help us to challenge ourselves and achieve new milestones in all aspects of our lives.
However, when stress gets out of control, so do our stress hormones, and instead of giving us more energy and boosting our immunity, high cortisol levels leave us fatigued and run down.
Excessive stress impairs our hormonal balance and inhibits the normal functioning of all the systems in the body, making it the root cause of many physical and mental illnesses.
Fortunately, nature has provided us with the ability to adapt.
What are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are plants, such as herbs and medicinal mushrooms, which function similarly to cortisol and can normalise bodily functions and strengthen the systems which have been impaired by excessive stress.
Consuming these wonderful plants lowers our cortisol back down to a normal level, giving our adrenal glands a break and preventing adrenal fatigue.
The adrenals are then able to properly produce other vital hormones, such as progesterone, oestrogen, testosterone and human growth hormone.
In a nutshell, adaptogens enable us to adapt to stressful situations, without causing any strain on the body.
Here are 10 adaptogens you can try for natural and healthy stress management.
Not only does it combat fatigue and restore energy, but Rhodiola is also a great adaptogen to take before a stressful event because it improves concentration while decreasing the cortisol response. In other words, Rhodiola is ideal for acute stress.
So, next time you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming performance, presentation or job interview; try Rhodiola to help you relax and focus.
One of the coolest things about adaptogens is that their powers can change, depending on what your body needs. Ashwagandha can increase your energy when taken in the morning, but it can also help you fall asleep when taken at night.
This adaptogen also supports immune function, improves thyroid function, and can help with adrenal fatigue, anxiety and depression.
Reishi mushroom also improves circulation, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol
This powerful adaptogen is known as the 'Mushroom of Immortality,' and it's little wonder, given its anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Reishi mushroom also improves circulation, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, while supporting the immune system and the respiratory system, so it's a useful adaptogen for people with asthma, which can often be triggered by stress. It has quite a strong flavour, so try masking it in a delicious smoothie!
There are several varieties of this adaptogen, but Chinese Ginseng is reported to be the most potent. Ginseng is calming and has the power to delay the onset of the immediate stress response. With the help of this powerful plant, it is possible to avoid, or at least reduce, those uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety and nervousness.
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Not only can this rejuvenating herb provide you with stress relief, but it also supports your immune system and increases your stamina and endurance, making it an excellent adaptogen for people with an active lifestyle and high physical demands.
Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi, looks pretty similar to regular basil, so make sure you’re getting the real deal to enjoy the stress relief you’re looking for.
Cordyceps is another medicinal mushroom, which is widely regarded as one of the most potent immune system enhancers
Cordyceps is another medicinal mushroom, which is widely regarded as one of the most potent immune system enhancers. In addition to promoting longevity and youthfulness by slowing the ageing process, Cordyceps are ideal for people who are recovering from illness or extended periods of stress and fatigue.
This mushroom is also extremely nutrient dense, so taking Cordyceps can even help to prevent the physical stress caused by poor nutrition.
Astragalus is a popular herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and like many adaptogens, it supports the immune system while acting as a buffer against stress.
However, Astragalus also increases the amount of anti-stress compounds we produce, which repairs damage caused by the stress we’ve experienced in the past. At the same time, this adaptogen also reduces the ability of cortisol to bind to stress receptors. Pretty impressive, right?
In addition to the usual immune-boosting and energising properties, Liquorice root has another, unique superpower; taking this adaptogen can help to protect the thymus gland from being damaged by cortisol. It’s also an effective remedy for leaky gut, sore throats and PMS!
Add Tropeaka Maca to your smoothies to help you de-stress, support your wellbeing and vitality
Maca is a native Peruvian herbal tonic, which has long been prized for its many powerful properties. Traditionally Maca has been used to help balance the hormones in both men and women, which in itself leads to many health benefits.
Add Tropeaka Maca to your smoothies to help you de-stress, support your wellbeing and vitality, and boost your stamina, mental clarity, and endurance.
Fun fact: Maca is the sexiest smoothie ingredient because this adaptogen is great for sexual function, libido and fertility in both men and women.
This potent berry not only fights against free radicals but also actively seeks out cortisol and adrenaline in the blood and neutralises them. This adaptation protects us from adrenal fatigue and supports a healthy level of inflammation in the body.
Another great adaptogen for the athletically inclined, Schisandra also supports our energy levels and endurance and can enhance our overall physical performance.
Although these 10 adaptogens are all really powerful, it’s unlikely that you’ll experience instant results. It will usually take a week or two before your body even begins to regain its delicate balance after prolonged or severe episodes of stress.
Taken regularly, adaptogens are very effective tools to have in your stress management arsenal, and they can have a very positive impact on your overall health and quality of life.
Please note: Before taking any adaptogens, we recommend talking to a healthcare professional with a good understanding of plant medicine. An expert can recommend the ideal adaptogens for your needs and current situation.