In recent posts on the Radiant Life Blog, there has been a lot of talk about stress, how to cope with it, and how to manage it in our daily lives. Some great information has been given, as well as some wonderful ways to combat the stress that is knocking you down. In this post I want to offer yet another way to mitigate stress in our lives – Adaptogenic Herbs.Adaptogenic herbs are natural substances, found in nature, that work with a person’s body to help him or her adapt to the stresses of everyday life. Adaptogens work especially in regulating hormones which, when unbalanced, contribute to persisting stress on the body as well as relentless fatigue. Ugh! No fun, right?!
Some other benefits that adaptogenic herbs offer include:
- A more balanced or leveled mood (1)
- Increasing energy and stamina throughout the day
- A more restful sleep at night
- Help for managing balanced weight
- An overall boost to the immune system (2)
How cool to get all those benefits just by adding a few unique herbs to your daily diet! So how exactly do adaptogens work? Before we get into that, it is important to understand stress and the toll it can take on a person’s body. Stress is only meant to be felt in the body in short increments. Commonly known as the “fight or flight response”, a person gets a rush of adrenaline when the body is put under stress. This could be caused from an unexpected knock at the front door at 3:00 in the morning, preparing for a job interview, or swerving out of the way of an oncoming vehicle. Our body’s natural response to stress is a good thing. The problem comes when that feeling of stress is sustained long term.
Probably the best definition of stress is modern life. Kids, late nights at work, overtime, pressure of finances, illness in the family… these are all things that take a big toll on the human body, and certainly cannot always be fixed or avoided. When the body is under a sustained amount of stress, it can affect the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is produce by the adrenal glands and is responsible for regulating our body’s circadian rhythm. When cortisol becomes too out of control, a person can be “tired and wired”, finding it hard to fall asleep at night, only to wake up later on during the night, and then be totally fatigued post-lunch time the following day. (3)
The compounds in adaptogenic herbs help to mitigate the stress in your body, thus bringing cortisol levels back in check and overall hormones back in balance. There are a number of different adaptogenic herbs to try, each with their own unique benefits. Today I am going to cover my top three favorites:
- Holy Basil
- Asian Ginseng
Ashwaganda is probably my favorite adaptogenic herb, but then again, it is so hard to choose! Also known as “Indian Ginseng” and “the Queen of Ayurveda”, Ashwaganda is best known “because of its extensive benefits including anti-cancer, anti-stress and remedial potential for aging and neurodegenerative pathologies. The effects of Ashwaganda leaf extracts are multidimensional ranging from differentiation of neuroblastoma and glioma cells, reversal of Alzheimer and Parkinson's pathologies, protection against environmental neurotoxins and enhancement of memory.” Over the years there have been such reports of over 200 studies of this incredible herb. Some other noted benefits of supplementing with it also include lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar. (4) (5)
Holy Basil is also amazing! I love it simply because it is so calming and soothing. My favorite thing to do is to put some loose leaves of this herb in a warm cup of tea at the end of the day and just kick back and let it work its magic! I always feel more relaxed, de-stressed, and ready for a good night’s sleep. Holy Basil is also a member of the mint family. Not only is it soothing and relaxing, but it is also known to aid in heart health as well as lower lipid counts.(6)
Lastly, but certainly not least, Asian Ginseng, or Panax Ginseng, is known for a whole host of benefits. Some of these include fighting viral infections, reducing stress, lowering blood sugar and cholesterol, and boosting memory. (http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-ginseng-asian.html) Another notable benefit, and probably my personal favorite, is that Asian Ginseng is also known for supporting physical endurance and boosting overall energy. (7)
Well, as you can see, these simple and lovely herbs have such a wide range of added benefits, above and beyond just helping your body adapt with stress and obstacles in daily life. There are many ways to get these adaptogenic herbs in your daily diet, such as in tablet form, tinctures, or loose herbs (which I personally love as they can be so versatile and added to teas, soups, broth, and more!). Remember, if you are going to make an herbal tea or a broth, be sure to use pure water.
Here at Radiant Life, we offer a variety of different ways to store your adaptogenic herbs, keeping them airtight and fresh for months and years to come. My favorite thing to do is to buy the loose herbs at various quality online herb shops, and then store them in these glass apothecary jars. I love these jars because they are glass, rather than plastic; they are dark tinted glass, which protects the delicacy of the herbs; and they seal beautifully, making the jars airtight and best able to protect the potency of the herbs. There are also these glass tall jars, which are very similar to the glass apothecary jars, just quite a bit smaller. The neat thing with this option is that you could sample all sorts of different adaptogenic herbs, storing them in the smaller jars, and then once you decide on your favorite, buy in bulk and go with a larger glass apothecary jar!
Have you tried Adaptogenic Herbs? Let me know your favorites in the comments below!