You spilled your coffee on your new shirt, you’re late for work, and your kid is having a melt down in the back seat? We’ve been there. Think the day is doomed? Good news: adaptogens are here to help your mind and body adapt to life’s doozies.
What are adaptogens?
An adaptogen is a natural substance believed to “help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes.” Let’s break down what exactly this means.
At least 70 types of herbal plants are considered adaptogens. Rhodiola rosea, ashwagandha, and holy basil being just a few of the most common. When it’s said that these plants can help the body adapt to stress, exactly what type of stress is this alluding to? Good question.
There’s of course mental stress, which many people experience on a regular basis. Something like the situation above, where everything seems to be unraveling in one flurry of craziness. But there is also physical stress, or stress on the body, from something like a lingering injury or muscle soreness from a tough workout. As anyone with physical pain knows, physical stress can be equally distracting and ultimately cause mental stress.
The theory behind adaptogens says that they help your body adjust to various types of stress. How? Adaptogens are believed to stimulate your body’s stress response, which ultimately helps your body return to homeostasis.
Homeostasis, from Greek words for “same” and “steady,” is the body’s self-regulating process of bringing overall balance. You know the feeling when your mind and body feel out of whack — well, your body is constantly working to get you out of this mind-body funk.
In other words, we definitely want our bodies to be in homeostasis in order to work the absolute best they can! And while it can be difficult to tell if your body is in homeostasis at any given time, adaptogens are a little cheat to getting there quicker.
Is CBD an adaptogen?
CBD is the talk of the town for it’s impressive effects on stress, sleep, and balance for the mind and body. So with adaptogens as the ultimate stress-fighters, you may be wondering: can CBD be considered adaptogenic?
CBD has properties very similar to that of our favorite adaptogens, but it’s not officially considered one. Of course CBD comes from the earth (like all adaptogens), but cannabidiol is a molecule, not a plant extract, so it cannot technically be classified as an adaptogen.
However, like adaptogens, CBD influences the endocannabinoid system. Because the endocannabinoid system helps maintain physiological, emotional, and cognitive stability, it plays a big role in helping the body maintain homeostasis. Being that CBD interacts with this system in a similar way as adaptogens do, CBD too can help us regulate stress a bit better and get us closer to achieving that much desired state of balance.
So while CBD is not officially classified as an adaptogen, it has some very similar properties to that of our beloved adaptogenic plants.
What are the effects of adaptogens on the mind and body?
With all of the awesome benefits of adaptogens, you may want to know exactly how they are interacting with your body and mind to get you there.
Let’s talk about... stress. Virtually impossible to avoid, stress can really take a toll.
When we face a stressor (physical or mental), our bodies go through what’s called general adaptation syndrome. General adaptation syndrome (GAS) is comprised of three stages: alarm reaction, resistance, and exhaustion.
- Alarm reaction stage is when you feel the initial symptoms of what we commonly understand as stress. This is the stage that we experience the “fight or flight” response and the body decides if it will flee or protect in a dangerous or stressful situation.
- The resistance stage refers to the period after the fight-or-flight response when the body begins to repair itself. Your body tends to remain on high alert but is able to return to a more normal state. You can think of this stage as the calm after the storm.
- The exhaustion stage is exactly what it sounds like. This stage refers to the exhaustion or fatigue you may feel after dealing with a stressful situation.
So what do these stages have to do with herbs? As mentioned before, adaptogens help the mind and body respond and adapt to stress. In terms of the stages of stress, research suggests that adaptogens may help the body stay in the resistance phase longer. Instead of crashing in the midst of a stressful situation, we can hold onto equilibrium a bit longer in the resistance phase.
When we are able to adapt to stress, we perform and feel better. And because we know stress can start a cascade of a whole bunch of issues for the body, adding these stress-fighters to your routine may help.
Different Types of Adaptogens
Various adaptogens boast various benefits for your mind and body. While at the core all adaptogens help fight against stress, depending on which one you choose you could have added benefits for mental fatigue, endurance, and even sleep.
Some of the most common adaptogens include:
Reishi mushrooms: a type of mushroom said to help the body adapt to stress and promote a healthy sleep pattern
Lion’s mane: supports cognitive function and balance brain and body
Ashwagandha: Ayurvedic herb often referred to as “rejuvenator” for its stress-relieving properties
Bacopa monnieri: supports memory function and cognitive function
Rhodiola rosea: fights fatigue and supports mental alertness and concentration
How to Add Adaptogens to Your Daily Routine
Now if you’re ready to add some adaptogens to your routine, there are quite a few ways. Many adaptogens come in individual supplements, teas, tinctures, and powders. For us, the most convenient way to add adaptogens to your routine is with a capsule that combines several adaptogens into one easy pill.
Adding adaptogen supplements to your routine may not get rid of the coffee on your shirt or make you on-time for work, but it may help you feel a bit less stressed about it all.
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