A Quick Reference Guide to Choosing an Adaptogen

by Katrine van Wyk

The one thing all adaptogens have in common is the ability to help the body better adapt to stressors and challenging environments.

They work both in the immediate moment and with long-term use. Say you have a big day of work meetings and presentations ahead of you—taking some adaptogens might make you perform better, help you stay focused, deal with any stressful situations that occur and keep your energy up! Or a cup of holy basil tea at night might help you unwind and calm down before sleep. A study of rhodiola, Schisandra, and eleuthero found that one single dose of these effectively increased mental performance and physical endurance in the test subjects. Pretty cool stuff.

In the long term, adaptogens can work with your stress-response system (aka the hypothalamic- pituitary-adrenal axis) to help your body adapt to stress and actually cause it to produce less stress hormones. The best part is, adaptogens can do all that without the unfortunate side effects of most other stimulants, such as caffeine, sugar and alcohol (common effects of those are addiction, tolerance buildup, sleep disruption and blood sugar issues). 

Adaptogens also work to regulate the immune system. Whereas some people might need their immune system to activate to help prevent them from getting sick, others may need the immune system to calm down and stop overreacting, which is the case for allergy sufferers.

Some of the many benefits you may experience when introducing adaptogens to your life are improved cognitive functions: focus, memory and clarity; a boost to your libido, desire and heightened pleasure; strengthening of your immune system—bye, flu season!; strength, stamina and performance boost; curbed cravings; improved sleep quality; sense of harmony and balance; hormonal balancing; slowing of the visual signs of aging; glowing, radiant skin; loss of belly fat; increased lean muscle mass; boosted energy levels; calm reactions to stressful situations; support and recovery from stress, exhaustion and exercise; elevated consciousness and protection of your energy and vibrations; an overall feeling of well-being.

Adaptogens are amazing plants that can further your health goals and boost your well-being. They may help you snap at your kids less, focus better at work or sleep well at night. But, as with anything in the health and wellness world, they are a piece of a bigger picture. Just taking adaptogens on top of an otherwise unhealthy and overscheduled lifestyle may improve your stress levels somewhat, but you do also need to take care of yourself in other ways! Eating nourishing, whole foods, engaging in physical exercise and time outdoors, and getting adequate sleep, as well as participating in meaningful relationships and love are crucial for a thriving mind, body and spirit.

Excerpted from Super Powders, and reproduced by permission of The Countryman Press. All rights reserved.

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