It’s Monday morning and your inbox has hit triple figures. Your puppy pooped on your favourite rug. Then you turn around to clean it up and bam – you’ve spilt your coffee. So, you head to a yoga class to calm your stress, and all you can think about (midway through downward dog) is that rude email from Janice. Ugh.
Ok, maybe your day doesn’t look exactly like this, but stress is something we all have in common.
Although, the thing we often forget is stress is a normal response. It’s a psychological and physiological reaction to events we experience in our everyday lives. We can’t run from stress – but what matters is how we deal with it.
Well, we’re about to dive into a group of plants and fungi that can help you cope with stress – AKA adaptogens.
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens (or adaptogenic herbs) refer to plants or fungi that can help the human body adapt to stress, whether it’s physical or psychological. Originating from Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic traditions, adaptogens work to restore balance in the body. As the name suggests, they help us adapt.
Do Adaptogens Work?
Many folk swear by adaptogens. But currently, a lack of large-scale research means we can’t draw any definitive conclusions about their efficacy.
That being said, animal studies reveal that adaptogens have neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, anti-depressive, anxiolytic, nootropic activities, as well as the ability to stimulate the central nervous system.(2) Neat.
But wait, what do adaptogens actually do?
Well, it’s believed they interact with the HPA axis (AKA, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis).(1) This system controls our reaction to stress and regulates processes like digestion, immunity and mood.
And lastly, adaptogen is a broad term. So, if you’re wondering about the effectiveness of adaptogens, it may be best to look at research on the specific herb you’re interested in.
6 Of The Best Adaptogens
A small shrub traditionally found in Russia, China, Korea and Japan, Siberian Ginseng is believed to strengthen the spleen, nourish the kidneys, boost energy, reduce inflammation, reduce blood pressure, improve heart health and more. It’s sold as capsules, tinctures and powders, and its long list of potential health benefits make it a popular supplement around the world.
Ashwagandha is central to Ayurvedic Medicine, a type of alternative medicine native to India. For thousands of years, people have used ashwagandha to reduce stress, anxiety, fatigue, inflammation and arthritis, while improving immunity and quality of life. Ashwagandha can be taken as a capsule, powder or tincture.
Not a herb, but a fungi. Cordyceps is a rare and exotic mushroom that grows out of the brains of insects and spiders. But once you get past that gruesome detail, you’ll see it’s used to overcome physical stress by boosting energy, endurance, ATP, VO2 max and recovery. It’s been used in the east for over 2000 years, drawing the attention of professional and novice athletes alike. Today, it can be taken as a powder, capsule or tincture.
One of the most widely studied medicinal mushrooms, reishi symbolises success, well being, divine power and longevity. In more recent times, research suggests it can promote immunity, reduce stress, calm the mind, support the liver and energise the body. And that’s just scratching the surface. Reishi can be taken as a powder, capsule or tincture.
If you’ve ever travelled to Peru, you’ve no doubt stumbled upon maca. Maca is a root vegetable that grows at high altitudes across the Andes Mountain range. It’s been used by indigenous people for thousands of years, believed to boost libido, fertility, energy, mood, memory and immunity. Today, you’ll find it in powdered, capsule or tincture form.
Holy basil isn’t any old basil that you’d use to make pesto. It’s a sacred plant in India, used to restore your mind, body and spirit. For thousands of years, holy basil has been revered in Ayurvedic Medicine, helping to increase energy, create internal balance, treat wounds, boost stamina, increase libido and detoxify the body. Holy Basil can be taken as a supplement, and it also has a delicious peppery flavour for tea and cooking.
Are There Side Effects Of Adaptogens?
The short answer: adaptogens are widely considered safe to use. It may help to think of them less as a mysterious supplement, and more as a highly nutritious plant or mushroom.
The long answer: as with anything we consume, there’s a risk of having an adverse reaction. If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, prone to allergies or taking prescription medicine, we recommend speaking with your doctor before taking any natural supplements.
And even you’re not any of those things, we still recommend seeking professional advice on the adaptogen that speaks to you. Whether that’s cordyceps for energy, ashwagandha for inflammation or maca for the bedroom.
At Natura Mushrooms, we grow, harvest and extract a range of medicinal mushrooms, all so we can share the holistic health benefits of fungi with you.
Written by Shane and Ash, the scientists and mushrooms farmers behind Natura Mushrooms.
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