Managing stress has long been important for overall health.
Stress levels appear to be at an all-time high with load shedding, high fuel prices, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Adaptogens are synthetic compounds like bromantane, levamisole, afobazole, bemethyl, etc. or plant extracts that have the ability to enhance the body’s stability against physical loads without increasing oxygen consumption”, says Faaizah Laher, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (Adsa).
“Extracts from Panax ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, and Schisandra chinensis are considered to be naturally occurring adaptogens and plant adaptogens.
“To put it simply, adaptogens’ properties and mechanisms of action are evolving due to more evidence emerging, but they’re believed to act as eustressors, or ‘good stressors,’ that mimic mild stress in the body”,says Laher.
They decrease acute distress by modifying chronically high levels of the stress hormones, cortisol and corticosterone, offering a protective effect against damaging stress.
Despite the fact that many people today use plant adaptogens, there have only been a few human clinical trials.
Plant adaptogens may be useful in the treatment of chronic fatigue, cognitive decline, and immune protection, according to data from a meta-analysis.
However, further research is needed before making any firm conclusions because a variety of other factors may interfere with their function and absorption.
Here are five adaptogens recommended by Laher and health professionals alike:
Ashwagandha is a well-known adaptogen and a traditional ayurvedic plant that possesses anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties.
When autoimmune symptoms worsen as a result of stress, “it can help strengthen white blood cells, battle exhaustion, and promote autoimmune health,” Laher says.
A 2014 published literature review discovered that consuming ashwagandha frequently may help reduce anxiety.
Rhodiola, one of the first adaptogens, is advocated by Laher for enhancing focus and relieving stress.
Research that is credible (such as a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the gold standard) indicated that taking rhodiola often helped battle the type of weariness that impairs our mental performance and focus.
According to Dawn Jackson Blatner, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of “The Superfood Swap”: “Rhodiola can help squash a sweet craving”.
It is thought that taking the medicinal mushroom cordyceps as an adaptogen is helpful for your heart, liver, and kidneys. And while that isn’t incorrect, the greatest data links cordyceps to enhancing erectile dysfunction and promoting longevity.
Additionally, it may serve as an aphrodisiac for women. Blatner says: “Newer research indicates that using it frequently for three weeks helps people exercise longer.” She actually has adaptogen-infused mushroom coffee every morning.
“Partly because I truly like it and partly because some of the early studies got me enthusiastic about the advantages,” she said.
This less well-known adaptogen is a stunning red berry from China. Schisandra has long been regarded as a super berry, much like acai is a superfruit.
It has all five primary flavour components, which provides a balancing effect. It also strengthens the immune system and reduces stress.
Eleutherococcus, often known as Siberian ginseng, is excellent for revitalising your chi and has long been a significant herb in Chinese medicine.
Laher suggests this herb if your goal is to replenish your vital energy. According to research, it also supports the function of the adrenal glands, and may encourage the body’s natural process of metabolising stress chemicals.
Before incorporating an adaptogen into your wellness regimen, you must always visit a medical practitioner.
These chemicals might not only interact with your present medications, but also with your routine or current state of health.
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