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Adaptogens for Adrenals, Anxiety and Beyond!

15 May 2023
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Stress Management 

If you've been told before, that the key to your health is managing your stress, you may have found yourself rolling your eyes? 🙄 We totally get it! It's kind of an annoying thing to hear.

Living in this modern world with all its challenges is incredibly difficult at times  but when it stress becomes chronic, it can take a huge toll on our health and that includes the adrenals.

Adrenals are a gland that sit above the kidneys and they are the gland that produce many important hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are not bad and play vital roles in our wellbeing and keeping us safe but if they are over-produced (if we are constantly stressed out and living in 'fight or flight' mode), this overtaxes these glands and our system as a whole.

Ongoing Stress

Ongoing stress impacts our gut, which can lead to a 'leaky gut' and a leaky gut often leads to autoimmune conditions such as MS, Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, IBD, CFS, fibromyalgia, thyroid disease and much more!

Chronic stress has a negative effect on our adrenals glands. The adrenals are important as they produce hormones that regulate metabolism, immune function, blood pressure and stress response. 

Stress that is ongoing and chronic is also linked to anxiety, insomnia, heart disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes and arthritis. 

You can see how important it is to manage the chronic stress and this is where 'adaptogens' can help.

Many things in life are out of our control but what we do have control over is how we respond, our diet and lifestyle and the things we consume.

One of these beneficial consumables is adaptogenic herbs! 😃

Adaptogens is what this blog is mostly about today and we explain our top 5.

Before we do this, let's explain what an 'adaptogen' is.

An adaptogen is a type of herb that allows the body to "adapt" to stress (of all kinds). These herbs have been used since the beginning of time and by many cultures. It's only of recent times that they're getting such widespread attention. 

Why You Might Like Adaptogens? 

If you do find life overwhelming and you often find yourself stressed out, anxious and even down in the dumps, adaptogens could really help you. Perhaps you've been diagnosed by a naturopath or functional doctor as having 'adrenal fatigue' or maybe your patience is wearing thin.

Whatever the reason for you, adaptogens could become your new bestie. 😍

Before we get into specific adaptogens, we want to inform you of all the wonderful benefits of adaptogens themselves:

  • Adaptogen herbs can help us to cope with both internal and external stress.
  • Adaptogens can help to improve our ability to function (both mentally and physically)
  • Adaptogens help to normalise bodily functions and bring about balance and harmony
  • Adaptogens can help to boost energy, vitality and wellbeing
  • Adaptogens help to fight tiredness and fatigue
  • Adaptogens may help to support the immune system
  • Adaptogens help to support both organs and systems
  • Adaptogens are safe* for the most part

*Always seek medical advice form your trusted health practitioner before adding any new herb or supplement to your diet. They will be able to best advise regarding contraindications for you as an individual. 

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries as it has a powerful effect at reducing stress and bringing about calm. Known as the 'calm energy king'. 😌

Also known as 'Withania'. You will find this herbs in many adrenal and nervous system herbal formulations and elixirs.

Ashwagandha works in the following ways:

(backed by science)

  • Helps to control heat shock proteins, cortisol and JNK-1 (stress-activated c-Jun-N-terminal protein kinase)
  • Reduces stress and anxiety by calming the system (helps to reduce perceived stress and levels of cortisol).
  • Nourishes the adrenal glands by helping to regulate cortisol levels
  • Has powerful regenerative effects (neuro-protective, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving/analgesic).
  • May help with memory and mood
  • May help with ADHD (attention deficit disorder) as it helps the brain

We could talk about this herb until the cows come home as there are just so many incredible benefits. Ashwagandha can also help to improve blood sugar levels, male fertility, arthritis, Parkinson's disease, chronic inflammation and much more!

Like all herbals, it should be treated respectfully and not over-used/abused. For this reason, we recommend (for most herbal supplements) to seek advice from your healthcare provider.

Astragalus

Astragalus is another powerful adaptogen and adrenal-loving herb. The reason that it's so effective is due to its bioactive compounds. 

These bioactive compounds are polysaccharide factions, isoflavonoids, saponins, triterpenoids and gaba-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

GABA in particular, is known for its calming effect as it helps to control hyperactivity of nerve cells. These cells are associated with anxiety, stress and also fear.

The bioactives mentioned above (contained in astragalus) also have a positive effect on growth hormones, blood sugar, inflammation, circulation and fluid balance.

If you feel "run down:, you may really enjoy astragalus. 😊

Other Benefits of Astragalus

(backed by science)

  • Potentially disease-protective
  • Contains powerful antioxidants which help to fight free radical damage and oxidative stress
  • Immune-support and natural antibacterial 
  • Help with high blood pressure
  • May help diabetics
  • Liver-protective
  • Natural anti-inflammatory 
  • Strengthens a weakened system

Maca

Maca is a well-known adaptogen and it also goes by the name 'Peruvian Ginseng' as it has similar benefits to ginseng. Its flavour can be described as "malted milk butterscotch".

If you have Adrenal fatigue, you may have heard about it or even been advised by your health practitioner to take it. If you're going through hormonal change or issues there, you may also know about maca.

Maca is a potent adaptogen used to support and nourish overworked adrenals.

If you're looking for a boost in nutrition, maca is for you! It contains boron, calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc as well as vitamins B2, B3, B6 and C 

Did you know that maca is also a source of protein? It contains almost every amino acid so this is fantastic for women wanting to boost their protein intake (especially during peri/menopause).

Another fascinating fact about maca is that it contains 20 free fatty acids (including linolenic, steric and oleic acids).

Maca is a rich source of plant sterols that are known to enhance the immune system and keep us well and energised during flu season. 

As mentioned, it has a kind of butterscotch/malted milk flavour and can be added to hot beverages, smoothies and much more! 🤤

If you're a woman who is going through PMS, perimenopause or menopause. you might really find maca beneficial for you as it's a known hormone-balancer (helps to balance oestrogen and progesterone).

Hot flashes and night sweats can be greatly reduced by taking maca on the regular. This is why it's so popular amongst women having these hormonal shifts and challenges. 

Other Benefits of Maca:

(backed by science)

  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Helps to boost glutathione & SOD (antioxidants produced by our body)
  • Known to help fight chronic disease and neurological damage
  • Enhances energy, focus, memory and mood
  • May help to relieve the symptoms of depression
  • Can help to improve sexual function (including libido)
  • Helps balance out female hormones (oestrogen and progesterone)
  • Can help reduce PCOS symptoms
  • May help with bone density

So as you can see, it can do a lot and that is why it has earned its "super food" label many times over!

Rhodiola

Rhodiola rosea is one of the most well-known of the adaptogenic herbs and it's also one of our most popular products. People seem to really enjoy its benefits (stress-relief in particular).

In early stages of AFS (adrenal fatigue syndrome), rhodiola can be incredibly beneficial and effective. The reason for this that during early adrenal fatigue, a person can feel exhausted. Rhodiola can help with exhaustion and also energy. It may also help with the anxiety that a person feels during this time.

If you have more advanced AFS, you may be better suited to the other adaptogens we talk about here (ashwagandha, astragalus, maca or schisandra).

The reason for this is because rhodiola can also be quite stimulating and when your adrenal fatigue is advanced, this might be too much for you. It is always best to work closely with a health practitioner who knows a lot about how to treat adrenal fatigue (like a naturopath or functional/integrative doctor.

Other Benefits of Rhodiola:

(backed by science)

  • Improves energy, fatigue and tiredness 
  • Boosts mood, focus and concentration
  • May improve symptoms of depression (as it positively affects neurotransmitters)
  • Can help our brain to function better
  • Can improve exercise performance (at the gym, running, fitness classes, athletes)
  • May help people with diabetes (salidroside compound in rhodiola has protective qualities). Shown to protect against diabetes in rat studies.
  • May help protect against altitude sickness

Schisandra

Last, but certainly not least, we have schisandra (pronounced shizandra)!

Schisandra is a type of berry and its very popular in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) because it has a plethora of healing benefits.

If you're looking for a herb to turn down cortisol production, schisandra might just be for you?

Schisandra is known to help nourish the adrenals glands but also improve metabolic health, mental capability, digestion, skin and hormonal balance.

It would be right up there with some of the best hormone-balancing herbs!

In studies, schisandra has been shown to improve nitric oxide levels which helps to improve blood flow. Improved blood blow helps our brain, kidney health, recovery, sexual function (erections for men), and overall health.

Out of all the adaptogenic herbs, schisandra is one of the safest and can be taken longer term without any risk or contraindications.

Schisandra is believed to work better, the longer you take it and if you are going through stress, you will love its supportive, adaptogenic powers!

 

Other benefits of Schisandra:

(backed by science)

  • High in antioxidants for anti-ageing, beautiful skin, vitality and reducing oxidative stress
  • Contains flavonoids isoquercetin and quercetin (which can act as natural anti-histamines)
  • Is a natural antimicrobial
  • Inflammation-fighter!
  • Immune-booster 
  • Hunger reducer 
  • Neuro-protective
  • Liver support/Liver protective/Liver function/Liver cleanser
  • Digestive health
  • May help to boost sexual function
  • Cardiovascular benefits
  • Cancer protective (see diagram below)
Schisandra shows anti-cancer effects

 

So as you can see, all of these herbs have powerful adaptogenic benefits but also many other potentials to improving one's wellbeing. You must find the herb/s that are right for you. 

 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6979308/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ashwagandha

https://www.drlamcoaching.com/blog/benefits-of-ashwagandha-adrenal-fatigue-syndrome/

https://www.drlamcoaching.com/blog/understanding-rhodiola-health-benefits/

https://draxe.com/nutrition/maca-root-benefits/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/rhodiola-rosea

https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/astragalus

https://holisticprimarycare.net/topics/chronic-disease/herbal-options-for-managing-adrenal-fatigue/

https://draxe.com/nutrition/schisandra/

 

Disclaimer: the information in this article is intended purely as information and not health advice. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure and one should always seek expert advice from their trusted health practitioner.

https://www.jesssherman.com/blog/maca-for-moms

https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/15145

https://balancewomenshealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Leaky-Gut-by-Jill-Carnahan.pdf

https://www.themacateam.com/maca-nutrition-facts

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/adrenal-glands#:~:text=What%20You%20Need%20to%20Know,stress%20and%20other%20essential%20functions.

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22857-gamma-aminobutyric-acid-gaba#:~:text=It%20slows%20down%20your%20brain,with%20anxiety%2C%20stress%20and%20fear.

https://www.amymyersmd.com/article/adaptogens-stress-adrenal-fatigue

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