By Dr Jean-Marc Sobczyk, MD ND
Want to know how to cope with daily stress? Let’s talk about Adaptogens!
Here is what the dictionary says about “Adaptogens”: a nontoxic substance and especially a plant extract that is held to increase the body’s ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning.
Using Adaptogenic herbs increases our resistance and resilience to stress, aids the body to adapt around a problem, avoiding deeper health repercussions, makes Qi in the body (in Traditional Chinese Medicine). Adaptogens work through support of the adrenals, a non-specific action, a generalized normalizing action irrespective of the direction of the disease process
Adaptogens are great herbs to take on a regular basis, when we are going through challenging times in our life, when we are sick and lack of mental or physical energy, when we are studying hard to pass exams or training to improve our physical performance. Some herbs work well on the mental emotional aspect, some work better on how stress affects our physical performance and recovery and other plant work well on both mental and physical aspect of stress.
How do they work?
Adaptogens modify the function of our adrenals a small but very important gland, located on top of our kidneys. They help modulating the release of Cortisol, Norepinephrine, Epinephrine and Acetyl Choline, our stress hormones. Adaptogens act slowly with positive cumulative effect over time and aid the body in finding homeostatic balance.
My Top 5 Adaptogenic Herbs
1) Shisendra: It calms the overactive brain and is used to treat anxiety, insomnia, palpitations and forgetfulness due to excessive stress. Numerous studies show Schisandra’s ability to quicken reflexes, increase work efficiency, control anger and combat neurasthenia (headaches, insomnia, dizziness, palpitations). Other studies show increases in cognitive function and increased memory. Like all adaptogens, it will improve stamina and endurance but also have hepatoprotective properties.
2) Ashwaganda is a relaxing adaptogen. It is effective for anxiety, insomnia, cloudy thinking and nervous exhaustion. It helps to restore normal sleep patterns in those who experience insomnia because of stress maladaptation. Ayurvedic herbalists use the herb to reestablish long-term sleep rhythms. It will increase WBC and RBC counts, so is useful for patients undergoing chemo or that are exhausted and anemic. It has GABA agonist effects, increasing binding at GABA receptors and can be used to reduce cravings.
3) Rhodiola moderates the stress response, thus is appropriate to use for treatment of stress, both acute and chronic. individuals receiving a standardized extract of Rhodiola rosea demonstrated significant improvements in physical fitness, psychomotor function, mental performance, and general well-being. Interestingly, Rhodiola is an adaptogen which also has antioxidant and cardioprotective properties. Rhodiola provides a dual action of cognitive stimulation and emotional calming
4) Licorice: Glycyrrhiza has many uses. One of the most profound effects is extending the half-life of cortisol. This cortisol sparing activity lends anti-inflammatory action and helps the body recover from the debilitating after effects of long term stress. Glycyrrhiza helps patients to reduce cortisone intake and to assist in healing adrenal atrophy due to steroid consumption. It is used as an adaptogen to support adrenal function, aid recovery from illness/stress and it tastes good mixed with other adaptogenic herbs.
5) Astragalus: Astragalus has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It energizes the body and builds deep immune strength. Enhances tolerance to stress and decreases fatigue. It also increases mitochondrial function without increasing the mitochondrial oxygen consumption. It is used to enhance recovery of deficient or depleted patients and protects against oxidative damage. Astragalus has a hepatoprotective effect and is also nephroprotective.
For optimal results, you want to combine these herbs together to obtain a broader beneficial action. At the Akasha Center for Integrative medicine, our doctors are trained to assess your specific needs for adaptogens and will recommend, if needed, one of the Akasha naturals supplements available to help you coping with your current stress level.
Dr. Jean-Marc Sobczyk is a Medical and Naturopathic doctor who specializes in Pediatrics and genetic analysis and treatment. You can contact him and schedule an appointment with him by calling us at (310) 451-8880 or visiting us at akashacenter.com. You can follow him on Instagram @drjeanmarc and @mthfr_expert
- ldAlt Med Review Journal, 2002
- SCNM (southwest College of naturopathic medicine, Tempe, AZ), Botanical Medicine Department: Herbs Monographs