Stress is something that we all experience throughout our lives. Stress can be beneficial for the body, if it's 'good stress' meaning we are excited, our pulse quickens and hormones surge. Short-term stress is nothing to be concerned about. It's when the stress levels are high for a longer period of time- this is when it starts to affect your body. And when you do nothing about it, the stress can turn truly detrimental for your health, like contributing towards anxiety, heart disease, insomnia, leaky gut, adrenal fatigue and different autoimmune conditions.
There are very crucial steps to take to lower your stress levels and below are most commonly gone wrong areas to start from (I know it's easier said than done, but take one step at a time):
re-evaluate, reduce or eliminate the stressors in life (work, relationships with others and yourself, environment where you live)
prioritise sleep- a minimum 8 hours per night
exercise as regular bodily movement is known to reduce stress
re-look at your daily menu- eating clean and well-balanced food has profound benefits for your health. If your body is inflamed because what you feed it (high-sugar, artificial colours, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, too much gluten and dairy, alcohol etc), it will have a great impact on how you feel and also how capable you are handling stress
There is a lot more that can be written about the different factors in life that affect the stress levels, but in this blog I want to focus on what are the best adaptogens to use for combating stress.
What are adaptogens?
They are plants and herbs that have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for helping the body react better to stress. Adaptogens help to balance both your body and support your adrenals, managing different kinds of stressors, such as physical, biological and chemical.
Some adaptogens are used for enhancing mental performance, plus stimulating the body, while others are used for calming your body. Adaptogens can boost vitality and strength, help with adrenal fatigue, promote better sleep, but also treat other issues in the body.
Adaptogenic herbs promote a more balanced response to on-going stress. They regulate the production of stress hormones in your body, which protects you against adrenal fatigue and HPA axis dysfunction.
Below are some of the best adaptogens to use as they have been studied for their positive effects on stress relief and adrenal balance.
Ashwagandha (also known as Indian ginseng, winter cherry)
calms the mind
lower blood pressure
enhances the activity of immune cells
improves thyroid function
increases stamina and endurance
source: Wikipedia Commons
How to consume Ashwagandha?
The taste of Ashwagandha is quite bitter, therefore many people prefer to take Ashawagandha in a supplement form. I have been consuming it in a powder form- adding it to warm drinks (almond milk or coconut milk, with different spices) and adding a half a teaspoon of honey. But you can also add it to foods, like when you are making energy balls, smoothies etc.
In order for Ashwagandha to have an effect, consume it for for 2 weeks or so. It's recommended to take breaks and not using Ashwagandha for long periods of time. Don't consume it, when you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Also don't consume it when you are taking any diabetes and blood pressure medications or if you have a surgery ahead that requires anaesthesia (stop taking Ashwagandha at least 2 weeks before).
lowers the secretion of cortisol during stressful periods
protects your heart
helps to burn fat
source: Wikipedia Commons
How to consume Rhodiola?
Rhodiola is typically taken in a capsule or tincture form. You can also consume it in a powder form, by mixing it in the glass of water. Take Rhodiola around 15 minutes before your meal once a day. You can also add Rhodiola powder to a hot (not boiling) water and consume it as a tea.
helps with acid reflux and heartburn
helps with leaky gut
fights adrenal fatigue
improves immunity as it's anti-viral
helps with sore throat and cough
relieves bodily pains, both stomach and muscle
helps with PMS and reduces menopause symptoms
source: Wikipedia Commons
How to consume Liquorice Root?
You can consume it as a tea, supplement or tincture. Do not take more than 100g a day.
Do not consume liquorice root when you are pregnant, also when you fight with any of the following cancers (uterine, ovarian, breast). Also do not take liquorice root at least two weeks before any surgery.
reduces stress and improves mood
boosts immune system
improves brain function
helps with weight loss
lowers blood sugar
improves your lungs
treats sexual dysfunction
source: Wikipedia Commons
How to consume Ginseng?
There are different types of ginseng: Asian (look for Korean, red of Penax ginseng), American (look for Panex quinquefolius), Indian, Siberian, Brazilian.
Most common way to consume ginseng is as a tea. Of course the best option would be if you could get the fresh root, but powdered root works as well. But do not consume it in high amounts, as it is a stimulant, so could could cause nervousness and insomnia.
As with the other adaptogens, pregnant, breastfeeding women should not consume ginseng. Also women with breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis and uterine fibroids because ginseng has estrogen-like effects. People with diabetes, some autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis should avoid ginseng. Those who have had bodily organ transplants may not want to take ginseng as it could increase the risk of organ rejection.
boosts the immune system
helps with anxiety and depression
fights with cancer
reduces pain associated with headaches, stomach, measles, herpes
pain reliever for snake bites, toothache, tonsillitis, sore throat
helps with common cold, asthma, flu
is a natural laxative
alleviates inflammation in the body
improves problems with skin
fights infections, such as urinary tract infections, bloodstream infections, vaginal yeast infections, malaria, gum disease, typhoid etc.
How to consume Echinacea?
Echinacea can be taken in a tincture, capsule or a tea form. It's recommended to consume Echinacea after the meal and not on an empty stomach.
I would actually want to challenge myself and plant Echinacea in my garden next spring, so I can make my own tincture from it.
improves sexual health
improves memory and mood
rich in antioxidants
boosts male fertility
balances hormones- increases hormone production when your body is under-producing, and brings down hormone production when your body is over-producing hormones
source: Gaia Herbs
How to consume Maca?
You can consume it in a powder, capsule, liquid or extract form. Powder for example can be easily added to your favourite drink or smoothies or mixed into recipes (but don't over-heat your food where you have added Maca, as it may damage some of the nutrients.
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
naturally decreases anxiety and balances stress hormones
manages adrenal fatigue
helps with unbalanced blood sugar and protects against diabetes
fights acne and skin infections
supports oral health
supports eye health
helps fight cancer
helps with respiratory disorders
How to consume Holy Basil?
It is mostly consumed in a supplement form, as a holy basil tea or as an essential oil. You can also add chopped tulsi leaves and add it your favourite soup.
As with the other above adaptogens, avoid consuming holy basil when you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Holy Basil can only slow blood clotting, therefore best not to use it for couple of weeks prior, if you plan to have a surgery.
As you have read above, adaptogens help to balance, restore and protect your whole body. They don't have just one specific action, they help to respond to any stressor or influence and bringing your physiological functions to balance.