Adaptogens are a select group of herbs (and some mushrooms) that work to counteract the effects of stress in the body. Adaptogens have stimulant properties that protect against physical, environmental and emotional stress. Stress can negatively affect the neurological, endocrine and immune system.
Adaptogens are used to alleviate these harmful effects on the body. Adaptogens have the ability to aid with a variety of different health conditions, including pain, digestive issues, insomnia, and more. Stress causes a chain reaction of physical reactions that alter our immune system, hormones, cognitive function, and our internal clock, known as our circadian rhythm.
Adaptogens improve stress resistance and promote recovery and homeostasis (or stability) in the body by doing so. Adaptogenic capabilities have been revealed in certain plants and fungi, including certain mushrooms, according to researchers.
Adaptogens boost the body's resilience to physical, biological, and chemical stress, aid in the maintenance of normal functioning during stressful periods, and guard against stress-related damage.
Adaptogens work at a molecular level by regulating a stable balance in the hypothalamic, pituitary and adrenal glands.
They “adapt” their function according to the specific needs of the body whether that be physical, chemical or biological and can possess opposing qualities ie. being relaxing or stimulating depending on what the body requires.
The body has three stages of stress: alarm phase, phase of resistance and phase of exhaustion. Adaptogens stretch out the phase of resistance.
An ingredient is considered an adaptogen in herbalism if:
1. It is safe and non-toxic
2. It builds an adaptive energy in the body
3. It has a balancing influence on our physiology.
The stress response of the body is complicated, involving numerous biological systems, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). This is the primary stress response system in the body.
The HPA axis' primary function is to release glucocorticoids such as cortisol. Glucocorticoids are steroid hormones that cause the stress response to be activated. Adaptogens typically act by regulating the HPA axis and other important stress mediators.