In today's modern world, the word "adaptogen" has become more and more familiar as people seek holistic paths and solutions.
As their name implies, adaptogens can adapt to the body's needs, bringing balance from varying physical, mental, and emotional stresses.
An interesting fact about many adaptogenic plants is that they can live in stressful conditions and have their own strengths and abilities, which they impart. One of the premier and most well-known adaptogenic herbs in Ayurveda is Ashwagandha, which is highly drought-resistant and can thrive on arid conditions with low soil quality. Most plants would suffer and not survive from these conditions and stresses where ashwagandha flourishes.
The term adaptogen was introduced into scientific literature by Russian toxicologist Nikolay Lazarev in 1957. He defined them as substances (herbal pharmaceuticals) that increase the state of non-specific resistance to stresses, strengthening the functionality of the body as a whole without impacting the balance of any individual organ or bodily system and restoring overall balance.
By definition, an adaptogenic herb's active properties must be safe, non-toxic, and non-habit-forming, even when taken over a long time. However, herbs are not meant to replace the benefits of proper diet and hydration practices or to get rest and rejuvenation.
They work at a molecular level regulating a stable balance in the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands. When we face stress, the body goes through three stages; alarm, resistance, and finally exhaustion. For example, when we experience a stressor, let say intense exercise. The body first goes into the alarm stage, realizing the task/stress at hand. The body then kicks out adrenaline (hormone), which improves performance and increases concentration and focus. This is the resistant phase where we resist the stressor, which brings increased energy and clarity. Then as we fatigue, we enter into the exhaustion stage. The beauty of adaptogens is that they naturally benefit us during the resistance stage, allowing us to be effective when needed.
Adaptogens are also referred to by some as tonics. Although tonics have a general effect on the entire body, they are usually thought to have more specific effects on the body's particular systems. There are unique tonics for the circulatory system and heart, the digestive, glandular, and nervous system.
There are many benefits of incorporating adaptogenic herbs and practices into your daily routine (Dinacharya). They can improve overall well-being, increase energy and immunity, which builds resistance to illness and imbalance. Additionally, they optimize organ function, reduce inflammation, improve blood sugar levels, enhance protein synthesis, improve cholesterol levels, and regulate hormones.
There are many ways to ingest Adaptogens; as food (maca, some mushrooms & Chyawanprash), capsules, teas, tinctures, herbal extracts, and jams. One of my favorite ways to build Ojas and immunity is by making an Adaptogenic lassi in the evening with oat or almond milk infused with Ashwagandha, Shatavari, Rose, Turmeric, Pippali, and Licorice. Also, an Ayurvedic favorite is an herbal jam called Chyawanprash, taken for thousands of years. It is made with 40 herbs and spices and is a natural adaptogenic, rejuvenator, and aphrodisiac.
Below is a list of some common adaptogenic herbs/teas you can readily find on the internet or at your health food store.
You can also contact me; I will make you a personalized formula or supply a specific herb.
Ashwagandha is the premier adaptogenic herb that boosts tolerance to stressful situations.
Eleuthero is a stimulant, improves the nervous system, lowers fatigue, and harmonizes.