Adaptogens are a group of nontoxic herbs and roots that are used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. They are used to boost the adrenal system, which is responsible for managing the body's hormonal response to stress. They help to enhance the body's response to stress and boost its ability to manage anxiety and combat fatigue. They have a unique way to "adapt" their function according to the body's needs, hence the name "adaptogen." (Related: What are adaptogens and why are they so unique as natural remedies?)
Here are four of the best adaptogens you can take:
Also referred to as Indian ginseng, ashwagandha is a widely-used herb in Ayurvedic medicine to treat stress, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disorders, and concentration difficulties. In a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, adults who experienced chronic stress received either a 300-milligram (mg) capsule of a high concentration full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract or a placebo twice a day for 60 days. The results of the study revealed that those who received ashwagandha root extract displayed substantially lower scores on stress assessment scales and exhibited dramatically lower levels of cortisol compared to those who received a placebo. In addition, research shows that ashwagandha has the ability to fight inflammation and enhance brain health.
Asian ginseng, also known as Panax ginseng, is one of the most powerful adaptogens. This herb, which is native to the Far East, has been used for its health benefits for at least 2,000 years. Research has shown that it can boost energy, enhance mental performance, and improve mood. In a study published in Human Psychopharmacology, researchers gave a single dose of 200 mg or 400 mg of Asian ginseng and found that both doses of Panax ginseng induced calmness on the first day up until the eighth day.
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), also known as Siberian ginseng, is native to Asia and southeastern Russia. For thousands of years, this plant was used as a general stimulant. It is used today to strengthen the immune system. In addition, eleuthero is used for stress management. It works by helping the body handle and adapt to stress better and boost energy. Research on this plant has also shown that it can be used to boost mental performance as well as physical stamina.
Traditionally, Rhodiola is used in Eastern Europe and Asia to help reduce stress. In addition, it is used to help fight general fatigue, reduce anxiety, relieve headaches, and treat depression. In a study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2015, researchers found that Rhodiola can be beneficial for people who have mild anxiety. Treatment with Rhodiola substantially reduced their anxiety, stress, anger, confusion, and depression. In addition, it dramatically improved their overall mood. Participants in the study took a 200 mg tablet of Rhodiola before breakfast and another before lunch daily for two weeks. A 2016 literature review published in the journal Phytomedicine also concluded that Rhodiola extract possesses antidepressant effects in humans.
Adaptogens can be found online or in health or vitamin stores in the forms of supplement, powders, teas, or extracts. You can add the powdered form to your foods, such as smoothies, soups, or baked goods. When choosing an adaptogen and dosage, the best one for you depends on the needs of your body and your physical condition. Experts recommend consulting your health professional first before trying any herbs to avoid complications.
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