It’s no secret that everyone is stressed out, and many of us are stressed out chronically. Society expects us to do it all – keep a house, raise a family, pursue an active career, workout 4x/week.
And all that busyness and stress zaps our energy, messes with our sleep, and generally makes us unwell.
Whether it’s that 5pm glass of wine, an edible, or even a Xanax, we’ve all got some quick-fix way of chilling out, even if it’s just for an hour or two. But it’s really temporary, not exactly healthy, and definitely not sustainable.
Adaptogens are changing the way we deal with stress, offering a natural, healthy alternative to your evening wine and your morning coffee.
Instead of temporarily quieting stress that just comes back stronger after the edible or the Valium wears off, adaptogens approach stress proactively, increasing resilience at the cellular level.
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What are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a class of edible plants, algae and mushrooms with bioactive properties.
These properties work to bring your body back into balance by regulating its systems, freeing up energy and lifting stress-related fatigue.4 To be classified as an adaptogen, a plant must:
- Be safe at normal doses
- Help the body deal with stress
- Help the body return to a balanced state
Adaptogens aren’t just hype. While they’ve just recently become mainstream, every one of them has hundreds if not thousands of years’ worth of use behind them in Eastern and folk medicines.
This long history means there’s endless anecdotal evidence that these plants help us feel better.
And the renewed interest in adaptogens for stress management has opened adaptogens up to clinical scrutiny, which has revealed the biological mechanisms behind the benefits they offer.
The Science Behind 4 Key Adaptogenic Plants
Of the millions of plant, algae and mushroom species on the planet, around 70 have been classified as adaptogens.
Still, 70 is an intimidating number if you’re considering adding bioactive plants to your life.
There are a few adaptogens you’ll find in the most effective natural stress-relief supplements, and they’ve got some pretty convincing clinical data behind them.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a shrub-like plant and arguable the most well-known of all adaptogens.
It offers a broad array of benefits by affecting our HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) system. One of these benefits is increasing our physical and emotional resiliency to stress.
A large body of clinical evidence supports this claim, including studies which have shown ashwagandha:
- Reduces anxiety scores in high-stress individuals by up to 70%.
- Increases the body’s production of GABA, the main inhibitory (read: calming) neurotransmitter.
- Lowers cortisol levels by up to 33%.
- Regulates hormones by increasing deficiencies and reducing excesses.
- Promotes healthy sleep in people with insomnia, anxiety and high stress.2
Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthero)
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) isn’t actually a ginseng at all, though when taken as a supplement, acts in nearly identical ways.
Much like true ginseng, the stress-relieving and invigorating effects of Siberian ginseng stem largely from its actions on the HPA axis. Clinical data supports eleuthero as an effective adaptogen that:
- Increases oxygen uptake and pulse, boosting blood flow and energy.
- Reduces exhaustion/fatigue.
- Improves mental health and social functioning.
- Improves sleep.
- Decreases restlessness.4
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Holy basil (Osimum sanctum) is a small shrub and a cousin of basil. A staple of Ayurvedic medicine, holy basil supports nearly all your body’s systems, which is why it’s been used as an holistic wellness treatment for thousands of years.
With regards to stress, clinical data indicates holy basil doesn’t only increase mental resilience to stress, but physical resilience as well. The literature shows that holy basil:
- Protects the body from toxicant stress (chemicals, radiation, etc).
- Reduces metabolic stress by regulating blood glucose and protecting organ health.
- Increases immunity (tulsi is an analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant).
- Reduces stress and associated exhaustion.
- Boosts mood by acting as both an anti-anxiolytic and antidepressant.1
Maca root (Lepidium meyenii) is a small plant native to the Andes, and inasmuch as it’s an adaptogen, it’s also considered a superfood for its dense nutritional profile.
However, Maca supplements are a great alternative to caffeine, as it sustains energy without putting stress on our adrenals – meaning no irritability or jitters.
The fact that this effect is coupled with stress relief makes it a stalwart ingredient in the wellness drink and supplement market. Maca’s stress-relieving properties include:
- Reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Energy production.
- Antioxidant behavior.
- Reducing adrenal stress by lowering cortisol (the stress hormone) levels.3
Stress Less: Advantages of Adding Adaptogens to Your Life
It’s clear that we need better ways to deal with the chronic stressors in our lives, as well as getting through especially high-stress situations.
High cortisol levels in the body damage your vital organs, mental health, and even damages your DNA over time.
Not to mention that being stressed out keeps you exhausted 24/7 because it zaps your energy reserves and disrupts your sleep.
Adaptogens have the ability to help us become more stress-resilient, both physically and emotionally. Along with a healthy lifestyle, adaptogens offer a natural, homeopathic solution for feeling unwell.
You can find the most potent adaptogen mixes in stress-targeted drinks like MTE, which makes it simple to reap the benefits of all 4 discussed adaptogens, as well as a few other nootropics and superfoods.
The best part about adding adaptogens to your life is that they’re balancing and strengthening your body biologically.
It is long-term, sustainable adaptation to stress and a strengthened stress response, as opposed to a temporary stress-quieter like alcohol or cannabis.
To top it all off, adaptogen shots like MTE are vegan, keto, paleo, dairy-free, kosher, and halal, so they’re a great option for all adults of all ages to start feeling better via calm, natural energy.