Adaptogens – What Are They And Can They Help You?
A great natural tonic for your well-being. From time to time we may all find ourselves struggling to cope with life’s demands… Some people cope better than others. The good news is that there’s a natural solution that will help us to unlock those deep reserves that we all have. We can more than just cope with life, we can positively excel.
The solution? A group of specialised medicinal plants called Adaptogens. These hardy and robust plants have been in use for thousands of years and have unique qualities. Because of their resilience, they are able to withstand harsh, challenging environments and conditions like freezing temperatures and high altitudes; and they impart these qualities to us when we take them. Adaptogens are versatile and can be taken in different forms such as teas, tinctures or powders.
Adaptogens literally help you adapt to cope more effectively with stressful situations whether short, medium or long term. Adaptogens help with stress from any cause. This can be assaults on the immune system, as in the case of bacterial or viral infections; extreme physical exertion; stress in the workplace or at home; free radical damage that cause ageing and chronic disease or invasive treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation. Adaptogens also help us with situations that cause emotional or mental stress by increasing stamina. They have a tonic effect, building up your energy reserves over time for increased strength, endurance and resilience.
Adaptogens can assist in many ways. Here are some examples:
Adaptogens For Stress
Are you finding life overwhelming? You may be trying to cope with aspects of daily life such as work, home and personal issues. In this day and age, you can find yourself frequently out of your depth with increasing demands on your time and energy. For instance, a common complaint that I often hear is that employers now want more from their employees, without necessarily offering any additional time in which to do it or increase in pay as an incentive or reward.
Adaptogens give us the ability to meet life’s demands. For example, if you work long hours and/or get little sleep, you may find yourself becoming increasingly tired and stressed. An inability to sleep is often one of the first signs of stress. Adaptogens work by altering the way our bodies react to stress. They increase resilience so that the way we perceive and respond to stressful situations is much less acute. By making the most of the energy produced by our cells and maximising the use of oxygen, proteins, fats and sugars, Adaptogens give us stamina and endurance, when we most need it.
Adaptogens prevent the rapid spikes and falls in our blood sugar that stress can cause. These fluctuations cause fatigue, as they create a demand on our energy reserves. Adaptogens regulate and make the best use of the glucose in our cells, preventing blood sugar imbalances and giving us the ability to cope. At the same time, we remain alert with good mental function.
Adaptogens For Sport
If you’re a sportsperson looking for natural ways to get the most out of training, improve performance, build muscle more easily as well as increase strength and endurance, then adaptogens will be invaluable in helping you achieve these goals. Adaptogens have long been used by elite athletes and have been proven to assist with faster recovery from training so that you can train more intensely and efficiently, improving your performance across the board.
Olympic athletes first used Adaptogens at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. However, regardless of the intensity or type of sport or physical activity you do, you can benefit from using Adaptogens. They are used to manage demanding training programmes; improve speed, strength, endurance and recovery. They can give us the edge by making more oxygen available to the brain and muscles during long periods of exercise or competition, increasing our energy levels while reducing fatigue.
Adaptogens help us to recover from intensive training, protecting us from acute stress and weakened immune function that often results. Unlike anabolic steroids, adaptogens maximise sports performance without compromising health.
Adaptogens are able to convert more energy into fuel for our muscles, helping to build, repair and regenerate muscle tissue, increasing strength and muscle mass.
Adaptogens For Ageing
Do you find the thought of ageing in an unforgiving world vaguely terrifying? I know I did. Are you looking for ways to increase vitality and remain active as you age? Wondering if there is a way to slow down or even reverse the ageing process? Adaptogens are the best kept secret in holistic health. They can do all this and more.
Ageing is an inevitable part of life, but it is how we age that matters – we have a choice. None of us want to age prematurely, losing our health, vitality and independence.
Adaptogens are rich in anti-oxidants and help to protect against free radical damage which causes premature ageing. They also prevent inflammation which is common in most chronic degenerative diseases, i.e. cancer, diabetes, heart disease, neuro-degenerative disorders, i.e. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and disorders affecting vision such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
There are also many Adaptogens that are tonics which help slow ageing, promoting long life and vitality. Adaptogens maximise our production of energy, which is extremely beneficial, as poor energy reserves contribute significantly to chronic disease. For instance, did you know that nightly liver detoxification is dependent on adequate energy reserves?
In youth, our energy is focused inward (anabolic) building, healing and regenerating our bodies. However all too often in old age, this energy begins to dwindle, chronic disease sets in, bodily systems break down (catabolic) as in the case of osteoporosis and a catalogue of other health problems.
Adaptogens can improve this regenerative energy, slowing or even reversing a decline in health that often accompanies ageing. These improvements can be measured by the changes in our bodies, hearing and sight. Adaptogens can improve our muscle strength, restore physical stamina and strengthen the nervous system. We can literally reduce our metabolic age.
Adaptogens For The Immune System
If you are one of those people who catch every cold and flu that’s doing the rounds you may think that it’s just your lot and there’s little you can do about it. Well, the good news is there’s a lot that can be done to boost your immune system to fight off those nasty bugs! Adaptogens are well-suited to equip you with the fighting power you need to stay fit and well during the winter months or in the height of flu season.
Chronic stress demands energy to enable us to respond. The energy that we need to regenerate and stay on top of things is often in short supply. As a result, our immune system weakens, reducing our ability to resist infections. Adaptogens are able to release and make the best use of the energy from our cells to keep us well when we are at our most vulnerable.
Adaptogens either stimulate various aspects of our immune system to work more effectively, which reduces the risk of catching infections or they reduce auto-immune reactions (when the immune system is overactive and mistakenly attacks us) as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis.
Adaptogens prevent bacteria and viruses from reproducing, which shortens the length and severity of illnesses like the common cold and ‘flu and have been proven to reduce the presence of ‘flu by up to 70% .
So if you haven’t already you really should make Adaptogens part of your life.
By Patricia Ferguson, BSc (Hons) CPP
(For more about Patricia see below)
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- Winston & S. Maimes. Adaptogens, Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief Rochester, Healing Arts Press, 2007
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Medical Herbalist, BSc (Hons) CPP
A firm believer that you have the power to make profound changes, Patricia aims to support you on your journey – and help you resolve ongoing health problems.
She has not only published several articles, but has served as health expert for Holland & Barrett’s Healthy magazine. At a local level, she regularly dispenses health advice in a health food shop.
You can also find a wealth of information on medicinal herbs and living food on Patricia’s blog The Living Pharmacy.
Raw food and healthy eating specialist
Passionate raw food enthusiast, Patricia is the only medical herbalist in the UK who combines living food teaching with herbal medicine.
After discovering how enzymes in living food benefit your health, improve looks and increase vitality, Patricia pursued her interest further. Now, she successfully teaches others how to incorporate raw foods into their lives.
A member of the Permaculture Association, Patricia’s interest in self-sufficiency and sustainable living, extends beyond her practice.