While Dirt Queen loves adaptogens and SO many other herbs and mushrooms - nothing will ever replace a healthy diet, regular exercise, drinking enough water, and getting a sound night’s sleep. Everything else is secondary.
Now that we've made our disclaimer - onto the fun!
What are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are natural matter (herbs/mushrooms/etc.) that "normalize" your body. They want to return your body to homeostasis. They assist your body in adapting to changes in the environment.*
This holiday season may have you meeting up with friends and family for the first time in a while so let's talk about what Adaptogens can't do first.
- Adaptogens can't ward off your aunt with the essential oils. ;)
- They can't replace sound advice from a medical professional.
What can they do?
Potentially help with sleep, help with mood regulation, and more!*
Ashwagandha, an extremely popular adaptogen, is getting repeatedly recognized for not just helping people fall asleep, but having a normal wake cycle - people report not feeling groggy waking up.*
The Short Version:
First, let's oversimplify what happens to our body when we are stressed. The fight or flight response in our brain is activated and hormones are secreted for survival. Adrenaline and Cortisol - these hormones make us fast, strong and also shut down non-essential for survival functions. Shutting down non-essential for survival functions include suppressing our digestion, immune system response, growth functions, and a whole lot more.
We are living in times when our bodies response to stress doesn't serve us - our bodies fight or flight response was built to survive physically threatening situations like a wildcat, not a rude email from your boss. Long exposure to these hormones can cause fatigue, a weakened immune system, and so much more.* According to studies adaptogens help aid our body during these situations - they are particularly helpful with regulating the hormones.*
The long version:
We're all probably familiar with fight or flight responses. Essentially, something upsetting or stressful happens, our amygdala is activated and tells us to fight or flee the scene. This was really useful when we were cave people but now in modern times - it's less beneficial.
There's a lot going on internally with your body when this happens.
Your uncle with the strong political views has had too much eggnog and is ready to tell you about those "idiots" he just watched on the news. You can flee to your mom in the kitchen or fight your uncle. (Just kidding but arguing with him is another typical response.)
There are a few things happening beneath the surface in this scenario -
1. You're secreting adrenaline. Adrenaline is the hormone that makes you as fast as the flash, moms lift cars, hearts race, and blood pressure raise.
2. You're secreting cortisol which helps curb functions what would be non-essential or harmful in a real emergency situation. "It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with the brain regions that control mood, motivation and fear." - Mayo Clinic
Your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) provides a fast response mechanism to external stress. These systems secrete neuropeptides, ATP, and Nitric Oxide. Nitric Oxide (NO) is a popular supplement used in body building but is extremely helpful with counterbalancing cortisol. By inhibiting cortisol it may be able to reduce the negative effects of excessive and prolonged amounts of cortisol. According to this study:
"Adaptogens do not increase the levels of cortisol and NO in the human body under acute physiological loads [6, 31, 61]." (This means you're not getting excessive amounts of cortisol while working out.)
"Plant-originated adaptogens, for example, Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill, can prevent and resist stress because these substances can activate the secretion of cortisol and NO in the plasms and saliva, allowing the body to adapt to heavier loads." Your body excretes cortisol - your body excretes NO to handle it.
"After the consumption of plant-originated adaptogens, physical exercises do not increase the level of cortisol and NO in the human body; in fact, the levels decrease, comparing to those present prior to physical exercise. Thus, adaptogens can increase the level of messenger substances that activate stress (NO) and suppress stress (cortisol)." This also means you have more energy and can workout longer.
Adaptogens can help combat stress, support your immune system, and even nourish your brain. *
Which means you can be more chill, help your body fend off the unknown, and not forget about the special gift you were supposed to get this holiday season.* :)
Here are some of our favorites:
If you're looking for specific recommendations for stress - Ashwagandha is a favorite of ours to put into your morning or evening beverage - we love Kola Goodies Ashwagandha and Sun Potion Ashwagandha. (adaptogens help your body adapt to stress, which means if you run super high anxiety and have issues sleeping, it may chill you out - so maybe try before bed - if the opposite is true - maybe try in the morning - people do both.)
Goldmine 's original formula is another great option which features a mixture of mushrooms and botanicals to help with stress.