What the heck are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a unique class of herbs that have been scientifically proven to help the body adapt to stress of all kinds, physical, emotional and environmental. They both enhance the body’s response to stress and minimize the damage caused by stress. How does this translate to how you feel? When your body is less taxed with fighting stress, you feel more energized. Boom!
Our incredible plant friends aren’t like other herbs. To be a true adaptogen there are strict criteria that need to be met. We like to call them the 4 N’s of adaptogens:
- Non-toxic - they must have no ill effects at normal therapeutic doses
- Non-specific - they must work holistically in the body
- Normalizing - they must have a normalizing effect on the body - helps the body regain homeostasis and reach balance
- Neuroendocrine - they must have an influence on our neuroendocrine system, specifically either the HPA or SAS (the two stress response systems of the body)
What do they do to your body?
Adaptogens help the body adapt to stress, but HOW do they do this?
Adaptogens work closely with the body’s two main stress response systems: the HPA axis (Hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis) and SAS (sympathoadrenal System).
They tone these systems by lightly mimicking stress in the body while not adding to the allostatic load, making them a eustressor, a beneficial form of stress (like saunas or moderate exercise!). They also re-balance cortisol levels by making the hypothalamus more sensitive to hormonal feedback once the body has set into motion it’s stress response.
Most interestingly, Adaptogens work bi-directionally! This fascinating phenomenon means that they can determine what each individual body needs to be brought back into balance, so each person will experience them slightly differently!
Why are they better taken over time?
While you'll feel some adaptogens the first time you take them, these herbs have a cumulative effect – the longer you take them the better. Sometimes it takes several weeks to really notice a shift.
When we workout our muscles, we may feel more fit in the moment but we know that long term exercise will build that lasting strength and endurance. Similarly, drinking adaptogens daily is building up the endurance and quality of your stress responses by toning the body’s stress response systems and enhancing the body’s ability to react properly to other, more serious stressors.
This daily and long-term use builds up an adaptive energy reserve to temper the body’s initial reaction to a stressor (also known as the alarm phase). Put simply: The more reserves you have to pull from, the quicker your body can adapt to changing environments, regain balance and ultimately, avoid exhaustion all together.