Adaptogens: Restoring Homeostasis
Adaptogens are herbal plant compounds that induce adaptation and survival during that plant’s oppression—that can be anything from poor soil, poor sunlight, to freezing conditions, etc. Have you ever seen the inspirational quote about survival with a photo of a flower growing in the middle of the desert?
Well, that flower had a butt-load of adaptogenic compounds. Adaptogenic compounds can also provide similar benefits to us during critical stages of stress, whether we are suffering from the loss of a loved one, enduring unusually long hours at work while juggling home life and other commitments, or recovering from a bad infection. Whatever it may be, we have a lot to benefit from using these herbal compounds to help maintain and/or restore homeostasis and spark some anabolic rejuvenation.
Categories of Adaptogens
There are two types of adaptogens: functional and reproductive. Functional adaptogens ensure the survival of any living organism while the Reproductive adaptogens enforce and promote the survival of the organism’s genetic material (preventing extinction). Functional and primary adaptogens can be accompanied by another category of helpful herbs, too, that enhance their effectiveness. Think of it this way: combining adaptogens can provide you with a balanced system of adrenal support, but adding in one or two of the enhancing counterparts is like giving each adaptogen a shot of espresso!
• Primary Adaptogens include:
Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Ginseng, and Eleuthero.
• Secondary Adaptogens include:
Holy Basil, Licorice Root, Oat Seed, and Reishi.
• Enhancing Counterparts:
Elderberry, Ginger, Turmeric, Green Tea, and Rose Hips.
Each adaptogen plays a specific role. Sometimes taking Rhodiola on its own is helpful, but it’s good to know how something like licorice root can benefit you (or not), and whether or not it would be a good idea to add in some green tea or turmeric to your diet to give other adaptogens a super boost.
Who Benefits from Adaptogens?
We could all benefit from taking anyone, or a combination of, herbal adaptogens due to the level of stress that impacts the average human living in modern society. However, we shouldn’t have to depend on popping a pill every day—whether homeopathic or pharmaceutical— in order to help us deal with that stress. Nevertheless, in certain circumstances, it’s a good idea to take a holistic approach to dismantle (or preventing) the negative effects of entering a particularly stressful stage or event in your life.
Manage Your Stress, Then Take Extra Steps to Support Yourself
Adaptogens are great for providing benefits to us during critical stages of stress, but managing stress is also a critical piece to achieving overall health and wellness. Examples of stress could be the death of a loved one, divorce, starting a new business, traveling, holidays with in-laws, etc. Divorce, death, and moving are three things that have remained, historically, in the top 5 most stressful events a person can go through in their lifetime. Some of these stressors are natural and unavoidable.
However, some stressors (like watching the news, or having an unhealthy diet and lifestyle) can be minimized or avoided altogether. If you live a fairly conscientious lifestyle and apply mindful practices to limit or manage your modern stress exposures—but begin to feel the tightened grip of temporary high loads of mental or emotional triggers against your body— taking any one or combination of adaptogens will certainly benefit you and provide you that extra fighting chance to get to the other side.
More on Hormesis, Stress Reduction, and Adaptogenic Herbs: