Adaptogens are herbs that are capable of enhancing the body’s ability to adapt to physical and mental stress. Here are seven medicinal herbs with known adaptogenic properties:
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
This herb has been used for more than 2,500 years to restore overall health and increase longevity. A study published in the journal Cureus showed the adaptogenic and anxiolytic effects of ashwagandha root extract on healthy adults. Researchers reported that ashwagandha helps control mediators of stress, including heat shock proteins, the stress hormone cortisol and stress-activated c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase. The herb also reduces the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which regulates stress response. (Related: Beat chronic stress with adaptogenic herbs.)
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
As an adaptogen, astragalus boosts your immune system and helps protect your body against various stresses, including emotional, mental and physical stress. It contains a non-essential amino acid asparagine, flavonoids (kumatakenin), isoflavones (afrormosin, calycosin, formononetin), triterpene glycoside (astragaloside), the pigment betanin, polysaccharides (astragalin), saponins (astramembranin) and sterols.
Research shows astragalus root helps reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels. It also helps improve mental and behavioral impairments and supports normal blood sugar control as well as brain, cardiovascular and kidney health.
Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)
According to a study published in the Journal of Functional Foods, cordyceps contain plenty of bioactive components that make it a great adaptogen, such as exopolysaccharides, nucleosides, proteins and sterols.
Like other adaptogens, cordyceps assist the body in creating and maintaining balance during times of stress. These adaptogenic mushrooms also directly influence how cells make the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s energy currency, and enhance oxygen utilization.
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
In traditional medicine, eleuthero is used to help the body better handle and adapt to stress. It also acts as a stimulant, increasing nervous system function.
Also known as Siberian/Russian ginseng, eleuthero’s main active components eleutherosides, which are found in its root, are what makes it different from other forms of ginseng. These potent compounds are believed to be responsible for the herb’s health benefits. The bioactive polysaccharides in eleuthero have also been shown to help lower blood sugar levels and boost immune function.
In a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers found that eleutheroside E is responsible for the anti-fatigue properties of eleuthero. They noted that the herb can alleviate both physical and mental fatigue by increasing the body’s utilization of fat as energy and delaying the accumulation of blood urea nitrogen as well as the buildup of lactic acid.
Golden root (Rhodiola rosea)
Also known as roseroot, king’s crown, or hong jian tian, the rhizome (rootstock) of this herb is the most commonly used for medicinal purposes, although its leaves and stems have also been used as food and medicine.
The components of golden root that are thought to be the most important for therapeutic purposes are the three phenylpropanoids, rosarin, rosavin and rosin, which are not found in any other Rhodiola species.
As an adaptogen, golden root is believed to increase the body’s general adaptability and resistance to external stress factors, such as cold, heat, high altitude and noise. Unlike other medicinal herbs, golden root is believed to work on the whole body rather than on a particular organ or system.
Lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus)
Lion’s mane, as an adaptogen, is said to help regulate the nervous and endocrine systems, thus changing the body’s reaction to stress. Taking lion’s mane can help make you less sensitive to stimuli and develop more resilience to stress.
In addition to powerful antioxidants and immune-supporting beta-glucan polysaccharides, lion’s mane also contains bioactive compounds like erinacines and hericenones, which give this adaptogenic mushroom neuroprotective properties.
Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
Reishi mushroom, or lingzhi, contains a wide variety of bioactive components, such as glycoproteins, nucleotides and their derivatives, phenols, polysaccharides, steroids and terpenoids. The mushroom also contains all the essential amino acids and are especially rich in lysine and leucine. Its low total fat content and high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids are considered significant contributors to its health value.
One of the most commonly used adaptogens, reishi mushroom is known to boost immune function, relieve stress and anxiety, help one feel more balanced and support good-quality sleep.
Adaptogens are natural remedies that can provide excellent support for your mental health. Learn more about them at Herbs.news.
Watch the following video to learn about the adaptogenic benefits of ashwagandha.