Nowadays it seems that the topics of stress management and life/work balance are at the top of most workplace agendas. The events from the last few years have taught us that work does not need to be all-consuming and stress should not just be a given that we accept without question. With this new awareness of stress and what it does to the body, the search for natural ways to reduce anxiety has become a growing area of study.
Stress, anxiety, and fatigue are all affected by cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is the chemical that affects every part of your body but especially how you manage sugar. This chemical is released when your fight or flight reflexes kick in. It was very useful in prehistoric times when humans needed to be on high alert for carnivorous predators. When cortisol levels are increased, the body is naturally stronger, faster, and better able to fight that saber-toothed tiger ready for its next meal. With nowhere to go, increased cortisol levels can cause weight gain, heart disease, and other stress-related problems in the body. Today, we don’t need to escape scary beasts; our deadly enemies are deadlines, monthly bills, and childcare issues.
Since stress is unwanted but unavoidable for most of us, how do we manage that damaging cortisol in our bodies? There are some natural ways of elevating or reducing your cortisol as your body requires called adaptogens.
What are adaptogens?
Our bodies are constantly striving for balance to maintain a healthy state. This balance is called homeostasis and adaptogens target the hormone levels in the body to attain the same state. Adaptogens are not meant to be taken every day, but allow you to get your body back to homeostasis so you can develop better habits that will keep you in balance naturally. Adaptogens come in several different forms and before you start taking them, you should consult with a healthcare provider for types and dosages appropriate for you.
Adaptogens are found in certain plants and fungi and help control hormones affecting stress, anxiety, and depression. When taken in proper doses, adaptogens can decrease cortisol to a healthy level when it is elevated and increase cortisol when you are feeling fatigued and low in cortisol. There are several different types of adaptogens on the market that can be found all over the world.
Types of adaptogens
American Ginseng is beneficial to the regulation of hormones in the body. This adaptogen helps boost the immune system and reduce inflammation in injuries. American Ginseng also regulates the nervous system so your body can respond to fight or flight boosts in a more productive way. Research suggests American Ginseng may aid in stabilizing moods which can be helpful to those with depression or anxiety.
Ashwagandha has a positive effect on the body by helping your brain deal with stress in a more productive and calm way. This adaptogen helps regulate metabolism to keep those stress pounds at a minimum and helps with pain and swelling by reducing inflammation.
Asian Ginseng is also known to help with mental and physical well-being by managing stress levels and stamina. Asian Ginseng can improve your performance to help you get those deadlines met or keep a level head during a stressful meeting.
Eleuthero is another adaptogen that works in a similar way to Ginseng and will boost the immune system and keep the body healthy.
Rhodiola is a great adaptogen to take before playing competitive sports because it alleviates fatigue. Rhodiola will also help with keeping a positive state of mind and focus as it fights depression and anxiety.
There are other adaptogens available that will target different areas of stress in the body. Your healthcare provider should be able to give you an idea of where to place your focus. You may also want to ask about methods of ingestion for adaptogens.
How do I take adaptogens?
There are three key ways of taking adaptogens: tinctures, capsules, and a powder to add to food and liquid.
Some companies sell products with adaptogens as the main ingredient so it is recommended to check the amounts before ingesting them.
One method of getting the proper dose is through the use of adaptogen drinks. These drinks come with adaptogen already in them or a powder can be added to them. Hot tea is one of these drinks that can be offered with the adaptogens already in the leaves. Always check the label for steeping times and dosages before preparing it so you don’t overdo it. Adaptogenic drinks are a practical and effective way of using adaptogens that can be incorporated into your day easily.
Capsules are another type of ingestion method for adaptogens. These can be in a time-release form so you can maximize the benefits of this herb throughout the day. Capsules are a great solution when you want to take your daily dose and then forget about it.
Another way to ingest adaptogens is in tinctures. Tinctures are concentrated extracts in liquid form that are easier to ingest than solid plants or mushrooms. A drop could be placed under the tongue, in a liquid, or on food. Tinctures are very concentrated so it is best to get some advice on how much to take before trying them.
The main benefit of using adaptogens in any form is to help your body achieve homeostasis. This is the balance needed in the body to maintain good mental and physical health. Herbs and mushrooms with this active ingredient can reduce stress, improve mood and boost performance when taken in proper doses following sound medical advice. Whether you are drinking these herbs in a hot cup of tea, downing a capsule with a glass of water, or adding a drop under your tongue, the benefits are the same. With the proper dosage, your mind and body will be able to deal with stress and anxiety more effectively, and you will have more energy and clarity of mind throughout the day.