How Adaptogens Work

how adaptogenic herbs work

Adaptogenic herbs are a select group of herbs that have powerful properties to help our bodies cope with the stressors of modern life. There are only around nine thoroughly researched adaptogenic herbs - Panax Ginseng, American Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Eleuthro, Schisandra, Rhodiola, Shilajit, Rhaponticum and Cordyceps but other adaptogenic herbs have also been successfully used in traditional medicines for hundreds of years.

Adaptogenic herbs or adaptogens as they are also referred to must be:

  1. Nontoxic at normal doses and when taken for extended periods of time

  2. Supportive to the body’s ability to cope with stress.

  3. Help the body return to a state of homeostasis, that is it helps raise what is low and lower what is high (eg energy, stress)

Adaptogens work at a molecular level by regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the regulation of key mediators of the stress response.

How Adaptogens Work to Help You Adapt to Stress

General Adaption Syndrome - responding to stress

Diagram: based on the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) model created by David McQuillan and altered to highlight the impact adaptogenic herbs have on the GAS as studied by Panossian and Wikman (2010). (1)

Adaptogens help us cope with stress as they have change the stress response in the body. When we feel stress either mentally or physically, we go through three stages of the stress response:

  1. alarm phase
  2. phase of resistance
  3. phase of exhaustion

Clinical trials have demonstrated that adaptogens exert an anti-fatigue effect that increases our mental work capacity when faced with stress and fatigue. (1) This means even when we are experiencing stressful situations we are able to feel better and perform better and go about daily life better than if we didn’t have the support of adaptogens.

Adaptogens help our bodies by increasing our ability to resist stress and decreasing our sensitivity to stressors as seen by the dotted line in the diagram above. Adaptogens give us:

  • protection against stress in the initial alarm phase - the dip doesn’t go as low
  • protection against stress in the resistance phase - it doesn’t peak as high
  • prolongs the phase of resistance - we don’t drop below homeostasis and reach exhaustion

So in times of extended or chronic stress instead of reaching exhaustion, adaptogens help us reach a higher level of equilibrium (the homeostasis). The higher it is, the better the adaptation to stress. 

The adaptogens in Adapt Relax

Adapt Relax contains two key adaptogens:

  • Schisandra berry extract - is an adaptogenic herb and we use the berries of this plant to make the liquid extract to add to Adapt Relax. It is used as a performance enhancer that also helps reduce anxiety and cortisol. (2)

  • Panax ginseng extract - is also an adaptogenic herb and the roots of this plant are used to make the liquid extract to add to Adapt Relax. It has been proven effective for improving mood, immunity, and cognition. 

Adaptogens work most effectively when taking consistently over time. It is recommended to take them for at least a two week period so you can begin to feel their full effect.

sparkling adaptogenic drinks

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: all content provided here is of a general nature only and is not a substitute for individualised professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and reliance should not be placed on it. For personalised medical or nutrition advice, please make an appointment with your doctor, dietitian or qualified health care professional.

Footnotes:

(1).  Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity - Alexander Panossian and Georg Wikman

(2). National Library of Medicine. PubMed.gov - Panax ginseng

(3). National Library of Medicine. PubMed.gov - Schisandra chinensis and its phytotherapeutical applications