What Are Adaptogens and Why Are They Useful?

In herbal medicine, adaptogens are a non-toxic immunity-boosting class of restorative herbs and mushrooms that support the body’s adrenal functions — a key component of healthy processing of hormones and their effects on the body’s metabolism, blood pressure, and stress response, among other functions. Herbalists and advocates for plant medicine purport that ingredients with adaptogenic properties (usually botanicals, although there are exceptions) increase vitality and manage internal and external damage caused by stress, and do so in a way that adapts to your chemistry and the particular effects of stress you may be experiencing. Their use is part of a practice that’s been in place for thousands of years in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine and elsewhere in the world, and is corroborated in modern scientific studies, beginning with a 1969 study New Substances of Plant Origin Which Increase Non-Specific Resistance by Soviet researchers I. I. Brekhman and I. V. Dardymov. Their research is foundational to the modern language used to discuss adaptogens.

The problem of chronic stress
We know that stress is deadly. A lack of healthy outlets, a schedule not built around self-care, and long-term poor nutrition and sleep patterns all contribute to dis-ease and discomfort. When you are consumed with minding calendars, the asks of parenting or of taking care of parents, balancing careers and inner worlds, and maintaining important relationships, the temptation to keep going at any price is real. But it’s the body’s long term high production level of cortisol, the steroid hormone that increases blood sugar among performing other vital functions, that can wreak havoc on your stress levels and hormone levels over time.

Why try adaptogens?
At the core of the concept behind adaptogens is finding equilibrium and training your biology to react to stress in non-damaging ways. Medicinal plant blends in folk medicine from around the world corroborate this use of tonics and blends to this end. Consuming CBD can be a powerful anti-anxiety and anti-inflammation treatment when used as part of a plant-based wellness routine.

Homeostasis refers to your body's innate, internal sense of balance in spite of external forces, like how you may shiver or sweat as a way to regulate your body temperature. There is a mental component to homeostasis as well, and part of our mission at Standard Dose is to vet and deliver products that support an overall goal of wellness for body and mind.

When we experience fatigue or slumps, it’s tempting to caffeinate or go for quick blood sugar boosts like sweet snacks, but the underlying fact remains that longer-term wellness is based on healthy behaviors that add up over time. While CBD isn’t technically classified as an adaptogen, it does have adaptogenic properties — lowering stress, having a balancing effect, non-toxic  — and can work in tandem with them to enhance results.

Incorporating adaptogens
If you are going to actively incorporate adaptogens into your wellness routine, consider working with an herbalist or trained naturopath to identify the best course so there are no interferences with other aspects of your state. Still, their use is not considered dangerous or high risk — treat it with the same care you would when trying and sourcing new supplements or ingredients. Origins of ingredients, as well as their processing and storage, all affect their potency.

Accessible adaptogenic products include reishi, shiitake, and chaga mushrooms, as well as different kinds of ginseng, holy basil (tulsi — commonly made as tea) and maca.

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