Health & Wellness

Stressed Out? Find Out How Adaptogens Can Help

Ellyl-Faith Llavore

STRESS – we all know what a heavy feeling this word can bring! Most of us (well, all of us) experience stress daily. Often, we don’t even realize that our body is under a state of stress, that we are overwhelmed both mentally and emotionally, and as time goes on, our bodies start to feel the effects! Stress is actually a physical response within the body when it is under attack. When our body is under stress, it causes a release of complex hormones and chemicals such as cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine to prepare our body for physical activity. Think “flight or fight” – you know, like if you were running from a tiger! Our body goes through a series of changes during times of stress, which is controlled by our nervous system. A few symptoms that we can experience during times of stress are:
  • Heart palpitations
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of appetite/increase in appetite
  • Fast breathing
  • Irritability
  • Decreased stamina
  • Illness
  • Weight loss/weight gain (especially in the abdominal area)
As stress continues to build up in our body, it can have a negative effect on our health. Although the symptoms listed above may seem mild at times, the accumulation of stress from our daily lives can lead to serious health issues such as Adrenal Fatigue, depression, anxiety, Auto-immune disorders/diseases, reproductive issues (both men and women) and even skin conditions. Sounds scary right? Well, it actually can be. Unfortunately, more and more people are feeling the effects of stress. Employers are even seeing more “stress leave” notes from their employees, and doctors are prescribing more anti-depressants to help with people cope with their unstable emotions and burnouts. So, how can we combat this? How do we stop having so much stress in our life or even how do we even support our Adrenal glands (the two small glands that sit on top of our kidneys) that are responsible for our bodies ability to react to stress? Well, there are a few ways, however, when it comes to supplementation, Adaptogens are my favourite star!
What is an Adaptogen?
An adaptogen is a herb or botanical substance that greatly improves your body’s response to stress!  It helps your body “adapt” to stress and helps it function optimally during times of stress. How many of us know that during stressful periods, we lose our concentration levels, our ability to make smart decisions, and even our cognitive function suffers. An adaptogen’s main purpose is to restore balance and homeostasis (the body’s natural balance) within the body.  They are a unique group of “healing plants” and it is the constituents within them that make them so beneficial.  Adaptogens have the unique ability to produce “non-specific “responses within the body, increasing the power of resistance against multiple stressors such as physical, biological and chemical stressors (think exercise, health, and toxic substances).  They provide support and protection to not only our Adrenal Glands but to our entire body. A few of my favourite adaptogens that I generally like to recommend to my clients are the following:
  • Ashwagandha
  • Maca
  • Siberian Ginseng
  • Reishi Mushroom
Ashwagandha is known to be one of the most powerful herbs in the Ayurvedic healing and has been used in India for a variety of conditions for over 3,000 years! It is very well known for its restorative properties, for reducing cortisol (our stress hormone) in our body, balancing our sex hormones, and supporting thyroid function.  It also has a unique ability to increase energy levels within the body, especially for those who experience adrenal dysfunction resulting in lowered energy levels.  Many athletes even like to supplement with Ashwagandha for those increased energy levels, and to improve brain function!
Maca is also an excellent adaptogen due to its high amounts of flavonoids that have been associated with reduced anxiety levels and depression.  It is a very nutritious plant that provides a high amount of vitamins and minerals, as well as helping to balance sex hormones. Not sure how to use Maca? Try out these Maca Cacao Super Seed Bites!
Siberian Ginseng
Siberian Ginseng is traditionally used in Chinese medicine and is a rare plant often found in the harsh mountain forest in Eastern Asia, Japan, and even Russia. Known for its ability to increase endurance and provide resilience to environmental stresses, Siberian Ginseng aids in the recovery from strenuous exercise and mental exhaustion (stress!). Another amazing benefit of Siberian Ginseng is that is great for our immune health! How many of us can say that we often get sick when we have been under stress? Well, that is because stress weakens our immune system! Siberian Ginseng’s main role or action within our body is to act as an “immunomodulator”, which helps recharge and restore exhausted adrenals glands.
Lastly, let’s talk about Reishi mushrooms!  By now most of us know that mushrooms have a medicinal purpose within our body and can be quite beneficial to our overall immunity and health, and Reishi is no exception!  It is an excellent choice to supplement with for its ability to improve not only mental and physical performance but to also act as an “immunomodulator” like Siberian Ginseng. Reishi mushrooms help support and regenerate exhausted adrenals glands – which helps reduce and restore cortisol levels within the body.
I think the benefits of supplementing with adaptogens outweighs the effects of not supporting our adrenal health, especially as more and more people are getting sick, living with diseases, and suffering from mental and emotional disorders. Adaptogens play a huge role in supporting and even healing, our stressed Adrenals. Adaptogens are a great way to help hormonal imbalances in our body, stress-related work leave, weight gain, illness, lack of energy, and poor memory or cognitive function. There isn’t one adaptogen that works better than the other. It is about finding one that works best for you and your needs and often combine a few to give you the best result. Of course, this is alongside a good wholesome diet, enough sleep, a few yoga classes and some meditation! A few of my favourites are Maca and Ashwagandha daily and I always notice when I don’t take them. For more information in regards to stress or adaptogens, please check out our website   – Chelan Wilkins, RHN – National Education Trainer