What Are Adaptogens? These 6 Herbs Can Boost Your Performance and Help You Manage Stress

The term “adaptogenic herbs” gives you a big clue as to what the herbs help your body do – adapt to stress and situations where your body needs to be gently coaxed to return to normal functioning.

Here are three examples:

Blood Sugar Regulation

Your blood sugar levels have been creeping up from the normal range of 80-100 mg/dl to 105 or 110 mg/dl. Your doctor wants to put you on diabetic medication. Adaptogenic herbs will help your body cope better when your blood sugar level is higher, and return it to the normal range.adaptogenic-herbs-stress

Negative Responses to Stress

You are super-stressed at work and at home. In fact, now you notice that the least little things upset you – and you stay upset about them for days on end. Your nervous system is not making the rapid changeover from survival mode to normal everyday calm living.

Adaptogenic herbs will help your body make this conversion and you’ll find that you can forget about all the negative things a lot quicker. You are more peaceful, too.

Sexual Performance

Your sexual performance seems to be dwindling. It takes you longer to have an orgasm than ever. Sexual performance is based on the careful integration of the two parts of the nervous system – the survival/fight or flight part (called the sympathetic nervous system) – and the normal everyday functioning part (called the parasympathetic nervous system).

Adaptogenic herbs are known for their role in helping improve sexual functioning.

Much of the body functions that respond well to adaptogenic herbs are related to the nervous system. Blood pressure regulation, heart rate and rhythm, sexual performance, stress responses, moods, brain function and immune system functioning all are included in the different parts of the body that respond to adaptogenic herbs. This is why people will often say they feel much better once they begin taking these herbs.

What are Examples of Adaptogenic Herbs?

Every culture has its own adaptogenic herbs. Here are some adaptogenic herbs that have historical use in different parts of the world:

Ashwagandhaashwagandha-adaptogen

Indian ginseng, ashwagandha herb, (Withania somnifera) was always believed to cure human diseases by creating an equilibrium in the body, mind, intellect and soul. It’s also an aphrodisiac and considered an adaptogen that is nontoxic and normalizes physiological functions disturbed by chronic stress.

Some of this herb’s effects are also documented to help those with diseases of the brain and nervous system that are progressive. Ashwagandha also helps induce sleep without any negative side effects.

The general dosage of adaptogens, two capsules two to three times daily holds true for this adaptogenic herb as well.

maral-root-adaptogenic-herbLeuzea carthamoides (Maral Root)

This herb replenishes the depleted mental and structural physical body reserves exhausted during hard training and helps rebuild damaged tissue.

In one Russian study, scientists checked on the effect of a tincture containing leuzea herb and another herb in runners running distances of 5000 and 10,000 meters. After only 20 days, the endurance of the athletes increased by 10 to 15%.

This adaptogenic herb also was found by Russian scientists to create positive changes in immune system cells in patients with late stage ovarian cancer, boosting their suppressed immunity from chemotherapy.

rhodiola-rosea-adaptogenic-herbRhodiola rosea

It encourages a healthy stress response to physical, mental and emotional challenges while improving the immune system and the cardiovascular system.

Italian researchers reported in May 2015 in the medical literature that not only does Rhodiola work to decrease fatigue, stress and inflammation in the body, but it also improves blood sugar and fat metabolism. This herb even acts as a fat-buster, interfering with the development of fat cells.

five flavor berry

Five flavor berry is not as tasty as it looks and sounds!

Schisandra chinensis (Five Flavor Berry)

This berry is called the “five flavor berry” (“Wu Wei Zi” in Chinese) because it is said to besweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent at the same time.  This berry isn’t eaten for its flavors because they aren’t very tasty.  The Chinese have a history of using these in their Eastern Medicine for improved endurance, sexual energy and stamina.

Five flavor berry has a long case history of being used by Olympic athletes to improve their performance.  It also helps the body recover from stressful activity.  In fact, an anti-hepatitis was even developed from an extract of this herb.

Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian Ginseng)siberian-ginseng-adaptogenic-herb

Siberian ginseng, also called the Latin name of Eleutherococcus senticosus, shows immune stimulant properties, anti-cancer properties and have an anti-fatigue effect.

Scientists in China report that a carbohydrate in Siberian ginseng may also show other anti-cancer properties. They found that Siberian ginseng inhibited human lung cancer cells, cancer cells of the nose and pharynx, and colon cancer cells.

A general dosage of two capsules twice to three times daily is usually taken.

Brazilian Ginseng

Brazilian ginseng, also called Suma and with a Latin name of Pfaffia paniculata, is an adaptogen that has the capability to reduce stress. In a university in Brazil, animals with intestinal inflammation were given the herb Suma either 14 days before the inflammation started or 7 days after.

A dosage of 200 mg Suma/kg was enough to reverse any inflammatory changes in the intestine while keeping the animals’ antioxidant levels exactly where they should be and making positive changes in the cells of the immune system as well.

Studies like this give us a clue as to how much of a dosage we can take. If the rats were given 200 mg/kg, and one kilogram is 2.2 pounds, then if you weigh 150 pounds (about 68 kg), you could take 200 mg x 68 = 13.6 grams herb. However, the beauty of adaptogenic herbs is that even a fraction of this amount, 1000 to 2000 mg daily would most likely give you benefits you could feel.

Asian Ginseng

Chinese and Korean ginseng, also called Panax ginseng, is well known for its effects in strengthening the body. In one study, researchers at a university in Seoul Korea have identified a new action that adaptogenic herbs may have – the ability to increase physical and mental performance. They call any adaptogens that have this ability actoprotectors.

According to the study, ginseng can be regarded as an herb that increases physical and intellectual work capacities, endurance, and restoration after exhaustive physical loads. A general dosage that is usually taken daily is two capsules twice to three times daily.

Some Other Ways Adaptogenic Herbs Work

Ginseng directly affects the part of the body called the HPA axis, which stands for the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal gland trio of organs that help the body monitor and deal effectively with stress. One of ginseng’s active ingredients is called saponins, which have a similar structure to steroids.

Even a combination of several different adaptogens can be exceptionally helpful to people to improve their health. In Russia, scientists combined 40 different herbs, many of them adaptogenic herbs, and gave them to Parkinson’s patients. The patients immune systems normalized, along with their hormones and antioxidant levels. The scientists stated that these herb should be used in therapy for those with the nervous system disorder, Parkinson’s disease.

Is Ginseng Safe?

Often scientific studies on safety are based primarily on animal studies but one recent human study has proven the safety of Panax ginseng supplements. The healthy male and female volunteers were given the herb for 4 weeks and found that they could all tolerate the herb, it was free of any toxic side effects and safe.

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About the author

Dr. France Carpentier

Dr. France Carpentier has over forty years of experience as a healthcare professional. She started as a Registered Nurse in Quebec, Canada, which was followed by over thirty years as a Chiropractor in Florida. She has always had a focus on nutrition using a holistic approach to health and wellness.