Adaptogens have a normalizing effect on the body. If a bodily function is weak they will strengthen it. Conversely, if a function is overactive, they will calm it. In other words, they help us Adapt.
The majority of adaptogens are from the roots of plants. A plant’s roots convey nutrients, establishing a base on which the plant can grow. As such, they can also provide us with a wide range of nutrients that support us “from the ground up”. As a result, adaptogens can make you feel stronger, healthier, and less stressed out.
Here are some of my favorites:
Panax (aka Asian) Ginseng
First let’s talk about Ginseng. The medicinal use of ginseng dates back thousands of years. It has traditional use in Korea, China, and Russia. As such, its uses have been well-researched. They include:
- Increased energy
- Enhancement of athletic performance and endurance
- Improvement of male erectile function
- Better mental performance and reaction times in middle-aged subjects
- Improvement of pulmonary function in severe respiratory disease
- Immune-modulating effects
So use Ginseng if you need an overall energy boost, better recovery from athletic pursuits, improved focus, or increased resistance to infection.
Studies have shown that doses of up to 1 gram are safe for 6 months. However, high doses of caffeine with high doses of Ginseng may prove too stimulating. So be careful using Ginseng if you drink a lot of coffee.
There are currently no known, major drug interactions with Ginseng. Since Ginseng may have a blood-thinning effect, use caution if you will be having surgery or have a bleeding disorder. This Ginseng is one of my favorites.
Rhodiola Rosea (aka rose root or golden root)
The second adaptogen, Rhodiola, is another favorite. It is native to the highlands of Europe and Asia, and has been used medicinally for years in both Russia and Scandinavia. Like other adaptogens, it has a wide range of uses:
- Increased physical endurance
- Resistance to altitude sickness
- Relief for fatigue and depression
- Improved resistance to infections
- Support of proper mood, anxiety, and emotional regulation by affecting the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain
Use Rhodiola if you have bouts of depression, need increased resistance to cold weather, want to increase oxygenation in the body, or to combat fatigue.
Typical doses of Rhodiola are 200-600 mg per day, and this range of doses has been used safely in research for up to 12 weeks. Take it on an empty stomach before breakfast or lunch.
Rhodiola has no known, major interactions with medications. However, if you are on immunosuppressant medications speak with your doctor before using Rhodiola. This is because there is some evidence that it can stimulate immune function. Due to the fact that Rhodiola can have an effect on neurotransmitter levels, it is not recommended for those with bipolar disorder. Get our favorite rhodiola here.
Third is Ashwagandha, a small shrub grown in dry areas of India, the Middle East, and Africa. Its root is one of the most prized medicines in the practice of Ayurveda. I once had a doctor tell me that he treated patients in India and used Ashwagandha for every condition—the patients thought he was brilliant!
Here is a sampling of its uses:
- Stress and anxiety relief
- Thyroid hormone support
- Immune modulation
- Sexual dysfunction
Reach for Ashwagandha if your lack of energy is due to low thyroid function, stress, anxiety, or lack of sleep. For sleep, Ashwagandha is commonly combined with magnolia bark, passionflower, lemon balm, hops, or jujube.
Typical doses are 250-1000mg and these doses have been used in clinical studies up to 10 weeks. There are no known, major drug interactions. However, there is some evidence that Ashwagandha can increase immune function. As a result, those on immunosuppressant drugs should speak with their doctors before using it.
We carry Ashwagandha in capsule or liquid forms.
The fourth adaptogen we’ll discuss is Maca, a root vegetable that is part of the cruciferous vegetable family. It is grown in the Peruvian Andes where it is a staple of the diet. This root is often given to hikers and travelers to the area to help with stamina and altitude sickness. Maca root has the following effects:
- Increases energy and stamina
- Supports libido for both men and women
- Reduces chronic fatigue
- Supports post-menopausal hormone levels
- Improves athletic performance and endurance
Choose Maca if you have lost your zip! It can improve stamina, perhaps by supporting hormone levels. Because it supports hormones, Maca is well known as an aphrodisiac and increases sex drive over time.
Typical doses of Maca are 1-3 grams daily and it has been used safely in research studies for up to 4 months. Since Maca may affect estrogen levels, those with a history of estrogenic cancers should avoid using it.
Last but not least, Reishi is a type of fungus that has enjoyed long-standing use in Chinese medicine. It promotes good health and longevity. Because of this, it is known as the “mushroom of immortality”. Reishi also has a special affinity to the immune system and a tonifying effect on the whole body.
Here are some of its myriad effects:
- Reduces stress
- May reduce stress-associated hypertension
- Regulates immune system to reduce allergies
- Supports lung issues such as cough, bronchitis, and asthma
- Acts as an antiviral against the flu, HPV, herpes, and shingles
So choose Reishi if you sense that stress weakens your immune system, or causes you fatigue. For its supporting effect on the lungs it is often mixed with cordyceps mushroom. This results in better oxygenation, and in turn more energy.
Typical doses of Reishi are 1-2 grams, and this dose has been used safely in research for up to one year. There are no known major interactions with medications. Our favorite Reishi is here.
In conclusion, adaptogens are truly nature’s panacea for increasing your “get up and go”. Pick the one that’s right for you. The beauty of these herbs is that while you are using them to fix one issue, they may fix something else too. Choose one to support you in these stressful times.
If you prefer a balanced formula that features several adaptogens, try this one. Need help choosing one that’s right for you? Talk to one of our staff, or book an appointment with our nutritionist, Lynn Bednar.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Monographs. http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com/home.aspx?cs=&s=ND. Accessed September 5-7, 2020.
American Botanical Council. ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs and Monographs. https://abc.herbalgram.org/site/SPageServer/?pagename=Herbal_Library. Accessed September 5-7, 2020.