Adaptogens: Plants That Help Your Body Deal With Stress

Work. Kids. Marriage. Financial Problems. There are one hundred little things in any given day that can really stress us out — and all that worrying is bad for our health. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that up to 90% of doctor visits in the United States are stress related. Autoimmune diseases, obesity, depression, sleep problems and digestive disorders are just a few of the conditions that can be caused or exacerbated by stress. It’s enough to make anyone want to reach for the Prozac.

Fortunately, prescription drugs might not be the only route for managing stress in daily life. Mother Nature has provided us with a variety of plants known as “adaptogens,” which Dr. Martha Libster, in Delmar’s Integrative Herb Guide for Nurses, defines as “plants that seemingly assist the human body in adapting to environmental stressors.” In essence, because plants are always adapting to an ever-changing environment, certain ones, when used properly, can help us adapt to stress as well.

Stress relief without an Rx? Now that’s good news. There are many, many adaptogens out there, but here are a few that are popular, safe and proven to work.

Siberian Ginseng

Adaptogens: Siberian Ginseng

Siberian ginseng or Eleuthero is often used in herbalism as an adaptogen. In addition to helping regulate stress, it has been shown in human studies to inhibit disease and increase physical work capacity. It is also used to improve selective memory and increase sleep duration. More than 1,000 studies have been performed on Eleuthero, many on humans, and it has been used effectively for 2,000 years. Talk about a track record.

Plus, it’s easy to find. Mountain Rose Herbs offers Eleuthero Root Capsules for those who prefer pills and Organic Eleuthero Root Extract for those who prefer a tincture. Additionally, popular companies such as Gaia Herbs offer a Siberian Ginseng Tincture and Now Eleuthero comes in a convenient pill form.


Adaptogens: Rhodiola

Rhodiola is another popular adaptogen that has been used for centuries in Russia and Scandanavian countries to combat fatigue, poor attention span and decreased memory, according to Herbalgram, the Journal of the American Botanical Council reported in 2002 that human and animal studies show that Rhodiola can also ramp up immune function, increase sexual energy and functions as an antioxidant.

Rhodiola is also featured in Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, by David Winston and Steven Maimes, as an herb that can improve sleep quality and regulate sleep disorders.

Even Oprah has gotten on board with Rhodiola. Dr. Mehmet Oz prepared an anti-stress tonic on the show mixing equal parts of 80-proof vodka and Rhodiola Rosea.

New Chapter offers Rhodiolaforce VCaps, and Mountain Rose Herbs has Rhodiola Root Powder for those who prefer to mix their own tonic ala Oprah.

Holy Basil

Adaptogens: Holy Basil

Holy Basil or Tulsi is another adaptogen that not only helps control the affects of stress but also can be useful in treating medical problems related to stress. In addition to having anti-stress qualities Holy Basil is recommended in Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief for improving skin elasticity, regulating cortisol — a hormone associated with stress — and easing digestive stress. This herb has also been found effective at combating a bevy of diseases including cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, chronic fatigue syndrome and arthritis.

Source Naturals Holy Basil Extract is one of many capsules on the market that contains this herb. Tulsi Tea is a popular and delicious way to harness the healing effects of Holy Basil for those who prefer an alternative to pills.

No matter which adaptogen you choose to try, make sure you run it by your healthcare professional first.

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