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Herbs have been used for their health benefits across the globe for millennia. Among many effective and useful medicinal herbs, one class of plants stands apart from the rest: adaptogenic herbs, or simply adaptogens. Adaptogens are a classification of herbs that have a normalizing effect on the body. Herbs with adaptogenic qualities bring the body to homeostasis or balance. Specifically, “they increase the body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional, and environmental stressors and promote normal physiologic function.” *
An adaptogen’s power comes not from a specific action, but rather, a reaction. Adaptogens help the body respond to stressors in a more healthful way, ultimately maintaining balance in physiological functions. Adaptogens are like very good friends;
they help promote and maintain wellness.
If a bear were charging toward us, our bodies would respond by turning on our “fight or flight” mode, releasing a surge of adrenaline and cortisol to enable us to run, fight and survive. The fight or flight mode, or stress response, is meant to activate and deactivate as needed. This response causes cortisol, known as the “stress hormone” to rise and fall, ultimately returning to normal levels once the stressor has subsided.
The tricky part of our current western lifestyle is that day to day stressors are taking the place of the bear: We are bombarded everyday by social media, breaking news, traffic... While we may not be in immediate physical danger, our bodies react to these stressors with the same physiological response. While there is (hopefully) little likelihood of a bear charging you at the office, you may have a deadline that’s been blaring in your head all week, causing your “fight or flight” mode to activate and remain activated. In the wild, the bear comes and goes, and with it our fight or flight mode turns on and off, problem solved. In the office, the deadline lingers in our minds and creates a phantom stressor that has very real consequences for our bodies.
These small stressors are ignited by the brain, which activates our stress response in order to protect the body, which in turn reacts as if a life or death situation is at hand. If we experience stress often enough, the continuous surge of stress hormones can prevent the body’s cortisol levels from returning to baseline; chronically high levels of cortisol have the potential to cause damage to multiple body systems.
So, what’s the big deal? It is now common knowledge that stress is a primary cause of many illnesses. More than ever before, people are waking up to the importance of practices like yoga, meditation and mindfulness. Along with stress-busting mindfulness practices, adaptogens can lend their restorative power to ward off the negative effects of today’s constant stressors.
Adaptogens have been shown to strengthen the body's natural stress response, working in the body to mitigate the ill effects of chronic stress, rather than become physically compromised by it. Daily stressors are not going away; the good news is: neither are adaptogens!
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Many herbs utilized in Ayurveda (traditional Indian system of holistic medicine) qualify as adaptogens. Here’s a quick look at ORGANIC INDIA’s top 4 supplements and their adaptogenic properties.
• Also called the “Queen of Herbs”–the most cherished and legendary health-supporting herb
• Helps support: stress relief, digestion, energy, cortisol balance and respiratory function
• Balances the mind, body and spirit.
• Most well-known herb in Ayurveda.
• Supports the digestive, circulatory and cardiovascular systems
• Aids in joint mobility and support
• Translates to “Three Fruits”–Amalaki, Bibhitaki and Haritaki
• Cleanses and supports the entire gastrointestinal tract
• Improves digestion, elimination and assimilation of nutrients
• Also called “Indian Ginseng”–most well-known for its restorative and rejuvenating properties.
• Strengthens the immune system
• Provides natural vitality and energy
• Winston, D., & Maimes, S. (1956). Adaptogens - Herbs for Strength, stamina, and stress relief.
• ORGANIC INDIA USA, Tulsi-Holy Basil: Herbal Guide (Image Relay: ebook-Tulsi_Herbal_Guide-2106.pdf)
• Sapolsky, Robert, (1994). Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers
One company, ORGANIC INDIA, is streamlining the merge of ancient healing herbs into western culture. ORGANIC INDIA’s herbal supplement line brings organic, adaptogenic, whole-herbs into a modality of everyday health.
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