Research, Treatment

What Are Adaptogens—and How Are They Useful to Us?

November 17, 2022 08:00 am ET
What Are Adaptogens—and How Are They Useful to Us?

Cannabis has been making waves as an effective botanical approach to therapeutics and medication, but there is another substance worthy of just as much attention for its benefits and uses. The concept of adaptogens was first introduced in 1947 despite having been used by royal families from 2500-2700 BCE. Dr. Nicolai V. Lararev was a Soviet scientist, medical doctor, and pharmacologist who was studying the body’s resistance to stress when he established the concept of adaptogens.

What Are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are plants (including but not limited to herbs and mushrooms) that can be used to relieve the body from stress, anxiety, and fatigue, explains Cleveland Clinic. Specifically, adaptogens are active ingredients in certain plants, similar to how psilocybin is the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. Unlike psilocybin, however, adaptogens are not classified as hallucinogens.

Adaptogens contain the compounds of the plant they are extracted from, such as alkaloids, terpenoids, flavonoids, and coumarins. The main reason for consuming adaptogens stems from the fact that they perform the essential function of helping the body maintain homeostasis (equilibrium). As we discuss adaptogens, keep in mind that their individual differences are all united by the basic benefits of relieving stress, fatigue, and anxiety and promoting overall well-being. 

How Are Adaptogens Useful?

The theory behind adaptogens is that “they help your body adjust to physical, chemical, or biological stress” and that they’re “thought to stimulate your body’s stress-protection response and help its system return to a balanced state [the homeostasis],” explains WebMD. Adaptogens help your body achieve this balanced state by “increasing or decreasing reactions within your body,” explains Cleveland Clinic

For example, when you’re stressed, the cortisol levels in your body get elevated. However, when you consume an adaptogen, it responds to elevated cortisol levels by reducing them. Simply put, adaptogens are useful because they adapt to what our bodies need to return to a balanced state—just as the name suggests. 

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Plant-Based vs. Synthetic Adaptogens

As we can draw from the likes of cannabis and psilocybin, plant-based (or botanically derived) and synthetic adaptogens refer to two types of adaptogens that can be consumed. Plant-based adaptogens naturally occur in plants and can be extracted and consumed. On the other hand, synthetic adaptogens are man-made but can still offer similar benefits to plant-based adaptogens. In the following section, we’ll explore some examples of plant-based and synthetic adaptogens as well as their benefits. 

Types of Adaptogens and Their Benefits

There are at least 70 known types of adaptogens, and that just includes those derived from herbal plants. As we have already discussed, there are botanical (organic) and synthetic (man-made) adaptogens. While synthetic adaptogens can still be beneficial, all-natural substances are always a better option, so it’s important to understand which adaptogens are synthetic. Additionally, there is an emerging class of adaptogens that are controversial. Let’s explore. 

Adaptogen

Source

Benefit

Botanic
Ashwagandha Withania Somnifera (Winter Cherry)
  • Regulates metabolism (resulting in beneficial effects on the endocrine system, nervous system, immune system, and cardiovascular system)
  • Induces relaxation
  • Promotes calm responses to stress through its impact on the brain
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
Tulsi Ocimum Tenuiflorum (Holy Basil, Sacred Basil)
  • Promotes focus 
  • Alleviates anxiety
  • Significant impact on the reduction of generalized anxiety disorder and associated stress and depression
Ginseng Panax Quinquefolius (American Ginseng)
  • Immune modulator*
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Alleviates stress
  • Supports and boosts nervous system functioning
  • Improves fight or flight response
  • May help reset dopamine levels and regulate mood (according to preliminary research)
Panax Ginseng (Asian Ginseng)
  • Relieves mental fatigue
  • Relieves physical fatigue
  • Boosts energy and performance (especially during taxing activities)
Rhodiola Rhodiola Rosea
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Improves performance
  • Alleviates symptoms associated with anxiety and depression
Astragalus Astragalus Membranaceus
  • Reduces side effects associated with chemotherapy (such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bone marrow suppression, etc.)
  • Helps to maintain/control blood sugar and insulin levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes
  • Alleviates fatigue
Reishi Ganoderma Lucidum (Reishi Mushrooms)
  • Enhances immunity
  • Treats and shrinks cancerous tumors (although professionals suggest using it in combination with conventional treatment)
  • Increases white blood cells in cancer patients who are losing white blood cells due to chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy
  • Reduces stress
Synthetic
Bromantane  Man-made
  • Improves mental and physical performance
  • Increases alertness
  • Increases energy level
  • Reduces fatigue
Afobazole Man-made
  • Anti-anxiety properties with less sedation and muscle relaxant effects
  • Alleviation of nervousness, fearfulness, and insomnia
Bemethyl Man-made
  • Preserves both physical and mental capacity in high altitude
  • Antioxidant (prevents the effects of free radicals)
  • Antimutagenic (counteract effects of mutagens)
  • Antihypoxic (prevents decrease of dopamine release)
Controversial
Ibogaine/ Iboga Tabernanthe iboga
  • Detoxifies
  • Boosts energy
  • Neuroprotective
  • Reduces fever
  • Increases fertility
  • Anti-depressive
Psilocybin Mushrooms such as Copelandia, Gymnopilus, Inocybe, Paneolus, Pholiotina, Pluteus, and Psilocybe
  • Increases energy
  • Elevates mood
  • Induces a sense of awe and inspiration
  • Alleviates depression
  • Assists in combating cluster headaches, addiction, and conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder
Kratom Mitragyna Speciosa
  • Boosts focus
  • Alleviates anxiety and stress
  • Increases energy
  • Alleviates depression
  • Elevates mood
  • Improves sleep
  • Anti-anxiety

*Immune modulators support the immune system, which then improves the body’s ability to respond to inflammation and other problems.

There are plenty of substances with adaptogens out there. In addition to this list above, others can be found in goji berries, cordyceps, licorice root, schisandra berries, turmeric, jiaogulan, eleuthero root, and so on. It is important to do some research on the adaptogen you are considering consuming to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of the benefits, whether it is the best one for you, and whether the potential side effects are worth the risk in exchange for the benefits. 

It is important to understand that many of the benefits from the aforementioned adaptogens are still being researched and understood and that there are always risks when consuming substances that are not fully understood…although one could argue that taking those risks is still better than taking on the risks associated with pharmaceutical medications. Before consuming adaptogens, talk to your doctor to prevent any adverse reactions. 

Post Your Comments

Yusuf Saiedi says:

November 18, 2022 at 5:39 pm

Nature is great and with the right recipes or sequencing we can unlock the vault of benefits health happiness and wealth as angels or immortals would… church mainframes CommunionOfTheHolySpirit… HolyNativityScene…

Reply
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