WHAT ARE ADAPTOGENS? AND WHY DO I CARE?
If you are the kind of person who likes to “feel good,” and “be productive,” and “stay healthy,” instead of feeling “run down” in a “brain fog” while you constantly feel stressed out and sick…
You definitely care about adaptogenic herbs. You might just not know it yet. But we’re about to change that.
So we’ve gotten that second question out of the way, right? You care because you like to stay healthy and feel good. So let’s dig into that first question: What ARE adaptogens?
Good question! We’re so glad you asked! First off: They are herbs. Plain old, they-grow-in-nature-we-just-pull-them-out-of-the-ground… herbs. They are not loaded up with steroids. They are not genetically modified. They are just — well — PLANTS. That’s the first thing. The second thing is…
They are adaptogenic. Wait. Did we lose you there? Okay, a little backstory…
What makes an herb adaptogenic?
The term “adaptogen” might sound like it came from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it actually got it’s origins in Russian scientific literature, fist appearing in 1947.
But on the off-chance you aren’t all that familiar with 20th century Russian scientific literature, we’ll throw you a bone…
Adaptogens got their name because they are specific kinds of herbs that help the cells in your body ADAPT to environments that are putting stress on your body.
And stress comes in many forms. Picked up a germ? It is stressing your immune system. Cramming for an exam? You are stressing your brain. Get hit in the face? You are probably experiencing a buffet of stresses, not the least of which is that bruise on your face. Are you with us so far?
Stress is bad for your body. It’s the breaking down of cells, rather than the building up. It is deterioration, rather than healing. It is sickness, rather than health… Adaptogenic herbs give your body’s cells the resources they need to quickly adapt to stressful conditions and right the ship. They are the best natural supplements for stress.
Basically: Adaptogens help control something scientists call “homeostasis,” which is super-smart science talk for “your body working the way your body was meant to work.” If stress is discord, homeostasis in harmony.
But if adaptogen plants are all this and bag of oven-baked kale chips, where the heck did they come from?
How Were Adaptogenic Herbs Discovered?
If 1940s Russia threw you for a loop, we’re about to blow your mind. Let’s go back to the “Dawn of Man…”
Because that is pretty much when humans started using herbs to make things like spices and salves. And teas. And condiments. And… basically all kinds of stuff.
Since pretty much forever, people have realized that certain herbs have the ability to influence the human body in specific ways. This is where that thing we call “medicine” started. It may have mutated into something different, but it started with herbs. And we do ourselves a huge disservice if we forget where we came from.
Because, as it turns out, modern science shows us that the power of herbs is even greater than we thought…
Believe it or not, we’re back in 1940s Russia. Because this is where the real scientific study into adaptogenic herbs really started. Before, it was all pretty much trial and error. But at this place and time, a group of scientists decided to investigate a story that people were telling about a particular plant that grew in the mountains of Atlay.
And what they found was amazing: The plants seemed to significantly boost the subject's ability to recover from external stressors, to the point where they sometimes didn’t even produce symptoms. While others were getting sick or run down, these people weren’t. It’s not like they became superheroes or anything, they were just hardier. More resistant. Healthier.
It wasn’t just a specific kind of resistance either. They found that different herbs produced a specific kind of adaptogenic property. And even the same herbs applied in a different way generated a different response.
Basically: All natural adaptogens help the body adapt to external stress factors as natural supplements for stress. But each adaptogenic herb has a specific range of stress factors that it fights. Sometimes they overlap. Sometimes they don’t. So understanding which ones do what is important. So let’s look at the “Big 4” adaptogenic herbs, and how each of them helps the body achieve that golden grail: Homeostasis.
4 Adaptogenic Herbs: And How They Change Your Life
The Stamina Booster: Rhodiola roseaYou’re lifting weights, or swinging a baseball bat, or running a marathon, or doing whatever kind of physical activity you’re into, and after a while what happens? You wear down. It’s not your fault: that’s how muscles work. They start to break down. Nothing is going to stop it, right?
Wrong, actually, but more on that later…
Now you’re studying. You’re pouring over your study materials to prep for an exam, or maybe you’re just reading a book for leisure. Either way: you can’t do it if you can’t focus, and after a while, no matter what you do, it becomes harder and harder to focus. Turns out: your brain is a muscle too. Same science applies. That’s just life.
Actually, no it isn’t, but more on that in a sec…
It’s been a hard day at work. You come home and you’re drained. Your mental faculties are tapped out, and to add insult to injury, now your mental fatigue is taking a physical toll in the bedroom. Hey, it happens. It’s not just you: there’s a mental/physical link here that is not working in your favor. But, actually, this relationship can be straightened out…
In rigorous animal and human scientific testing, Rhodiola rosea extract has proven to give your body’s cells the compounds they need to significantly reduce the toll that physical and mental stress takes on you. That’s herbal stress relief you can believe in.
This grassy herb, also known as Golden Root or Arctic Root, hails from those Russian Altay Mountains we mentioned earlier, and when taken prophylactically (AKA regularly, rather than only when you see symptoms) is proven to help diminish the effects of:
- Mental Fatigue
- Muscle Fatigue
- Attention Deficit
- Sleep Disorders
Not bad for grass, huh? That's some serious stress and adrenal support. But Rhodiola rosea isn’t the only adaptogen out there…
The Muscle Maker: Leuzia carthamoides
When you’re in Siberia, hanging out in the Altay Mountains, watching male stags fight each other over mating partners, you might be keen enough to notice that the stags do something very interesting after a knock down, drag out bout with a fellow deer:
They dig up roots and eat them. And what roots do they dig up?
You guessed it: Leuzia carthamoides. Or in the common tongue: Maral root.
You’ve probably heard of steroids before. Maybe in relation to sports performance and athletes getting banned because they used them. Steroids — at least the kind athletes take to build muscle — are man-made concoctions with the ability to increase muscle growth after a workout. In other words: if two people do the same workout, but one is on steroids, that person will see greater muscle growth than the non-steroid user. Fair? Not really. But there is actually a way to achieve similar results without cheating…
Get this: The key to muscle growth is increasing anabolic activity. That’s what steroids do. Problem is: they also decrease androgen function, which is why you hear about those less-than-ideal side effects that come from anabolic steroids.
But here’s the best part:
Maral root is proven to increase anabolic activity naturally, without impairing your body’s androgen function.
Basically: you get a muscle-building head start without the side effects. Luella carthamoides also have some overlapping benefits with Rhodiola rosea.
All in all, it can help you:
- Grow muscle naturally
- Fight muscle fatigue
- Diminish mental fatigue
- Diminish insomnia symptoms
And we’re only halfway there. We still have two adaptogens to go, including…
The Recovery Stimulator: Eleutherococcus senticosus
You know that feeling you have after you play a game of basketball for the first time in years? You know, the one where you can’t get off the couch because everything is so sore that all movement seems like a cruel and unusual punishment? The same applies to any situation that has you thinking, “Man, I’m not as young as I once was.”
Or if you’ve kept yourself in tip-top shape, maybe you can relate with the “plateau.” You know, that’s the one where you know your body just isn’t progressing the way it used to after workouts, and you’re not sure what to do. You may start wondering "what supplements can I take for fatigue?" because you just don't have that pep you used to.
The bottom line is: You are experiencing a dip in your body’s ability to recover from repeated stress.
Lucky for you, this is not a situation you have to accept. At least, not for long…
Eleutherococcus senticosus, or Siberian Ginseng, has proven through decades of scientific testing that it has the ability to help the body recover more quickly from repeated physical stress when it is taken prophylactically (regularly).
There are basically two reasons for Siberian Ginseng’s stellar ability to help athletes and laborers recover from their physical exertions:
- It helps activate the release of oxygen into tired muscles
- It regulates the activities of the endocrine glands.
This is a powerful 1-2 punch of recovery healing for those laying motionless after a pick-up basketball game AND those training for the Olympics. It doesn’t discriminate. It just helps. We can all get on board with that.
And last but certainly not least, our fourth adaptogen.
The Reflex Manager: Schizandra chinensis
Our last adaptogen has been scientifically proven to affect a system we haven’t really touched on to this point: the nervous system.
If you’re not familiar, your nervous system is basically the communications department in your body. Shooting messages back and forth along the — you guessed it — nerves! But just like communications departments, some systems function a little more efficiently than others…
As a result of prolonged exposure to stressors, your nervous system, just like your muscular system, can begin to wear down. It can get a little sluggish. Those messages just aren’t zipping back and forth the way they used to. Normally, you wouldn’t really notice this, but there’s a reason you want those messages flying as quickly as possible…
Long story short: A fine-tuned nervous system can save your life, thanks to these little things called Spinal Reflexes.
Spinal reflexes are what happens when your body reacts to something without bothering to talk to your brain about it. It’s what people are talking about when they say they “reacted without thinking.” It’s what happens when the doctor taps your knee and you kick, even though you didn’t tell your leg to do that.
And rigorous scientific testing shows that Schizandra chinesis, a lemony plant the Russians call “Limonnik,” has the ability to decrease the amount of time it takes for your body to respond with a spinal reflex.
And when every second and split-second counts, that could just save your life.