Adaptogenic ingredients and their benefits

Our fastest-growing, disease-causing dilemma, is probably stress and anxiety and this is where adaptogens are playing an increasingly important role.

It may cause you to take a more informed sip of your next cup of rooibos tea. Could it be even more beneficial than just a relaxing cuppa?

What exactly are adaptogens? Simply said, adaptogens are plants that help the body cope with and regulate the adverse effects of physical and mental stress. They produce special plant chemicals that help the plants themselves adapt and survive in harsh conditions. These chemicals work in our bodies to help build resistance to stress and the negative effects it brings about. They help to normalise our stress response and regulate the release of stress hormones and their consequences.

Earliest uses can be traced back to the birth of traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda around 3000BCE but the term “adaptogen” only came into existence in 1948 with Soviet scientist dr Nikolai Lazarev’s studies of the body’s resistance to stress. Adaptogens “increase the state of non-specific resistance in stress and decrease sensitivity to stressors, which results in stress protection, and prolong the phase of resistance (stimulatory effect). Instead of exhaustion, a higher level of equilibrium (homeostasis) is attained. Clinical trials have demonstrated that adaptogens exert an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental work capacity against a background of stress and fatigue, particularly in tolerance to mental exhaustion and enhanced attention.

The main objective for taking adaptogens is therefore to return your body back to a state of balance (homeostasis) and boost overall health. They may help with the following:

  • Limit the overproduction of stress chemicals such as cortisol.
  • Regulate energy and metabolism during stress. This helps lessen the side effects that are caused by the constant use of stored energy & nutrients and consistently high blood sugar.
  • Increase protein restoration and synthesis (during chronic stress protein is broken down to provide energy)
  • Modulate and optimise stress switch-on and switch-off systems
  • Activate protective cell mechanisms
  • An overall increase in energy, stamina, immune function and resilience.

Adaptogens can be taken in several ways including adding them to food or beverages, in capsule form, or tinctures, a liquid form of plant extract. They are found in various (to name a few) botanical ingredients and their actives, many of which are already well known to most of us for their relaxing benefit: green tea, rooibos, honeybush, lavender, ashwagandha, holy basil, passionflower and also in extracts such as aloe vera, moringa, ginkgo, ginseng, Rhodiola and turmeric.