Boost Your Resistance to Stress with Adaptogens

by Dr. Julian Whitaker
Filed Under: Stress Management, General Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

You’ve probably heard (or even experienced) that stress can lower your immunity. But have you ever wondered why or how? Well, it’s a simple matter of survival. 

Your brain reacts to stress and danger by generating hormones that temporarily shut down all the body’s non-emergency functions in order to help you respond more fully to the present stressor. That’s why even low-grade stress and anxiety can damage your body’s ability to defend itself against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.

That’s where adaptogens come in. Adaptogens are compounds that help the body adapt to and regenerate after exposure to stress of any kind. Derived from plants that survive in harsh climates and growing conditions, adaptogens have been used in traditional medicine to boost physical, mental, and emotional reserves and to treat a wide range of symptoms.

There are several different types of adaptogens:

  • Rhodiola rosea, also called Russian rhodiola, and ashwagandha used in Ayurvedic medicine, are popular adaptogens that modulate the ill effects of stress.
  • Panax ginseng, called the “king of herbs,” has a slight stimulatory effect and helps to improve concentration and thinking. In fact, story has it that Mao-Tse Tung and Deng Ziao Ping passed trays of choice Panax ginseng around at the beginning of meetings. It’s also used in many male formulas to support physical stamina.
  • American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) has a calming effect on the central nervous system. Plus, it’s a mild anti-inflammatory and improves digestion.
  • Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is native not only to Siberia, but also to Korea, Japan, and China. It’s one of the most studied adaptogens with more than 1,000 studies on it. Like American ginseng, it has a calming effect on the central nervous system and is a powerful weapon against stress.

If you’re feeling fatigued, worn out, or stressed, give adaptogens a try. Look for products with standardized levels of ginsenosides or eleutherosides and take as directed. Ginseng is best taken in a cyclical fashion—after you’ve taken it daily for two or three weeks, take a two-week break before starting up again.

Now it’s your turn: Have you used adaptogens for stress?

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