Stress, panic, anxiety—these are all reactions every one of us experiences, often daily. Adaptogens are natural substances or herbs that decrease stress levels in the body on a molecular level. Adaptogens help the body adapt—both physically and mentally.
When we are in distress, the stress hormone cortisol is released, making us irritable and causing things like weight gain and bone loss. Very high levels of cortisol put our bodies into “fight or flight” mode, stimulating the sympathetic nervous system.
Chronically elevated cortisol levels have serious repercussions on our bodies.
Adaptogens balance hormones and promote homeostasis by helping the body adapt and respond to stressors in a healthy way. When the body is able to properly adapt, symptoms like fatigue and weakness will disappear, replaced by a boost in energy and stamina.
That is why adaptogens are also natural physical performance boosters.
The following adaptogens will help you treat stress-induced symptoms and feel physically stronger at the same time.
Adaptogen #1: Maca Root
Maca root is a member of the cruciferous family, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Unlike its siblings, it has earned the title of superfood due to its broad nutritious profile and powerful effects on the body.
Historically, maca was used as an aphrodisiac and was recognized by the indigenous peoples of the Andes for its fertility powers. But its abilities go far beyond that.
Maca root is not just an adaptogen, but one that is known to induce a sense of well-being in its consumer. It has an energizing effect, and restores hormonal balance to the body. It improves sexual health, and may even combat menopausal symptoms in women.
Maca boasts over 20 amino acids including 8 essential amino acids. It contains 20 free-form fatty acids, vitamins B, C, and E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and many other nutrients.
It is most often consumed in powder form, although it can be found in capsule, liquid, or extract form.
Adaptogen #2: Red Panax Ginseng
Panax ginseng, often called ‘true ginseng,’ originates from Korea, northeastern China, and eastern Siberia. It should not be confused with American ginseng, Chinese ginseng, or Siberian ginseng.
Panax ginseng is an adaptogen used to cope with stress and boost physical performance by preventing muscle damage and increasing endurance. It can also improve concentration, memory, work efficiency, immune function, physical stamina, and sexual health (treats erectile dysfunction).
Ginseng will certainly enhance physical performance, but it is also a general well-being medication because it improves the functioning of so many systems in the body.
Adaptogen #3: Eleuthero
Eleuthero, or Siberian ginseng, is an adaptogenic herb that has been around for thousands of years in Chinese medicine, and has only started making waves in the western world in the past century.
The benefits of eleuthero are similar to those of Panax ginseng. It is used to relieve stress, increase cognitive function, boost the immune system, and increase energy levels.
Eleuthero can also improve heart health by lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation, and reducing cholesterol. It makes for an overall healthier you.
Adaptogen #4: Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea is an adaptogen that is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat anxiety and depression.
This strong plant grows at high altitudes in arctic areas of Asia and Eastern Europe, and was used by the Vikings for physical strength and by Sherpa people to enable them to climb at high altitudes.
The major benefits Rhodiola is known for are: burning fat, increasing energy and athletic performance, lowering cortisol levels, fighting depression and anxiety, and improving brain function.
If you can benefit from any of these (which, let’s be honest, we all can), Rhodiola Rosea may be for you.
Adaptogen #5: Cordyceps Mushroom
Cordyceps are a type of fungus that grows on the backs of caterpillars in high mountain regions of the world, including the Himalayas in China.
They have been deemed a superfood due to their unique ability to fight aging, stress and to keep disease at bay.
They also provide the consumer with a boost in energy.
A 2010 study on exercise performance in healthy older subjects showed a 10.5% increase in metabolic threshold after taking cordyceps supplements for 12 weeks. The conclusion of the study suggested an improvement in exercise performance and overall wellness.
Adaptogen #6: Chaga
Chaga, or “King of Medicinal Mushrooms” grows on birch trees in very cold climates. It has been used for centuries in Siberia, Russia, and other parts of Asia for its health benefits. It is most commonly consumed in the form of tea, and is said to have a flavor much like vanilla bean.
Historically, indigenous Siberians consumed chaga mushrooms by grinding them and adding them to soups and stews for endurance, and to fight off degenerative diseases. In Eastern Europe, it was used to treat skin conditions, like eczema and respiratory conditions, like bronchitis.
Chaga is a potent antioxidant and adaptogen that promotes digestive, heart, skin, and liver health. It boosts immune function and relieves stress.
Sounds like it’s time to sit down with a cup of chaga tea.
Adaptogen #7: Gingko Biloba
Ginko biloba, or maidenhair, has been used medicinally in China for thousands of years. It may even be the oldest tree species on earth.
Ginko biloba is said to have benefits that improve the function of many different systems in the body. It is rich in antioxidants flavonoid and terpenoids which can improve cognitive function and slow the aging process—it is currently the most investigated and used herbal remedy for Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a 2006 article published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, studies have shown that ginko biloba improves exercise performance. The flavonoids and terpenoids enhance muscle tissue blood flow, improving aerobic endurance due to enhanced muscle tissue oxidation.
Since gingko biloba is an adaptogen, it fights off anxiety and depression. It can also improve libido, treat headaches and migraines, lower asthmatic symptoms, heal hemorrhoids, and combat fibromyalgia.
A Final Word on Adaptogens
So, if you’re looking for a supplement that will calm your nerves while stimulating your muscles, choose from these adaptogens that boost physical performance.