All about adaptogens—herbs that balance body and mind
“An adaptogen is a botanical that greatly improves your body's ability to adapt to stress, whether it's a hectic schedule, heat or cold, noise, high altitudes or any number of other stressors. This elite class of herbs impart strength, energy, stamina, endurance, and improve mental clarity.” —Chris Kilham, The Medicine Hunter
The beginning of adaptogens
Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient wisdom of healers, prophets, and Rishis that lived deep in the Himalayas. Their knowledge was passed down orally from teacher to student for thousands of years until about 5,000 years ago when it was first written down. Then, somewhere around 400-800 BCE, an herbal scholar, healer and herbalist, Charaka, recorded information on over 1,500 medicinal plants in his book the “Charaka Samhita” that is still referenced today by Ayurvedic doctors and practitioners. Learn more about HANAH's adaptogens by product.
The understanding of stress
Many hundreds of years later this knowledge that was basic to Ayurveda became new to the Western mind. Hans Selye, a Hungarian endocrinologist, was the first Westerner to give a scientific explanation for biological stress. In 1936, Hans Selye created the stress model "General Adaption Syndrome," (GAS) which thoroughly explains the stress response and how aging and disease are caused by chronic exposure to stress.
There are three phases of GAS:
- The Alarm Phase: The immediate reaction to a stressor. In the initial phase of stress, humans exhibit a "fight or flight" response, which prepares the body for physical activity. However, this initial response can also decrease the effectiveness of the immune system, making persons more susceptible to illness during this phase.
- The Phase of Resistance: During this phase, if the stress continues, the body adapts to the stressors it is exposed to. Changes at many levels take place in order to reduce the effect of the stressor.
- The Phase of Exhaustion: At this stage, the stress has continued for some time. The body's resistance to the stress may gradually be reduced, or may collapse quickly. Generally, this means the immune system, and the body's ability to resist disease, may be almost totally eliminated.
In the early 1960s, Lazarev, a Russian toxicologist, began using herbal medicinal plants to increase stamina and survival in harmful environments, and a new concept of “adaptogens” was introduced to describe compounds which could increase “the state of nonspecific resistance” in stress. These compounds decrease the sensitivity to stressors which results in stress protection and prolongs the phase of resistance or stimulatory effect. Instead of exhaustion, a higher level of equilibrium was maintained. It later became its own field of biomedicinal research in the USSR.
There are many herbs that have been identified as adaptogenic. These herbs counteract any adverse effects of a physical, chemical or biological stressor by generating nonspecific resistance. In order to qualify as an adaptogen, the herb must be as follows:
- Completely safe and non-toxic.
- Have non-specific benefits. It improves the entire body’s resistance to stress, not just one system or organ.
- Have a homeostasis-invoking and normalizing influence irrespective of the direction of change from physiological norms caused by a stressor. This is the principle of a medicinal substance that is two directional, or acting like a thermostat. For instance, if your estrogen is too high then shatavari tends to lower it, but if it is too low shatavari tends to raise it.
- Be innocuous and not influence normal body functions more than required.
Adaptogenic herbs in HANAH ONE
There are 20 herbs that are identified as adaptogenic, and a whopping seven of those herbs are in HANAH ONE. Actually, HANAH ONE as a complete tonic qualifies as an adaptogen in its own right.
- Ashwagandha: The superhero of adaptogenic herbs and the most prolifically studied. In the largest human trial using ashwagandha, the herb was shown to reduce cortisol levels up to 26%. Chronically elevated cortisol increases inflammatory and degenerative processes in the body. Additionally, the participants had a lowered fasting blood sugar level and improved lipid profile patterns. Ashwagandha has also been shown to support the regeneration and reconstruction of nerve cells and synapses. This suggests that ashwagandha could help reverse states of brain and nervous system degeneration.
- Amalaki: ‘Amla’ can literally be translated to mean ‘sour,’ indicating its very sharp and sour taste profile. Amalaki also means ‘Dhatri,’ which translates as ‘mother’ or ‘nurse,’ indicating that Amalaki is a primary healing and nourishing herb for the body and soul. It is prescribed for many imbalances, including boosting immunity and digestion, as well as heart and metabolic disorders.
- Gotu kola: This herb is also known as Brahmi – one of the highest states of consciousness (Brahmi or God consciousness) – and has been considered one of the most powerful brain tonics in the Ayurvedic apothecary.
- Turmeric: This adaptogen helps the body maintain healthy levels of body weight, blood glucose, cholesterol, corticosterone, memory, and reduced glutathione during the acute and chronic experience of stressors. Turmeric’s adaptogenic actions are based on the ability of turmeric to support the body’s innate antioxidant function while helping the body to maintain healthy levels of corticosterone.
- Shatavari: A renowned tonic for the female reproductive system, shatavari contains natural precursors to female hormones that help to balance hormones, enhance fertility, promote conception, and reduce menopausal and menstrual symptoms. The benefits also extend to the male reproductive system, as the herb’s oily properties increase all reproductive fluids as well as support a healthy sperm count in men.
- Licorice: The premier digestive adaptogen. Around 90% of all Chinese medicine formulas contain licorice root because it has awesome health benefits, it tastes good (especially compared to a lot of other Chinese herbs), and it has a synergistic quality that helps to increase the potency of the formula. It has a regulating effect throughout the body and is particularly nourishing to a weakened and depleted immune system.
- Long pepper: Long pepper contains a constituent known as piperine, which demonstrates stimulant activity that supports poor circulation and shifts congestion within the respiratory and reproductive systems. Piperine has the ability to enhance the bioavailability of certain constituents in both conventional and non-conventional medication. It also increases permeability and partitioning of the gut lining, promoting rapid absorption and better assimilation of nutrients via the gastrointestinal tract.
The other 13 adaptogenic herbs that have been studied are: Panax Ginseng, Astragalus, Cordyceps, He Shou Wu, Goji, Eleuthero, Reishi, Rhodiola, Schisandra, Tulsi, Maca, Moringa and Shilajit.
With all these benefits, you might be asking which adaptogenic herbs are best to use, and which can be used on a regular basis? Our answer: as many as possible! That’s why we packed so much adaptogenic goodness into HANAH ONE.
With HANAH ONE, which contains 30 powerhouse herbs in a base of healthy fats and honey designed for daily use, you’re adding seven adaptogenic herbs to your diet. With adaptogenic herbs playing a substantial role in the formula, nearly everyone reports noticeable results, as it is formulated to work uniquely with your body to support its specific needs.
Check out some of these similar HANAH blogs:
- HANAH Ashwagandha+: Adaptogenic Super Plant
- "I tried an anti-stress cocktail for 30 days -- here's what happened.."
- Need an Athletic Edge? Get a Natural Endurance and Boost with HANAH Cordyceps+
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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