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Best Adaptogens for Anxiety and Stress


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We live in uncertain times; this much is clear. Disease outbreaks, inter-country conflicts, struggling economies, threats of job losses, pollution, family disintegration, etc., are issues we constantly worry about. That "what if" question always lingers in our minds. And, honestly, not many want to find out.

The effect? Many people are constantly stressed and anxious. Needless to say, the impact of stress and anxiety on your health and overall well-being is profound. Long story short, stress and anxiety limit your ability to function optimally. Left unattended, the consequences can be dire.

Adaptogens give us an easy, natural way to mitigate the effects of stress and anxiety. But what are they? And how do they help with stress and anxiety? This article provides exciting insights about adaptogens and how these natural aids can help you cope better with stressors.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Adaptogens are compounds that increase the body's resilience to external stressors.
  • While most adaptogens are plants, some animal products also exhibit adaptogenic properties.
  • Their rich mix of bioactive ingredients enables them to "non-specifically enhance the body's resistance to wide-ranging external stressors."

 

What are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are substances that help the body cope better with stress. They are mainly derived from herbs, although animal sources exist. These substances have been used in traditional medical systems like traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda for thousands of years. 

While adaptogens are often naturally sourced, synthetic adaptogenic compounds are gaining traction.

In ancient medical systems, adaptogens were used to treat health conditions ranging from mental fatigue to hormonal imbalance. Today, these natural bioregulators are primarily used to fortify our defenses against the effects of external stressors. And you can access them mainly in the form of supplements. 

But do they work?

 

How Do Adaptogens Work?

To remain relevant for thousands of generations to date means there is something special about adaptogens. Otherwise, we would only be talking about them as we do dinosaurs, right? 

But even as they impress with their longevity, questions about their efficacy and working mechanisms abound. 

Fortunately, plant research has yielded significant insights. In sum, adaptogens work by regulating stress response mediators. Other studies suggest adaptogens can "non-specifically enhance the body's resistance to a wide range of external stressors." 

This is due to a unique chemical makeup that includes potent bioactive compounds like triterpenes, antioxidants, flavonoids, beta-glucans, polyphenols, lactones, and polysaccharides. 

Each adaptogen works uniquely to manage the effects of stress and anxiety. They might have overlapping attributes, but no two adaptogens are the same. This is why there are adaptogens for improved immunity, mood elevation, stress relief, fatigue, etc.

How Do Adaptogens Help with Stress and Anxiety?

We all get anxious and worked up over things that affect us. But a little stress is actually good for keeping us on track. However, excessive stress is harmful and should be managed. During stressful times, the body undergoes general adaptation syndrome (GAS). Three processes happen during GAS — alarm, resistance, and exhaustion.

Adaptogens mitigate the harmful effects of stress by prolonging the resistance phase. Doing so prevents the onset of exhaustion and essentially saves you from "crashing and burning." 

An in-depth view shows that adaptogens can regulate activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA is part of the endocrine system, which acts as a buffer between the brain (hypothalamus and pituitary) and the adrenal gland. Together, these form a negative feedback loop that modulates the body's stress response. 

The adrenal gland produces the 'stress hormone' cortisol that regulates the flight-or-fight mechanism. Just the right amount of cortisol energizes the muscles to allow you to flee from a dangerous situation. 

Chronic stress tires the adrenal glands and can lead to high cortisol levels in the blood. When this happens, you get mentally and physically fatigued. Adaptogens help reduce stress and anxiety by regulating cortisol levels and re-establishing balance.

 

Best Adaptogens for Stress and Anxiety

There is no shortage of adaptogens that can help you cope better with stress and anxiety. However, each adaptogen affects the body differently. So, your choice of adaptogens should depend on your health target.

Ashwagandha

Known for its energizing and relaxing effects, this herb is an excellent choice for curbing stress and anxiety. It modulates and supports the nervous system, revitalizes the adrenal glands, and regulates cortisol levels.

This is possible owing to its rich supply of flavonoids and steroidal lactones called withanolides. These compounds are believed to help support healthy stress response, improve mood and mental acuity, as well as enhance energy levels and immunity. 

Ashwagandha may also improve sleep, reduce fatigue, and promote healthy blood sugar levels. As such, this age-old herb is often used in managing high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, insomnia, and anxiety or exhaustion-induced impotence.

The name means "smell of horse," which refers to its scent. It also alludes to the idea that you gain horse-like vitality when you take it.

Cordyceps Mushroom

Cordyceps mushroom is another great option for fighting stress and anxiety. This mushroom is revered for its energizing properties hence its ability to reduce fatigue. Research shows it contains nitric oxide-boosting properties. Nitric oxide is well-known for its role in vasodilation and improving blood flow. 

Cordyceps may help reduce stress and anxiety by increasing energy levels and boosting immunity. It makes sense because you can handle stressors better when you are full of energy and have a strong immune system.

Cordyceps’ energizing properties make it a good pre-workout supplement.

Reishi Mushroom

When it comes to keeping stress and anxiety at bay, reishi mushrooms are up there with the best. These mushrooms are well-known for their immune-boosting effects and ability to regulate blood glucose. Of course, a robust immune system plays a huge role in helping you handle stress and anxiety better. 

It is also thought to support the cardiovascular system and calm the nervous system. These attributes are vital in improving mood, soothing the mind, and promoting sleep. 

Rhodiola Rosea

This herb offers a wide range of benefits besides helping manage stress and anxiety. In TCM, this herb is nicknamed "The Golden Root" thanks to its ability to strengthen and nourish the lungs. It is also thought to replenish Qi (chi) and the heart meridians. 

Rhodiola rosea has stress and anxiety-reducing properties. It boosts dopamine and serotonin levels (feel-good hormones), thereby improving mood. Rhodiola Rosea may also help enhance energy levels, thus staving off mental and physical fatigue.

This herb may also do more than ward off stress and anxiety. It may have ingredients that boost immunity and improve memory and focus. Thanks to its mood-boosting properties, Rhodiola rosea may also help promote a better mood.

Holy Basil

Known in India as the "anti-aging elixir," Holy Basil (Ocumum sanctum) is another popular adaptogen for anxiety. It is shown to reduce physical and mental stress and other stress-related symptoms such as anxiety.  

A small study in the Nepal Medical College Journal showed a reduction of depressive symptoms in persons taking holy basil. A review of studies on basil further revealed that it possesses a broad range of pharmacological activity that may help manage stress and anxiety. 

These include immunomodulation, neuroprotective, central nervous system depressant, and hepatoprotection. This herb may also play a critical role in helping combat physical stress.

Prolonged physical exertion and exposure to toxicants like cold and noise can disturb homeostasis. This can lead to metabolic and physiological stress as biochemical pathways are damaged.

Studies involving Holy Basil show that it enhances aerobic metabolism, minimizes oxidative tissue damage, and normalizes biochemical and physiological parameters, thus reducing the effects of physical stress. 

Goji Berry

Native to Asia, goji berries (Lycium barbarum) have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. These sweet, slightly sour fruits exhibit a range of health benefits that could help manage stress and anxiety. 

For instance, goji berries are shown to enhance immunity by promoting the production of more immune cells. What's more, these berries may boost energy, mental and physical performance, improve sleep, and foster an overall sense of well-being.

Since chronic stress is implicated in premature aging, goji berries might also help. These fruits are rich in vitamin C, which enhances skin appearance and delays aging.

Shavatari

Satavar, shatavari, or asparagus recemosus, is believed to have wide-ranging health benefits. As its name, which means "curer of a hundred diseases," suggests, this adaptogenic herb could help manage stress and anxiety in many ways.

For starters, it is a powerful antioxidant with compounds like aerosol, asparagine, and racemofuran. Antioxidants are crucial to neutralizing the effects of oxidative stress (which is essentially stress at the cellular level). Oxidative stress is widely implicated in many neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's and Huntington's.

This herb also boasts impressive immune-boosting properties, which is crucial considering the role of a strong immune system in managing stress and anxiety. It may also improve anxiety, besides other ailments such as hormonal imbalance, inflammation, and pain. 

That said, there is minimal research on shatavari's health benefits. Therefore, consider the risks and potential benefits before using it. For example, if you are allergic to asparagus, it may be prudent to avoid shatavari because it is a member of that family.

Schisandra Berry

In TCM, Schisandra berry (Schisandra Chinensis) has made a name for itself as a powerful tonic that supports the entire body constitution. But a reason to include schisandra berry in your list of anti-stress and anxiety herbs is its impact on the catabolic effects of stress.

Research suggests that Schisandra berry may boost mental performance and endurance. Further, it reduces exhaustion and has been shown to improve sleep in people with stress-induced depression.

A Swedish Herbal Institute Research and Development study contends that this herb may boost endurance and minimize mental fatigue when combined with eleuthero root.

Siberian Ginseng

Siberian ginseng (eleuthero root) is another superb choice for anyone with stress and anxiety. Its extracts are shown to boost physical strength, energy, and stamina, in addition to promoting quick recovery and performance. 

It may also help manage symptoms of depression like poor sleep, appetite changes, and headaches. Due to its powerful anti-stress properties, Siberian ginseng is one of the best adaptogens for stress and anxiety.

Lion's Mane Mushroom

Lion's mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a mushroom native to Europe, North America, and Asia. This mushroom contains many beneficial compounds that may improve mood, soothe the mind, support immune, gut, and heart health, and stimulate the growth of new brain cells.

As such, lion's mane is one of the top adaptogens for anxiety and stress. Furthermore, it may help clear brain fog and mental fatigue in addition to boosting mood.

Turmeric

Turmeric needs no introduction. This spicy herb is a potent anti-inflammatory thanks to an ingredient called curcumin. The link between inflammation and stress is well-established in science.

Excessive inflammation can cause stress and anxiety, while chronic stress can lead to inflammatory diseases like atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

By enhancing your body's antioxidant activity, turmeric may help fortify the body's defenses against stress. As a result, studies suggest that turmeric may also be beneficial for your mood.

However, it is poorly absorbed in the body, so it is advisable to take it with black pepper to increase its bioavailability.

 

Best Way to Take Adaptogens

Today, adaptogens are mostly available as supplements. When using adaptogen supplements, remember that some are potent and can cause intense side effects when taken in large doses.

Therefore, it is vital to stick to the prescribed dosage guidelines.

Unlike conventional medications, adaptogens are slow-acting, so their effects are noticeable after lengthy use. This means the best way to take adaptogens is by integrating them into your daily routine.

Of course, they are available in various forms, which also determines how to use them. 

Here are three ways you can take adaptogens:

  1. Simply add adaptogen powder to hot water and stir to mix thoroughly. Adaptogen teas are a popular way to take powder forms and are simple and easy to prepare.
  2. You can also add adaptogenic herbs to everyday foods, soups, salad dressings, broths, and baked foods. Half a teaspoon of each adaptogen powder should be enough for you to experience its amazing benefits.
  3. You could also opt for supplements like capsules. These are easy to use as you simply pop in and swallow with a glass of water.

 

Where to Buy Adaptogens Online 

Thinking of where to buy adaptogens online? Log into our VYU shop and browse our broad selection of adaptogen supplements. Our TUNE IN on-the-go performance drink is designed to supercharge the brain and take your productivity into overdrive!

Featuring a blend of nootropics, vitamins, adaptogens, and functional mushrooms, TUNE IN is a perfect way to increase energy, focus, memory, and recall.

 

Final Thoughts

Adaptogen supplements are a great way to beat stress and anxiety during intense periods. They help keep you energized and focused on important tasks.

However, seeking professional medical care first is best when going through chronic stress and anxiety. You can supplement your medication with adaptogens after consulting your doctor.

As with all substances with bioactive ingredients, adaptogens can have side effects and contraindications. So, if you have a pre-existing health condition, consult a healthcare professional before embarking on a herbal regimen.

 

Best Adaptogens for Anxiety and Stress: FAQs

Which Adaptogen is Best for Anxiety?

Each adaptogen has a unique set of qualities and properties so it is a bit difficult to suggest which adaptogen is best for anxiety. In some cases, these properties can overlap. However, the best way to reap the benefits of adaptogens is by using them in combinations. This broadens the overall effect besides increasing efficacy.

What is the Most Powerful Adaptogen?

This depends on the effect you are looking for. As mentioned earlier, adaptogens boast different properties and effects, so, again, we cannot identify the most powerful adaptogen. That said, some of the most powerful are ginseng, ashwagandha, astragalus root, cordyceps mushrooms, Schisandra berry, and turmeric.

Do Adaptogens Help Anxiety?

There is evidence that adaptogens may help anxiety. However, keep in mind that they are typically long-acting, so the effects may be noticeable after extended use.

Which is Better for Anxiety, Ashwagandha or Rhodiola?

Neither is better than the other. Both herbs pack unique attributes with lots of potential benefits for wide-ranging health issues. As mentioned earlier, the best way to maximize the benefits of adaptogens is by mixing them.

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