Are you stressed? What a loaded question. Who isn’t these days? Especially for those of us dealing with mental health issues – I mean, isn’t stress kind of just like, par for the course?
I have anxiety – even when I’m not stressed, I stress about not stressing.
Of course, like many of you, I do what I can to help myself. I exercise, eat well, and do my best to get a good quality sleep each night. I practice a lot of self care and kindness towards myself. And recently, I’ve added something new to my routine: adaptogens.
What are adaptogens? ‘Adaptogen’ is a term used to describe plants that help the body adapt to stress. You may have heard of a few: ashwaganda, holy basil, rhodiola, ginseng, and maca.
The purpose of these is not particularly to address mood, or to manipulate emotions, but rather to help the body function optimally during stress. As someone who often gets the physical response of stress (thanks anxiety!) without an environmental or emotional cause, adaptogens are quickly becoming one of my most useful tools in my mental health toolbox.
Due to their increase in popularity, adaptogens have become relatively easy to find. They can be found at health food stores, and even some bigger grocery store chains. My favourite brand is Organic Traditions – I have their Holy Basil, Ashwaganda, and Maca.
Holy basil has a reputation for balancing blood sugar levels and regulating cortisol. It is typically made into a tea – I enjoy it warm, but if you’re up for an alternative check out my recipe for Holy Basil Iced Tea !
Maca has been studied extensively in relation to libido, but it is also known for it’s ability to increase energy and balance hormones – like cortisol. Maca root is easily integrated into an energy ball recipe or morning smoothie.
Ashwagandha has long been highly prized in Ayervedic medicine. It helps to balance hormones, support the adrenals, and also protects the brain. One study in particular is especially intriguing. A group of participants were given dietary counseling, a multi-vitamin, deep breathing relaxation techniques, and a daily dose of ashwagandha. Not only did the participants anxiety decrease significantly, but they also decreased more than their counterparts in the psychotherapy intervention group.
Ashwagandha is great in a smoothies, tea, and homemade chocolate.
In terms of anxiety, I would not recommend trying to treat your mental health symptoms with adaptogens alone – mental wellness requires a holistic approach – use all the tools at your disposal! If you do decide to treat your anxiety with adaptogens, check with a medical professional so you can be sure it isn’t contraindicated with any of your medications.
That being said, I have felt an increase in energy and a more balanced disposition after adding these to my wellness routine, so it has been rewarding incorporating them. The next adaptogen I think I want to try is moringa, which is digestion supportive and great for promoting healthy skin.
Are you guys using adaptogens? What benefits have you noticed?
Cooley K, Szczurko O, Mills Edward, Bernhardt B, Seely D (2009). Naturopathic Care for Anxiety. www.plosone.org
S.KBhattacharya, S.K., AMuruganandam, A. V. (2003) Adaptogenic activity of Withania somnifera: an experimental study using a rat model of chronic stress. Pharamacol Biochem Behav. Altern Med Rev. 1999 Aug;4(4):249-65.
Kelly, G.S. (1999) Nutritional and botanical interventions to assist with the adaptation to stress. Altern Med Rev;4(4):249-265.