Adaptogens - Herbs for Health
In a world that is becoming more and more aware of the nuances of leading a healthy lifestyle, supplement brands that provide high quality, natural and safe products are more in the limelight than ever.
‘Adaptogens’- a buzzword that has been making its rounds in the world of wellness for their ability to help the human body cope with stress and improve metabolism. In this article, I'll discuss in detail what they are, the specific benefits of various adaptogens, and the current adaptogen trends that are being followed in the market.
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are beneficial plants or herbs that can increase the body’s resistance against physical, chemical, and mental stress creators and promote healthy living. They’ve been used for centuries by Chinese and Ayurvedic physicians and herbalists for their healthy properties. Modern health care is bringing back adaptogens because of their long tradition of use and numerous benefits.[i]
The extensive research on adaptogens began in the 1940's when Dr. Nikolai Lazarev started looking into chemical compounds that could improve the body’s balance while not having any drastic side effects. In 1990, a group of scientists – Panossian, Wikman, and Wagner conducted several studies on adaptogens and gave conclusive proof of the working and benefits of adaptogens.[ii] They proposed the following definition:
Adaptogens are natural bio-regulators that increase the ability to adapt to environmental factors and avoid the damage caused by those factors. In fact, adaptogens minimize the bodily response to stress, reducing the negative reactions during the alarm phase and eliminating, or at least decreasing, the onset of the exhaustion phase that is part of the so-called general adaptation syndrome.
For more information about adaptogens and why I truly believe they're the "unsung heroes" in the sports supplement industry today, watch this clip from my latest podcast with Ryan Gillen.
How do Adaptogens Work?
By re-regulating the two main control systems (HPA – hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and SAS – sympathoadrenal system) present in our body, adaptogens affect the functioning of the endocrine and essential aspects of our:
- nervous system
- immune system
- cardiovascular function
- fight-or-flight response in times of stress.
For a better understanding of how adaptogens work, consider the example of working out. When we exercise, we put our bodies under a considerable amount of stress. Over a continued period of training and exercise, our body handles this stress better, and we no longer feel as fatigued or have as high a heart rate. In the same way, when you consume adaptogens, you’re training your body to handle the effects of different types of stressors.[iii]
What Are the Most Effective Adaptogenic Herbs?
Different herbs have their own specific benefits. Here is a list of well-known adaptogens and their benefits:
- Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian Ginseng): Previously known as Siberian Ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus, or Eleuthero for short, shares similarities with common ginseng in terms of its properties and effects. It is known for its cardiovascular, mood, and energy enhancing properties. Eleuthero is mostly used to promote a health immune response, improve physical stamina, and sexual health.[iv]
- Rhodiola rosea (Arctic Root): It has been used for centuries in Siberia to cope with the cold climate and stressful life. Today, it is also believed to increase physical endurance and resistance to high-altitude related issues.[v]
- Schisandra chinensis: Schisandra is used to increase stamina, energy, promote wellness and resistance against stress. It also shows properties to help prevent early aging and increase lifespan, as well as support healthy blood sugar and blood pressure levels already with a healthy range.[vi]
- Astragalus Root: For centuries, astragalus has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat various disorders. This adaptogen is also believed to reduce stress and the effects of aging by protecting the telomeres (structure linked with aging at the end of chromosomes).[vii]
- Ashwagandha: This adaptogen is rather well-known for its medicinal properties and is used to help the body with daily stress and is popularly consumed as powders and capsules. Ashwagandha also shows positive results for promoting healthy testosterone levels and supporting sexual health in men and women.[viii]
- Holy Basil: It is also referred to as Tulsi and is the most renowned medicinal herb for its ability to maintain healthy blood sugar levels already within a normal range, promote a healthy lifespan, and decrease the negative impacts of stress on the body.[ix]
- Cordyceps: It is a mushroom known for its ability to help the body fight stress and support healthy hormonal balance. Studies also show that it stimulates some aspects of the immune system.[x]
- Reishi: Similar to cordyceps, reishi is also a mushroom, known for its ability to help the body cope with stress and promote healthy sleeping habits.[xi]
- Maca: This Peruvian plant grown in the Andes mountains is known for its many benefits, including increased libido, improving stamina and mood, and supporting healthy blood pressure already within a normal range.[xii]
- Turmeric: A common sight in many kitchens – apart from being an essential ingredient, turmeric has many health benefits like supporting immune health, decreasing inflammation‡, and supporting immunity.
- Wild Yam: It is also known as Devil’s Bones and helps relieve menopausal symptoms and promote a health balance of female hormone.[xiii]
- Licorice: This popular adaptogen is known for its various benefits for lung health and liver health, as well as supporting a healthy gastrointestinal system.[xiv]
- Bacopa monnieri: This natural anti-anxiety† and mood-supporting agent is believed to protect the brain and support memory and other aspects of cognitive function.[xv]
†May help relieve stress-related anxiety
‡May help relieve stress and inflammation due to physical over-exersion
Benefits of Adaptogens for Health
Adaptogens are beneficial plants that may have minimal side effects on the consumer. Some popular benefits include:
- Reduce Stress and Anxiety: By increasing the adaptive energy of the body to keep it balanced in the presence of various stressors, adaptogens may help relieve stress-related anxiety.[xvi]
- Boost Immune System: Adaptogens support homeostasis, a balanced response to body activities. Since stress is one of the biggest deterrents of our immune system, adaptogens work at a molecular level to support a stable balance in the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands.[xvii]
- Fight Fatigue: By enhancing physiological stress adaptation and assisting the body in controlling stress, adaptogens work as a potent way to counter this fatigue.[xviii]
- Improve Memory and Stamina: Nootropics is one class of adaptogens that may help improve cognitive abilities. These cognitive-boosting plants work on the hypothalamus, the brain’s control center, to reduce stress and improve cognition and memory.[xix]
What's the Future of Adaptogens? Check Out These Trends
The popularity of adaptogens gained momentum in 2005; since then, there has been fluctuating interest on adaptogens as supplements. Since they are derived from natural sources and are believed to have minimal side effects, adaptogens have gained the attention of many customers and are projected to continue receiving attention in the coming years.
Research suggests that among other adaptogens, ginseng, and ashwagandha account for a combined market share of 46.4% in 2020. And in terms of value, North America is believed to have a dominant market share for adaptogens in 2020.[xx]
The current ‘go natural’ trend is gaining traction among consumers, and adaptogens are bound to see an increase in interest. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done on the benefits of adaptogens, but they are showing great promise.
Popular adaptogen supplement formats include capsules and tablets. I would caution brand owners not to use powders as a delivery format for adaptogens because the alkaloids in most adaptogens are quite bitter and would be difficult for even the most skilled and experienced contract manufacturers to cover up.
With over 50 years of nutraceutical industry experience, NutraScience Labs can create a high quality adaptogen supplement for you. Our knowledgeable and friendly team will walk you through every step of the supplement manufacturing process to ensure your finished product exceeds your expectations. In addition to contract manufacturing, we also offer a full suite of award-winning packaging and label design and order fulfillment services.
For more information, call 855-492-7388 to speak with a member of our staff or request a free manufacturing price quote from us!