Adaptogens

Adaptogens are known for their ability to support the body’s physical and emotional stress response, which, in turn, conserves energy that the body would otherwise spend responding to external stressors or pressure.

Specifically, adaptogens are classified as herbs that meet the following criteria:

  • They can help normalize a significant range of functions in the body
  • They help the body react to stress
  • They are nontoxic when taken at normal dosage

Adaptogens can help positively change the body’s reaction to both environmental and internal stress. They accomplish this by offering strength and support to several systems throughout the body, including the nervous, immune, and glandular systems.

Interestingly, many herbal adaptogens themselves are the products of stressful environments or growing conditions. Adaptogenic plants can often be found thriving in poor soil, or in climates that are arid, dry, and typically hostile to most forms of plant life. In these blog posts, we examine the many benefits and uses of Ayurveda’s adaptogens and the gifts they have to offer us—body, mind, and spirit.

While these calming herbs have been around for thousands of years (if not millions) and have been used by various cultures, it wasn’t until the 20th century that Western science began to take a serious interest in the ways in which adaptogenic herbs could support not only the body’s fight or flight response, but also promote balanced energy, restful sleep, and more.

The term “adaptogen” itself (or “adaptgen,” as it was first recorded) was first coined sometime around the 1950s, when Russian scientist Dr. N. V. Lazarev observed that certain herbs had helped soldiers with strength, stamina, energy, and motivation during World War II.

These findings supported much of what Ayurveda and Chinese medicine had been teaching for thousands of years concerning certain herbs and their remarkable abilities to adapt to the needs of the body—whether it be increased energy, better sleep, or peace of mind.

By the 21st century, the popularity of adaptogens (and of their numerous benefits) had spread worldwide, and it continues to increase as more and more people learn about the world of adaptogens and all they have to offer.

Some of Ayurveda’s herbal adaptogens include:

  • Amalaki (Embelica officinalis), also known as “amla,” is a superfruit that is known to be a natural source of vitamin C and antioxidants. It is said to promote virility, rejuvenation, and a robust immune system.
  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is perhaps Ayurveda’s most popular adaptogen and is well-known for promoting both increased energy during the day and deep sleep at night.
  • Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) supports the body in recovering from stress. It is also classified as a nootropic, meaning that it can help the brain and nervous system function optimally while supporting mental and emotional well-being.
  • Brahmi/Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) is also a terrific adaptogen for the mind, promoting healthy intellect, focus, memory, and mental fortitude.
  • Guduchi (Tinosporia cordifolia) helps bolster the body’s natural defenses, cleanse excess heat and natural toxins, and soothe the mind and nervous system.

To see a comprehensive list of adaptogenic herbs, supplements, and associated research, we recommend starting out by reading our Adaptogenic Herbs blog. Other articles will look into specific adaptogens, as well as recipes you can make with them and other ways that they can support your health.