As consumers take a more holistic approach to health, they continue to show growing interest in natural remedies. Natural remedies like adaptogens have started to take center stage in the health and wellness industry as modern science catches up with ancient medicine.
According to an article by Velislava Todorova et al. in the journal Nutrients, adaptogens are plant extracts or synthetic compounds that support our body’s natural ability to deal with occasional stress and return the body to a state of balance (homeostasis). While they have been traditionally used to treat a wide range of conditions for many centuries, the concept of “adaptogens” was introduced in 1947 by Russian toxicologist Dr. Nikolai Vasilyevich Lazarev as a form of herbal medicine. The most common types of adaptogens include Cordyceps, reishi, lion’s mane, shiitake, maitake, chaga, Siberian ginseng, Rhodiola, American ginseng, ashwagandha, licorice root, holy basil, Schisandra, goji berries, and turmeric root. They are said to have many health benefits and increase our resistance to stress by strengthening our ability to adapt and survive.
According to an article by Alexander G. Panossian et al. in the journal Medicinal Research Reviews, adaptogens have the potential to help regulate the immune system in response to allergies and other conditions like anemia, asthma, ear infections, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and some digestive issues. They have also been found to impact moods, cognitive function, and memory. Panossian et al. note, “[A]daptogens are most likely effective for the prevention and treatment of stress-induced and adult-onset disorders such as chronic fatigue, memory impairment, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases, cold and flu, infections, skin diseases, liver diseases, and cancer.”
Studies also point to the healing properties of individual adaptogens. For instance, the antioxidant properties of curcumin, the biologically active component of turmeric, have been found to help prevent and treat many chronic diseases, according to Min Chen et al. in a 2018 article for Neural Regeneration Research. Studies have also demonstrated the possible benefits of Rhodiola rosea. In a 2009 article for Current Clinical Pharmacology, Alexander Panossian and Georg Wikman noted that there was strong scientific evidence that Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract “improved attention, cognitive function and mental performance in fatigue and in chronic fatigue syndrome.” Cordyceps, a fungus and well-known medicinal mushroom in traditional Chinese medicine, has also been studied for its uses. A 2010 study by Steve Chen et al. published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that Cordyceps sinensis improved exercise performance and could potentially improve overall wellness in older adults. These studies represent only a small sample of the research that has been done on adaptogens, however, and more research is still being done.
The health-promoting effects of adaptogens have led to considerable increases in the market for them. The rise in consumer awareness in terms of health promotion, disease prevention, the recent pandemic, and general public health concerns all seem to be driving this increased demand. For consumers who want to try them, adaptogenic herbs like holy basil, ashwagandha, maca, reishi, and Siberian ginseng are available in powdered forms and can be used as seasonings in soups and stir-fries, toppings for oatmeal, or additions to yogurt or smoothies. Other adaptogens have been found in some healthy desserts, energy drinks, teas, and even energy bars. Some people find it easier to consume adaptogens as supplements. Adaptogens are typically available in capsules, extracts, tablets, and powder forms.
Adaptogens have been traditionally used to treat a variety of conditions. Although they have been around for hundreds of years in Eastern medicine, they are currently a buzzword in the natural health space. They are said to increase our resistance to stress by strengthening our ability to adapt and survive. They have also been demonstrated in a wide range of popular uses from skin rejuvenation, mood improvement, and overall health promotion, and they continue to be backed by growing scientific evidence. However, some adaptogens have been found to react with medications, especially in people with certain medical conditions. Anyone with health concerns or on any medication, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and children should consult a healthcare provider before taking adaptogens.
Omolara Funmilayo is the owner of nourishedsupermom.com. She is a certified holistic wellness coach and nutritionist. She supports busy parents by giving them the tools they need for transformation in health and wellness for themselves and their families.