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Adaptogens are becoming increasingly popular as we look for natural ways to manage our stress and anxiety – but what are they, and can they help?
Adaptogens are certain herbs, or mushrooms, which are thought to have health benefits and to help the body “adapt”
Each herb has different benefits but they are generally thought to help with managing stress and anxiety. They may share similar properties with CBD such as being an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory or anti-bacterial, and can used together to boost these effects.
Here are some of the most common adaptogenic herbs for anxiety.
Ashwagandha has been used in traditional medicine for over 3,000 years. It is used in Ayurveda, an ancient Indian natural healing practice. The plant is a small shrub with yellow flowers that grows predominantly in the Middle East, India and parts of Africa.
It is thought that Ashwangha may help to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone produced by our adrenal glands when we are reacting to a stressful event.
In a small study, patients with chronic stress were given ashwagandha supplements. In comparison to the control group, they reported a 30 per cent reduction in their anxiety levels.
Another study monitored the stress levels of 64 chronic stress patients taking ashwagandha supplements for 60 days. The group on the supplements reported. 69 per cent decrease in anxiety and insomnia compared to just 11 per cent of the placebo group.
As well as helping the body adapt to stress, Eleuthero Root may also boost the immune system while working as a stimulant.
This is why it is thought to battle fatigue. In a small animal study Eleuthero Root was found to alleviate both physical and mental fatigue. It reduced the build-up of lactic acid and blood urea nitrogen allowing the mice to swim for longer.
The extract is usually made from the bark, stems, roots and leaves of the plant. The fruit can also be eaten raw. The plant is native to parts of Russia, Korea and China. It is made into tinctures, capsules, powder extracts and teas.
Liquorice Root is considered one of the oldest herbal remedies in the world. It has been used for several different conditions including peptic ulcers, tooth cavities, indigestion and acid reflux. It is generally made into capsules or liquid form.
The liquid form was used as a medicine by the Egyptian pharaohs.
In modern times, it shows great promise in the treatment of bacteria that can affect the skin. In particular Staphylococcus aureus that can cause impetigo, folliculitis or cellulitis. There is a potential for this to work well with cannabigerol (CBG) as this has also been shown to potentially fight Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This is an antibiotic-resistant form of the same bacteria.
A 2020 study showed that CBG may be able to fight the bacteria. It could potentially be combined with liquorice root in topicals to prevent bacterial infection.
However, some studies link large amounts of liquorice root to increased stress and anxiety. This is because, in large quantities, the body stores elevated levels of the primary active compound glycyrrhizin which increases the level of cortisol.
Tulsi / Holy Basil
Holy basil is thought to have antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties similar to diazepam and other anti-depressants. Different parts of the plant are used for different conditions such as the seeds for malaria or flowers for bronchitis. It is also a great source of vitamins A and C.
Participants in one study were given 500 milligrams of holy basil leaves daily. They self reported feeling less anxious, depressed or stressed. They even felt more sociable.
It could have a positive effect on the signs of stress on our bodies by lower our cholesterol levels and aiding weight loss. In an animal study, rabbits fed a diet of Tulsi leaves showed lower bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and higher good cholesterol levels (HDL).
It is also used for inflammation in the same way that CBD is. This could make it a great addition to topical balms or ointments for sore muscles or even skincare for controlling conditions such as acne.
Jiaogulan is a climbing vine native to China. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries for anxiety, stress, obesity and diabetes. In Chinese medicine, it is referred to as an ‘immortality herb’ because of its potential health benefits and rejuvenation properties. It was thought to help with ageing and is often used as a ginseng replacement.
In a small study from 2019, a group of patients with stress and anxiety were split into two groups. The groups were either given an extract of jiaogulan or a placebo. Those on the jiaogulan reported lower levels of stress and anxiety.
Jiaogulan may help with lowering cholesterol. It contains a compound called Saponins which bind to the bile acid-reducing cholesterol. Researchers also hope that it may help to fight cancer. There are ongoing studies into its ability to change cells that can grow tumours.
Top tips for taking adaptogenic herbs
1- Choose your method
Adaptogens are one of the biggest wellness trends for 2022. As a result, they are popping up in more CBD products such as teas, oils or capsules. Alternatively, a herb tea can have a CBD oil added to it if you can’t find the exact blend you need.
It has been suggested that adaptogenic herbs may work best in the mornings and evenings. This may work especially well if you choose to take the herbs as a tea. After all, you doesn’t love a cuppa before bed?
3- Medication mindfulness
Some herbs do not work well with certain medications. It is worth researching what you taking, dosage amounts and potential interactions before you start taking anything new. Better safe then sorry. Being aware of the suggested dosage amounts or speaking to healthcare providers can help.
4- Chart any changes
Keeping a journal where you can chart any changes you experience. This will help you to understand dosages, timing and benefits as you go. It may also show you if there are any side effects of the herbs.
5 – Change it up.
Different herbs for different needs. It can be useful to use different herbs when you need them. Think of it as using ginseng for energy in the morning then switching to chamomile at night for calming.
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