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Stress and Adaptogens

S-T-R-E-S-S. We’ve all been there at some point, a million and one things on our plate and hardly any time to get them done!

There are many causes for our stress but our bodies handle each one the same way, by releasing cortisol.

Cortisol (aptly nicknamed the aging hormone) is released by your body in response to stress. This puts your body into fight or flight response, decreasing your digestive juices and increasing your blood pressure. Cortisol also signals your adrenal glands and sympathetic nervous system signaling your brain and body to respond to the stressor. Once you have dealt with the episode of stress, cortisol levels drop back to normal and you go about your day, hunky-dory. Right?

Well not always. What happens when the episodes of stress don’t end, they just keep coming?

In cases of continuous stress, cortisol levels aren’t allowed to drop back to normal, which leads to burnt-out adrenal glands, weak digestive performance and can cause premature aging. When our bodies are in a constant state of stress over a long period of time, it can lead to adrenal fatigue or worse.

Of course, there are many different ways we can help to reduce our everyday stress levels including journaling, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and even just taking regular breaks from work can have a positive effect. And when you look to the holistic world of healing stress, you will find a class of herbs with many powerful benefits to help your body deal with stress. These are called adaptogens.

What’s an adaptogen?

Adaptogens are a special class of healing plants that help your body respond to stress and lower the incidents of your body sending out its classic S.O.S. cortisol signals.

Adaptogens were only technically classified by western science about 70 years ago, which makes them sound like a recent phenomenon. But adaptogens have been used in Ayurveda for over 5,000 years. They just didn’t have that fancy name.

There are a variety of adaptogens that have been identified and studied and can help with many things like adrenal fatigue, digestive issues and immune response.

Ashwagandha

Probably one of the most powerful and well known adaptogens used in Ayurveda, ashwagandha is often referred to as Indian ginseng for its powerful capabilities (although they’re not botanically related).

Ashwagandha is classified in the nightshade family and is closely related to the tomato. Native to India, Northern Africa and the Middle East, it is a shrub with yellow leaves and flowers and bears small red fruit.

Well known for its ability to help the body adapt to stressors, ashwagandha can also help with fatigue, immune response, anxiety, joint pain, insomnia, brain fog or bad memory, energy and concentration.

Ashwagandha can be found in My Healthy Mood and My Healthy Body.

Holy Basil (Tulsi)

Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi, is related to the basil you blend into your summertime pesto and looks a lot like purple basil. It is called Holy because it is sacred to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi and you can often find it planted around temples in India.

Holy Basil is also known as the anti-aging adaptogen, because not only does it protect your body from the damages of stress, it can help give your hair, nails and skin the glow of health due to the high amount of antioxidant properties it contains.

Beyond its anti-aging capabilities, Holy Basil is known to help with acne, inflammation, respiratory and lung disorders, headaches and asthma.

Holy Basil can be found in My Healthy Immunity.

Rhodiola (Golden Root)

Rhodiola Rosea grows at high altitudes and is found in colder temperature regions of Europe and Asia. Sometimes referred to as Golden Root, Rhodiola has a long history of medicinal use in France, Greece, Iceland, Russia and Sweden. In fact, the first known recorded mention of the plant comes from the Greek physician Dioscorides in the 1st century AD.

Rhodiola is well known for its ability to help adapt to stress and improve memory. It can also help with anxiety, fatigue, energy, high cholesterol, depression and some heart conditions.

Rhodiola can be found in My Healthy Mood.


Author – Kelly Driscoll (YouVeda Wellness Contributor)

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