Adaptogens are plants that help the body maintain homeostasis and balance in the endocrine and hormonal systems. Recent research into stress has proven the important functions and usefulness of these plants.
The first sea creatures to crawl out of the sea onto dry, parched land were probably not going on an adventure. Rather, they were seeking to escape a toxic ocean or pond. They were driven by survival. Prior to that, they experienced a great stress that caused them to leave their normal patterns, their normal habitat. Something forced them to change.
In times of stress, creatures must adapt or die. Survival depends on change and adapting to a new environment. A fish grows legs and walks on land. A lump of coal gives up its dark heart and turn into a diamond.
Humans, under stress, send out hormones that trigger a flight or flight mechanism. The adrenals release cortisol, which enables short bursts of energy. Under constant stress, the adrenals give out and the body can no longer flight or flee.
This is where adaptogens come in.
The word adaptogen was coined by Russian scientists, Nicolai Lazerev and Israel Brekhman in 1947. They discovered that certain plants, starting with Ginseng, had the ability to resist chemical and biological stressors. These plants had the ability to adapt to change and pass that ability on to humans.
A study with Eleutherococcus, one of the earliest adaptogens studied, showed it to increase the body`s resistance to stress by reducing the activation of the adrenal cortex, in other words, by slowing the release of flight or flight hormones.
Adaptogens can also increase a person`s ability to perform physical and mental work. The herbs Eleutherococcus, Aralia and Shisandra have been studied in this regard. In a ten-year long study in Russia, workers were given Eleutherococcus. The workers reported a 30% to 50% decrease in influenza and reduced their absences from work due to sickness and disability by 20 to 30%.
Studies of another adaptogen, Rhodiola rosea, demonstrated an increase of secretion of the hormone b-endorphon. This hormone is used to reduce the hormonal response to stress.
The roots of the Codonopsis plant, another adaptogen, have been used in Chinese herbal medicine to increase the red and white blood cell counts and to strengthen the immune system.
The adaptogen Cordyceps is the source of the biochemical ciclosporin, which acts as an immunosuppressive drug, helpful in organ transplants.
Shisandra is known as wu wei zi in Chinese medicine and has long been used to improve immune function. It has a protective effect on the liver. In a recent trial, Shisandra demonstrated a healing effect on chronic viral hepatitis. The action seems to be caused by activating the glutathione producing enzymes.
Other adaptogens include: Ashwagandha, Codonopsis, Cordyceps, Glycyrrhiza, Reishi, Rosa Majalis, Lepidium, Chaga mushroom, and Rhaponticum.
Many more plants have yet to be studied. Nineteen members of the plant genus of Shisandra alone are used in Chinese medicine and still need to be researched. With the increase of stress in our industrialized society, further research in these adapting plants can offer their adapting and stress-reducing abilities to our bodies, minds and spirits.
Sources for this article include:
- Adaptogenic Herbs: What Are Adaptogens?
- Israel scientists cure 100% of covid patients with new therapy that mitigates cytokine storm
- This common mineral helps lower insulin resistance in people with Type 2 diabetes
- Exploring the beneficial effects of Rhodiola rosea and Panax ginseng on metabolic parameters