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Adaptogens. Lately, you might have spotted them appearing everywhere, from the supplement aisles at your local pharmacy to the juice menu at your favourite cafe. With claims they stimulate your body’s stress-protection response, it’s no surprise they’re gaining popularity in our current post-pandemic climate, where stress levels are at all-time highs.
But are these buzzy new products legit? And, if adaptogens do really help, then how?
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about adaptogens.
What is an adaptogen?
Thinking adapt-o-what? Well, the name itself offers us a major clue. Adaptogens are commonly herbs – which help the body adapt in response to different types of stress. Some can be bought in liquid supplement form and others in capsules.
As it turns out, the use of adaptogens is nothing new. While adaptogens seem to be the latest-and-greatest health craze of now, they’ve been around since ancient times.
“The word ‘adaptogen’ was first coined in the 1950s; however the use of adaptogenic herbs traces back to 3000 B.C. as part of ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic practices. They were even used in Europe during World War II,” says Wanderlust’s naturopath, Deanna Mascioli.
How do adaptogens actually work?
Now, this is where things get really exciting. Herbalists have long touted the impact on the body’s stress response adaptogens can make, but some seriously solid science is emerging to back these claims. Researchers have found adaptogens can help bolster and support the body’s response to physical, chemical, biological, and psychological stress. Impressive.
Think of adaptogens like a thermostat – they won’t stop stressful events from happening in the first place – just like we can’t control hot or cold weather. But adaptogens will help your body regulate its stress response much like a thermostat works to keep your home at a comfortable temperature.
“Whilst we cannot always control or reduce the stress we are exposed to, adding adaptogens to our lifestyle can support our body’s ability to respond with a healthy stress response to what life might throw at us,” says Deanna.
What are the best adaptogens to try?
Depending on your needs, there are many types of herbs and plants with adaptogenic actions which also offer countless other benefits. But, here are some of the most popular ones to get you started:
“Ashwagandha may help to calm nerves and help the body adapt to stress, Siberian ginseng may also help the body adapt to stress whilst supporting energy levels, and Shatavari which supports vitality, reduces nervous tension and promotes health libido,” explains Deanna.