How Adaptogens Work to Balance Your Health

June 12, 2020
Wellness

You feel your healthiest when all the systems in your body are in balance and running smoothly – even through stress. Adaptogenic herbs can help.

What does it feel like to be at your healthiest? You feel just right. Your body feels as if everything is in balance. It’s not too little and not too much. There’s a term for how this exists at a biological level, homeostasis. Homeostasis is when the many systems that comprise your biology are all running smoothly, without issue. 

Whole body homeostasis involves maintaining healthiness regardless of outside factors like inflammation, chemicals, certain foods, environmental pollutants, and stress. The opposite is when your body is out of balance. And you’ll feel the signs—fatigue, anxiety, and even illness. When that happens, how do you get back to “just right”? How do you find homeostasis again?

Exercising regularly, eating a clean diet, and practicing meditation are a few things you can do in your daily life.

But there’s another tool too, one you can find when you turn to the medicinal powers of plants: adaptogenic herbs.

Adaptogenic herbs come from medicinal plants with therapeutic compounds that allow your body to adapt better to stress (thus the name). This is key, because stress is at the core of so many of the things that throw us out of balance. The body’s response to stress leads to a range of detrimental effects, including sleep disturbances, fatigue, muscle pain, anxiety, and a low functioning immune system that leaves us open targets for infections and viruses.

Adaptogens are multifunctional and can produce feelings of relaxation, as well as reduce nervous tension, agitation, restlessness, and sleeplessness. This is because adaptogens affect your HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis), which is a descriptor for the relationship between three important glands in your body. The HPA acts as a communication network across many systems in your body, and it's directly activated by stress. For instance, if your blood pressure is high, your HPA is activating chemical messengers that stimulate your cardiovascular system, and the adaptogenic medicinal mushroom Cordyceps has been shown to produce the opposite effect of this stimulation and bring the cardiovascular system back into balance.

We’ve spent nearly two decades working with adaptogens. There’s a whole world of them to explore, but at a time when health, staying healthy, and concerns over coronavirus is on so many people’s minds, we think Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) could go a long way. 

It’s a powerful adaptogen derived from a plant that can reduce stress, while also boosting the immune system. This herb is perfectly safe for all ages. It has been shown to enhance focus when taken during the day and to promote restful sleep when taken at night. You can easily take Ashwagandha in tablet or capsule form. While it can be found at most health food stores, vitamin suppliers, and herbal shops, it’s important to ensure the quality of the product you’re buying to avoid consuming harmful additives or fillers. We spend a lot of time helping people find the best companies to use—and if you’re looking for a place to start we find Gaia Herbs and Herbalist Alchemist to have particularly good products. 

We’re all in need of balance, and it’s understandable if stress is throwing us off. Adaptogens are one piece of the path back to homeostasis. They can be linked to lifestyle choices—like diet and exercise—and clinical ones, like a plan with your doctor, to provide a truly holistic approach. Time and again, we’ve seen this produce results, and we believe in it now as much as ever.

Registered pharmacists David Restrepo and Elina Kaminsky Restrepo are trusted resources among the best physicians in the country. Drawing on their shared experience—which includes Elina’s degrees in naturopathy, botanical medicine, and nutritional consulting and David’s degree in pharmaceuticals—they focus on integrative care at their Vitahealth Apothecaries in New York City.

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