We live in a sick, tired, stressed-out world.
Our mandatory frenzied pace of life, combined with the constant presence of environmental toxins and stressors, makes it pretty difficult to remain happy, healthy, and stress-free.
All of these factors keep our bodies on continuous high alert. Cortisol levels are elevated by everything from road rage to work responsibility stress to inflammatory foods. Glutathione drops to critically depleted levels due to the ceaseless need for detoxification. The adrenal and endocrine systems become worn down by the unending surge of inflammatory chemicals and hormones, and the immune system is left confused, weakened, and desensitized.
It’s no wonder that stress, fatigue, and disease are so prevalent!
Unfortunately, the world shows no signs of calming anytime soon—but this doesn’t mean that you have to live with these debilitating conditions.
Unless you’re prepared to pack your bags and head to the globe’s dwindling corners of wilderness for some long-term rest and relaxation, though, change has to come from within you.
As New Age as this recommendation might sound, it’s true—environmental stressors aren’t going anywhere, so in order to live a vibrant and healthy life, you need to learn to resist stress more effectively.
Stress resistance is the key to balanced health. A well-regulated body capable of intelligently responding to changing conditions is one that will allow for physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
And it just so happens that there’s an ancient class of herbs that are miraculously effective at helping your body develop this invaluable skill. They’re called adaptogens.
Teach your body to be a lean, mean, stress-resisting machine
“Adaptogen” can be translated literally as “adaptation generator.” They strengthen the immune system, improve energy and vitality, relieve depression and anxiety, enhance cognitive performance, and balance the body’s overall functioning.
They accomplish all of these feats by increasing the accuracy of the body’s “stress thermostat,” and by balancing all of the hormones, antioxidants, and other endogenous chemicals that the body produces and releases in response to stressors.
Most importantly, though, adaptogens don’t just alter chemical levels; rather, they actually train the body into natural patterns of stress resistance. Over time, they teach the body how to foster happiness, healthy, and vitality all on its own.
And because the body is quite a quick learner, these life-enhancing patterns can persist long after you stop taking adaptogens on a regular basis.
11 must-try adaptogens
While there are hundreds or even thousands of effective adaptogens (not including those that we haven’t even discovered yet), there’s a handful that are tried and true. Here’s 11 of them that will help you live above the burden of stress and disease.
Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, and is still a favorite of herbalists for combating fatigue and chronic illness. By balancing and enhancing the endocrine system (especially the thyroid and the adrenals), it provides stable and sustainable energy, increases strength and endurance, and promotes longevity.
Rhodiola rosea has gained recent fame as a potent antidepressant, anxiolytic, and cognitive enhancer, and has been lauded by many other cultures throughout history as a vitality elixir. It balances patterns of eating, sleeping, and metabolism in the face of stress, and supercharges the body’s detoxification mechanisms.
Asian ginseng is an excellent all-purpose adaptogen. By regulating the metabolism of individual cells, it increases immune function, promotes longevity, and may even directly prevent various cancers. For thousands of years, it was the most highly valued medicinal plant in the world.
Eleuthero is a traditional herb in Chinese medicine. Like most adaptogens, it improves an impressive number of symptoms and conditions, including muscle spasms, fatigue, depression, mood swings, chronic fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, and immune deficiency.
Astragalus, another herb from Chinese medicine, boosts the immune system and increases the amount of anti-stress compounds and hormones throughout the body.
Turmeric, while not technically an adaptogenic herb, has many of the same properties. It increases cognitive function, decreases systemic inflammation, improves immune function, modulates stress, and functions as a powerful antioxidant.
Cordycep mushrooms, which include Reishi, Shitake, and Maitake, are also not adaptogens in the classical sense of the term, but they function as powerful and dynamic antioxidants. They also modulate and boost the immune system, and are unparalleled at facilitating disease resistance.
Maca was once used by the warriors of different cultures to promote strength and stamina. It’s powerfully hormone-balancing, and thus can increase physical vitality, endurance, libido, and sexual function.
Schizandra is a potent general tonic for decreasing fatigue and enhancing physical performance. It also may help improve the bioavailability of some vitamins and nutrients (partticularly vitamin C) by allowing the body to “recycle” the incoming vitamins rather than excreting them after the first pass at absorption.
Licorice root can be a wonderful source of natural energy, which allows you to avoid the cortisol spike that comes along with most stimulants (it actually balances cortisol levels, and protects the thymus from being damaged by this stress compound). And no, Twizzlers don’t count.
Holy Basil, which is also known as tulsi, is known as the “elixir of anti-aging” in India. This herb is becoming a popular research subject, because of its potent, specific action against stress, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and immune deficiency.
Many of these adaptogens work excellently when combined with one another, but I recommend trying each one on its own first. This way, you can get a feel for which ones work best for you, so that you choose blends (or create your own) that best match your needs.
Though you may experience an energy boost from some of them right away, don’t expect results to be immediate. Give them at least a couple weeks or more to work their magic, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how powerfully they enhance your life.