It seems that as we move in to 2021, it’s not just immune health that’s at the front of everyone’s mind. Our emotional and mental health and wellbeing has never been more important to us. The impact of almost 12 months with lockdowns and restrictions on how we live our lives, combined with the stress and worry about our health, our jobs, businesses and of course our family, is beginning to take a huge toll on us.
You may be feeling anxious for the first time; that feeling of fear and dread in the pit of your stomach even though you’re not about to go in the haunted house or on a rollercoaster at the theme park. Your sleep is probably disrupted, your concentration not what it should be, you may find you’re not eating as healthily as you’d like to and your get up and go may well have, quite simply, got up and gone!
First and foremost, remember it’s perfectly ok to be feeling like this. The world has turned on its axis, nothing is the same as it was 12 months ago and much of that change is way out of our control. Giving ourselves permission to accept it’s valid to feel out of sorts is the first step to taking back some control of our wellbeing.
Next up comes the role of supportive nutrients. Adaptogens kind of do exactly what their name suggests. They help the body through the process of adapting or change. This is particularly relevant to the way in which stress impacts the body.
They literally help the body to adapt, adjust and recalibrate itself depending on our emotional and physical surroundings. So, for example, they can help calm in times of stress. They can bring peace to a racing mind in the middle of the night. They can give clarity when everything around is in turmoil. They can give energy when we are tired.
The term adaptogen was introduced into scientific literature by Russian toxicologist Nikolay Lazarev in 1957 to refer to ‘substances that increase the state of non-specific resistance’ in stress. Broadly, an adaptogen must have the four ‘Ns
- Nourishing – bring nutritive strength
- Normalising – raise what is low and lower what is high (eg energy, stress)
- Non-specific – act on multiple parts of the body at the same time
- Non-toxic – be completely safe when used over extended periods of time.
So, how do adaptogenic herbs work?
Adaptogens relieve stress by modulating the release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands. As biological response modifiers (BRMs) adaptogens restore the body’s innate immune function and help the body adapt to different stressors. This gives them preventative and protective as well as curative activity in compromised immunity.
By replenishing our deeper immunity and regulating our response to stress, adaptogens replenish the wellspring of health and vitality and are true rejuvenative tonics helping to:
- Improve overall wellbeing
- Increase energy
- Optimise organ function
- Reduce stress response
- Increase inner strength
- Improve blood sugar levels
- Optimise protein synthesis
- Reduce inflammatory cortisol levels
- Improve cholesterol ratios
- Regulate the hormonal balance
We often marvel at the fact that there are plants that can do all, yes, ALL of these things – and there are plenty.
Our favourite adaptogens
Lots of herbs have adaptogenic properties, but our favourites to help us all out right now include the following:
This herb is very nourishing and can be powerful when used at night to help you with a restful night’s sleep. The rather fabulous people at Pukka Herbs make both a Wholistic Ashwagandha Capsule and their Night Time Ashwagandha and Valerian complex. These are both in our top picks for helping customers through these more challenging moments.
Also known as Siberian Ginseng, Eleutherococcus is on of the original adaptogenic herbs. Given to Russian Cosmonauts to help them manage the stresses placed on their bodies by space travel, it has a long history of helping during times of extreme stress. Unlike a regular Ginseng, it isn’t a strong stimulant. In fact, its gentle, balancing approach makes is suitable for even the most sensitive and delicate customers. Traditionally, it is also used by ladies during times of hormonal stress and change.
Rhodiola Rosea is a herb which is often used to help when stress leaves us flagging behind, to invigorate and improve mood and concentration alongside helping us feel more in control and able to handle what life throws at us. Known for its ability to balance, it brings energy and calm when they are most needed.