Written by Eliza Mätas, Research Naturopath at Nutra Organics
The word Adaptogen is probably the most exciting buzzword to hit the health scene since spirulina and for very good reason. Adaptogen is a term used to describe a group of specific traditional herbs that have been utilised in natural healing modalities such as Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western Herbalism for centuries.
The word Adaptogen is derived from the Latin word Adaptare, which means to adapt or adjust. This name couldn’t be more fitting as it explains exactly what Adaptogens do - they help our bodies adjust and adapt to the various physical, chemical, environmental and biological stressors we inevitably encounter on a daily basis. Therefore, it is also unsurprising that as modern-day stressors are quickly becoming a leading instigator for chronic illness, Adaptogens are now the most popular herbs currently prescribed by naturopaths & herbalists today.
To fully understand how Adaptogens help us address our stress, we also need to understand what stress actually is and how stress comes into play in our bodies. When we think of stress, it’s not uncommon to immediately associate it with the stress hormone cortisol or our adrenals and the ‘fight or flight’ response. However, stress is not just the feeling we get when the kids are crying, the dog is barking and the phone is ringing all at the same time (though of course that mentally frazzled feeling is super unpleasant). Stress can also be environmental such as the pollution that we breathe in, or biological like a vitamin deficiency placing increased pressure on other nutrients or even physical stress, like a paper cut (bloomin’ ouch!).
No matter the stress, either way, our body needs to react hormonally, just in case that seemingly small stressor poses a real-life threat to our survival. So luckily we have our very own built-in hormonal messaging system that helps to switch on the fight or flight response throughout the whole body. This system is known as the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Endocrine (HPE) axis. This system operates in a way which can be likened to a delicate dance of receiving stimuli (stressors), promoting the appropriate stress response by the body and then shutting it all down once the threat is over.
It is made up of our Hypothalamus - the inbox of the brain (or stimuli receiving centre), the Pituitary gland - the hormonal messenger, and the various endocrine organs such as our thyroid, adrenals and gonads (the testicles and ovaries) that receive the message and instigate a reactive hormonal response.
Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where we are continually encountering hundreds of different kinds of stressors and our poor HPE axis can easily become dysregulated due to non-stop insults, but thankfully this is also where our trusty Adaptogens work their magic best.
Adaptogens truly are mother nature’s gift to us whilst we continually run our tanks on empty. With so many different kinds of stressors that affect not one but many hormonal systems, you could also say it’s pretty much a miracle that we have a herbal repertoire that will actually assist specifically in each area affected.
Some Adaptogens, like Licorice root, work to help our adrenals cope with the onslaught of stress by supporting cortisol release & increasing our bodies receptibility to it, whilst others, like Shatavari, may help to keep our reproductive hormones in check by supporting the delicate balance of oestrogen and testosterone (in females & males) whilst under stress. Ashwagandha is a well known Ayurvedic herb which is usually prescribed to help our body cope with mental stress but which also has the side benefit of supporting regular thyroid hormone balance. Then there are others such as, Schizandra Berries, that not only supports stamina but also helps to support and protect our liver from toxins that we inevitably ingest such as pesticides.
Like us, each Adaptogen truly is unique and will be better suited to some individuals than others, as each body copes with and displays stress-related symptoms differently.
Here at Nutra Organics we truly respect the ancient wisdom of utilising these herbs and enjoy marrying them into our modern-day lives through our product range, however this knowledge also means that we only do so in supportive amounts (as opposed to therapeutic levels) so that all consumers can reap the benefits of these herbal wonders such as the traditional Chinese herbs in Lunar Latte, our hint of Ayurveda in Mermaid Latte, the various vitality lifting botanicals in Super Greens + Reds and our Adaptogenic mushies in our Mushroom Broth Range.
Adaptogens are easy to incorporate into almost every & any application and are proving to be the new-age panacea of our overstressed society. From Adaptogenic latte potions to super shroomy soups & smoothies, bringing a little ancient wisdom into our modern-day has never been more fun. So do your research, choose your fix wisely, and then, by all means, get creative and bring on a bit more calm we say!