Adaptogens: Stress-Busting Herbs To Keep You Happy & Healthy

Humans have survived because of our ability to respond to our environment and its many stresses. In today’s world of hurried life, work and social pressures, pollution, chemicals, and nutrient deficient foods, the demand on our minds and bodies to cope with stress is greater than ever. A group of ancient herbs, known as adaptogens, can help.

Adaptogens work by building our resistance to physical and mental stress and increasing our physical and mental endurance. They do this by acting as a buffer between outside stresses and our body’s coping mechanism, the adrenal glands. Because of these impressive abilities, adaptogens improve our vitality, energy, health, and sense of well-being.

Rhodiola
The herb rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) has been shown to help improve well-being and decrease mental and physical fatigue, while significantly improving symptoms of stress. [1] Studies show its ability to help improve the stress of exams: students who took rhodiola during final exams found improved mental fatigue and well-being.[2]  Other research has also found that rhodiola decreases mental fatigue and nervousness while increasing work capacity, coordination, and general well-being. [3] A double-blind study found that when people who are fatigued and stressed take rhodiola, it has a significant energizing effect on their capacity to do mental work. [4] Another double-blind study of rhodiola on people suffering from stress-related fatigue found significant improvement in fatigue levels and ability to concentrate.[5] Double-blind research suggests that rhodiola may work by changing gears in the brain, shifting it into a higher degree of wakefulness and cognitive performance. [6]

Rhodiola can be taken alone or in combination with other adaptogens like the ones found in Natural Factors Stress-Relax® Serenity Formula®.

Serenity Formula
Stress-Relax Serenity Formula is a unique mix of adaptogenic herbs designed to promote emotional well-being and help the body cope naturally with symptoms of stress. It is the ideal formula for those looking to help temporarily relieve and reduce symptoms of stress such as mental fatigue, sensations of weakness, sleeplessness, irritability, and inability to concentrate.

Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine due to its ability to rejuvenate while relieving stress and anxiousness.

In a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study,people with a low sense of well-being and high levels of stress were given a placebo or ashwagandha. Stress scores dropped by 44% in the ashwagandha group versus a drop of only 5% in the placebo group. Importantly, levels of the adrenal stress hormone cortisol dropped by almost 28% in the ashwagandha group, but by only 8% in the placebo group. [7] Anotherdouble-blind study of chronically stressed people also found significant improvement in markers of stress, including decreases in cortisol, and significant improvements in anxiety and well-being. [8]

Other research has shown that this adaptogen can also reduce some of the important side effects of stress while reducing stress and cortisol levels, including having positive effects on the cardiovascular system [9] and on food cravings, emotional eating, and weight gain. [10]

Siberian Ginseng
Siberian ginseng (Eleuthrococcus senticosus) is an adaptogen that has a balancing effect on many bodily systems, including blood pressure and blood sugar. Double-blind research shows that it reduces heart rate in response to stress and, in women, it reduces blood pressure. [11]  A review of clinical studies on Siberian ginseng in healthy people in normal and stressful conditions found that it improves mental and physical work capacity as well as quality of work. [12]

Lavender
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a beautiful herb whose role in Serenity Formula is to relax you while gently waking you up. Double-blind research shows that when people who suffer from restlessness, tension, and insomnia take lavender, their restlessness symptoms significantly improve, and in almost a third of them it is resolved. [13]

Whether you’re experiencing a period of increased mental or physical stress, research shows that adaptogenic herbs help the body cope with the physiological effects of stress. They help to enhance the body’s tolerance for mental and physical exhaustion, while helping to support mental focus.

Make sure to check with your health care practitioner if you have any pre-existing health concerns that may be contributing to increased stress on your body.

References:

  1. Edwards D, Heufelder A, Zimmermann A. Therepeutic effects and safety of Rhodiola rosea extract WS 1375 in subjects with life-stress symptoms—results of an open-label study. Phytother Res.2012; 26:1220-1225.
  2. Spasov AA, Wikman GK, Mandrikov VB, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen. Phytomedicine.2000; 7:85-89.
  3. Spasov AA, Mandrikov VB, Mironova IA. The effect of the preparation rhodiosin on the psychophysiological and physical adaptation of students to an academic load. Eksp Klin Farmakol.2000; 63:76-78.
  4. Shevtsov VA, Zholus BI, Shervarly VI, et al. A randomized trial of two different doses of SHR-5 rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomed.2003; 10:95-105.
  5. Olsson EMG, von Scheele B, Panossian AG. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta Med. 2009; 75:105-112.
  6. Dimpfel W. Neurophysiological effects of Rhodiola roseaextract containing capsules: A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study. International Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences.2014; 3:157-165.
  7. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012; 34:255-262
  8. Auddy B, Hazra J, Mitra A, et al. A standardized Withania somniferaextract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. JANA. 2008; 11:50-56.
  9. Usharani Pi, Raveendranadh P, Nishat Fa. Effect of Withania somnifera extract on mental stress induced changes in hemodynamic properties and arterial wave reflections in healthy subjects. Curr Top Nutraceutical Res. 2013; 11:151-158.
  10. Choudhary D, Bhattacharyya S, Joshi K. Body weight management in adults under chronic stress through treatment with Ashwagandha root extract: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine. 2016; doi:10.1177/2156587216641830.
  11. Facchinetti F, Neri I, Tarabusi M. Eleutherococcus senticosusreduces cardiovascular response in healthy subjects: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Stress Health.2002; 18:11-17.
  12. Eleutherococcus senticosus: current status as an adaptogen. In Wagner H, Hikino H, Farnsworth NR (Eds.). Economic and Medicinal Plant Research, Vol. I. London, UK: Academic Press; 1985:155-215, 217-284.
  13. Kasper S, Anghelescu I, Dienel A. Efficacy of orally administered Silexan in patients with anxiety-related restlessness and disturbed sleep—A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2015; 25(11):1960-1967.