Psychological conditions like chronic stress, depression, anxiety, sleep disorder, etc emerge as independent risk factors in many chronic diseases. Adaptogenic substances have the capability to normalize body functions and strengthen systems compromised by stress. The same way some herbs with adaptogenic properties have the ability to manage stress and fatigue along with improvement of sleep and quality of life.
Why do you need to take care of chronic stress?
It is well documented that chronic stress evolves as independent risk factors for many health disorders. American Psychological Association identifies operating systems that are affected negatively due to chronic stress includes as (1)
· Musculoskeletal system by tensing up muscles
· Respiratory system
· Nervous system
· Male reproductive system
· Female reproductive system
What is an adaptogen?
Adaptogenic substances are stated to have the capacity to normalize body functions and strengthen systems compromised by stress. They are reported to have a protective effect on health against a wide variety of environmental assaults and emotional conditions. (2) Studies revealed that adaptogens exhibit neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, anti-depressive, anti-anxiety, nootropic and central nervous system stimulating activity. Additionally, researches demonstrate that adaptogens exert an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental work capacity against stress and fatigue, particularly intolerance to mental exhaustion and enhanced attention. (3)
Adaptogenic herbs to manage stress, fatigue, and sleep
Ashwagandha or Withania Somnifera
Ashwagandha root has the ability to promote homeostasis within the body, decrease stress response, and normalize the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It modulates neurotransmission as well as GABA activity.
Know more about the roles of Ashwagandha infertility, stress as well as performance along with the daily dose. Clinical study suggests ashwagandha root improves safely and effectively an individual’s resistance towards stress, reduces anxiety s and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life. (4)
Also, read about the roles of ashwagandha in women’s health.
Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum)
Holy basil is also known as The Queen of Herbs for both its medicinal and spiritual properties. Daily consumption of basil is said to prevent disease, promote general health, well being and longevity and assist in dealing with the stresses of daily life. In addition basil is appears as preventive in a wide array of diseases. Researchers had studied medicinal properties of basil in many scientific studies including in vitro, animal and human experiments. Pharmacological actions of basil help the body and mind cope with a wide range of chemical, physical, infectious and emotional stresses and restore physiological and psychological function.
Regular consumption of basil tea may be compared with the regular practice of yoga, which can be considered “adaptogenic” through nurturing and nourishing the body-mind-spirit while fostering a sense of relaxation and well being. (5)
Additionally, in a study in 158 people with at least three symptoms of stress, taking 1,200 mg of holy basil extract daily for six weeks was 39% more effective at improving general stress symptoms than a placebo. (6) In other clinical studies, scientists had found stress, anxiety-reducing properties of holy basil. Apart from that basil also lowers blood glucose level, high blood pressure, fatigue in human clinical studies. The studies included in a 2017 systematic review have not found any adverse effect of basil. (7)
A good cup of good basil tea can be very refreshing and relaxing.
Maca root (Lepidium meyenii)
In Peru, maca has been consumed as a medicinal food for thousands of years. It exerts depression and anxiety lowering effects. (8) One more major cause of marketing maca root is for improving libido or sexual desire in both men as well as women. (9,10) In clinical studies on postmenopausal women, maca had shown to reduce psychological symptoms like depression, anxiety as well as blood pressure.(11,12)
You can have maca root commercially in various forms including powder, liquid or capsule. It can be taken 1.5 to 3 g per day in three divided dosages. Maca appears as possibly safe within the recommended limit. (13) However individual with thyroid issues better avoid maca as it has goitrogenic properties.
Eleuthero root (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Science has evidence that eleuthero root increased endurance and mental performance in patients with mild fatigue and weakness. (14) Animal studies found eleuthero root possess the abilities to reduce stress as well as fatigue. (15,16) Although used traditionally and may have potential we need more evaluations. For fatigue, 500 mg has been taken by mouth four times daily and quality of life, 300 mg per day. It may also have some adverse effects like an allergic reaction to some, increased risk of bleeding, may cause an increase or decrease blood sugar and blood pressure level and some more. (17)So discuss with your healthcare provider before application.
Panax ginseng has been used as a traditional herb for over 2000 years for reducing anxiety, depression and improving cognitive properties. The latter means “cure-all”. Scientists found numerous health beneficial results of Panax ginseng in human health. The constituents of ginseng root produce adaptogenic, restorative, immunomodulatory, vasodilatory, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-aging, anti-cancer, anti-fatigue, anti-stress and anti-depressive effects in animals, as well as humans (18)Numbers of clinical studies, had evidenced beneficial effects of Panax ginseng in neuroprotection, improvement of working memory, reaction time accuracy and calmness and in reducing stress as well as depression. (18,19,20,21) Panax ginseng is also popularly used for sexual functions like erectile dysfunction and arousal.
However, like some other herbs, it can also have some unwanted effects in some cases. Common side effects of Panax ginseng may include experiencing trouble sleeping. Less commonly, people experience menstrual problems, chest pain, increased heart rate, change of blood pressure, headache, loss of appetite, diarrhea, itching, rash, dizziness, mood changes, vaginal bleeding, and other side effects. Uncommon side effects that have been reported include a severe rash, liver damage, and allergic reactions. Panax ginseng also interferes with blood clotting. Therefore you should consult with a healthcare provider before use if you have a bleeding disorder or other health condition.
Prolonged use like more than 6 months may have some hormone-like negative effects. For mental function, a dose of 200 to 400 mg of a specific Panax ginseng extract or 200 to 960 mg as a single dose has been used once daily or in two divided doses for up to 12 weeks. (22)
This powerful herb is known for its healing power for many health conditions. A study found a reduced level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF in depressed people. (23) Curcumin the active compound of turmeric boost BDNF level. (24, 25) In clinical studies, curcumin had reduced depression. Also curcumin appears as safe, well-tolerated, and efficacious among depressed people in a meta analysis of clinical studies.(26,27) Researchers also found curcumin can improve the brain neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. (28,29)
Apart from other beneficial roles chamomile helps to improve sleep quality. Researchers believe antioxidants apigenin in chamomile tea binds to certain receptors in your brain that may promote sleepiness. (30)
In study people who consumed 270 mg of chamomile extract twice daily for 28 days had less night time awakening and fell asleep faster than those who did not consume the extract. (31) In other studies in patients with cardiovascular disorders and postpartum women, researchers found drinking chamomile tea helped to fall into a deep sleep within a short period as well as lowered symptoms of depression. (30,32) Other scientists also found similar results of improving sleep quality in a meta analysis of fourteen clinical studies as well as other clinical studies. (33,34)
For anxiety 220-1100 mg of German chamomile extract have been taken daily for 8 weeks. (35) Alternatively, you can have chamomile tea as a beverage before sleeping. Although German chamomile appears as safe some people may experience allergic reactions usually people who have an allergy to the same plant family as ragweed, marigolds, daisies, and other related herbs.
Rhodiola rosea is also known as “golden root” or “arctic root” in the mountainous parts of Europe and Asia. Traditionally people use rhodiola as adaptogen. Several clinical studies observed the usefulness of rhodiola in a wide range of conditions, such as stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairment. (36)
Scientists had conducted a study on 101 people having work life-related stress supplementing with rhodiola extract at a dose of 200 mg twice daily for 4 weeks. They found rhodiola significantly improved symptoms of stress, such as fatigue, exhaustion as well as anxiety. Interestingly they also observed that improvement had occurred after just three days. (37) Another clinical study found people taking either 340 mg or 680 mg of rhodiola experienced significant improvements in overall depression, insomnia, and emotional stability. (38)
Similarly, other clinical studies found a clear improvement of several parameters of stress-related burnout, as well as a significant decline of chronic Fatigue Symptoms with supplementation of 400 mg of rhodiola, extract daily with two divided doses.(39,40) Similarly, other clinical study also observed depression lowering effect of rhodiola. (41)
Rhodiola appears as possibly safe in short term use for 6-10 weeks. However researchers had not known long term effect of rhodiola. However it might cause dizziness, dry mouth, or excessive saliva production in some cases. (42)
Scientists have not evaluated the above herbs mostly for children, pregnant and breastfeeding women presently. Adaptogens help to make a harmony in life. However some adaptogens may interfere with certain health conditions. And also remember more is not always better, moderation is the key.
The safety and effectiveness of commercially available herbs may vary due to not being through tested in most cases. Therefore you should choose only high quality organic variety. You should also read product labels, and discuss doses with your healthcare provider before application.
Although adaptogens help to alleviate stress you need to address the root cause of stress. All we have different problems in our lives. It also depends how we take our difficulties. There are many people who are facing much more difficulties than you and me. Healthy social and environmental support, engaging in regular physical exercise, adequate sleep helps a lot. After all happiness matters a lot in everyone’s life.
Disclaimer: Information provided here are generalized information for educational purpose only, not intended to provide one to one health consultation or replace practice of a qualified practitioner. Different people may have different health condition and may have different reaction to the same food. Hence it has been advised to consult with health care provider before application of any of above information Source and references: 1.https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-body 2.https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/scientific-guideline/reflection- paper-adaptogenic-concept_en.pdf 3.Alexander Panossian and Georg Wikman, Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity, Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010 Jan; 3(1): 188– 224 4.K Chandrasekhar, Jyoti Kapoor, Sridhar Anishetty, 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 Journal Of Psychological Medicine, Year : 2012 | Volume: 34 | Issue : 3 | Page : 255-262 5. Marc Maurice Cohen, Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons, J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2014 Oct-Dec; 5(4): 251–259 6. 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