Adapt to Stress



November 30, 2021


Adapt to Stress

by Mona Jauhar RDN, LD

If there’s one thing we all reckon with in our daily lives, it is stress. There is physical, chemical, emotional and mental stress. We meditate, color mandalas, do sun salutations and sip green tea to soften the blow, yet its presence is overwhelming.

Integrative medicine recommends taking some herbal substances called Adaptogens to deal better with stress and enhance immunity. Apparently, they help balance our adrenal response to the zillion odd stressors around us — hectic schedule, heat or cold, noise, high altitudes and more by stimulating the body's stress-protection response and help its systems return to a balanced state called “homeostasis”.

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Are Adaptogens a fad?

Not at all. They have been used in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, to boost energy and resilience in the face of stress. We have just lost touch with them like many other things. Adaptogens help the body’s internal systems build resilience for long-term wellness rather than providing a quick fix, thus helping fill the gaps left by Western medical practices. Yet, they are not a cure on their own. Adaptogens work best in addition to a foundation of a healthy lifestyle, balanced diet, and adequate hydration.

How exactly do they work?

When faced an external stressor, our bodies go through what’s called general adaptation syndrome (GAS). GAS is a three-stage response: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Adaptogens help us stay in the resistance phase longer, holding off the exhaustion phase. They help us attain equilibrium and soldier on in difficult situations. Studies also suggest Adaptogens interact with the immune-neuro-endocrine system, which helps the body regulate its use of energy and maintain strong immune defenses. They do their work quietly, without any jolts or sedation. They energize, don’t necessarily stimulate and calm us down without being a tranquilizer. In short, they adapt to whatever our body needs!

Why do we need them?

A huge proportion of all illnesses is believed to occur because of stress — because the level is too high, and/or too long-term. High-stress modern living is probably the main factor causing chronic diseases. In such a scenario, Adaptogens are much-needed. They not only regulate hormones in the body, but also boost the immune system, help in keeping a healthy weight and a balanced mood. In many parts of the world, Adaptogens are used extensively in high-risk, fast-reflex occupations, from athletes to miners to deep sea divers.

The most effective Adaptogens

There are a number of naturally Adaptogenic herbs that come with their benefits. They can be taken in capsulated supplement form, brewed in teas, or simply cut up and used to spice up a meal:

For stress and anxiety:

  1. Ashwagandha root: Also known as Withania somnifera and Indian ginseng, this herb is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, astringent, sedative (mild), and thyroid stimulant, this herb is one of the most prominent Rasayana (rejuvenating) remedies of Ayurveda and a calming Adaptogen.
  2. Tulsi: Known as “holy basil”, this “queen of herbs'' (literally) is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It is also neuro-protective and is known to protect against the effects of radiation. It’s a powerful weapon against stress, anxiety and infections.

For fatigue:

  1. Rhodiola root: Anti-depressant, cardio-protective, Rhodiola has a long history of use in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Russia as a rejuvenating tonic. Rhodiola has been an official medicine in the Soviet Union, as a mild CNS (Central Nervous System) stimulant, memory enhancer and immune tonic apart from being a stimulating Adaptogen.
  2. Asian Ginseng root: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-asthmatic and cardio tonic, Ginseng, especially Red Ginseng, is the most stimulating of all Adaptogens.

For Immune Health:

  1. Reishi Mushrooms: They have great Adaptogen properties and are known to boost the immune system and lower cholesterol. Their immunity-enhancing properties have been observed in several studies testing Reishi’s effectiveness in treating cancerous tumors in tandem with other cancer treatments.
  2. Tulsi: In addition to its anti-stress benefits, it can also give your immune system a boost by helping regulate its responses. 

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