Should We All Be Taking Adaptogens Now?

Let’s de-stress from the inside, out.

The unfolding coronavirus (COVID-19) situation means that we are all dealing with a lot of uncertainty and change to our day to day routine. At Gritty Pretty, we want to help you navigate through this time. We’ll be sharing self care advice and tips on how to look after your body and mental health. If there are any topics you want Gritty Pretty to cover, please send us a DM on Instagram.

In a world full of wellness trends, it’s hard to know what is legitimate and what is, to put it politely, glorified BS. Now more than ever, we are looking for the next best thing to boost our immune system, reduce our stress and just make us feel good. 

We’re told on a regular basis that good health starts from within. What is happening internally is reflected externally. If we are eating poorly, we break out. If we are tired, we have dark circles. If we are dehydrated, our skin becomes irritated and flaky. All of which we can fix with healthier eating habits, more sleep and more water.

But what about stress?

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, stress is at an all time high. Our current situation is unusual; the major cause of our heightened stress levels (COVID-19 you may have heard of it?) is beyond the limits of our control. However, there are a number of practices we can partake in to help manage our mental health including meditation, walking or listening to a relaxing playlist. And now, there’s a supplement you can take to help manage stress, internally. Allow us to introduce you to adaptogens.

Here, with the help of nutritionist Rick Hay and founder of The Base Body Co Sara Ayres, we delve into the world of adaptogens to find out how to use them and decide if they’re actually necessary. 

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What Even Are Adaptogens?

Having originated in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions, adaptogens are non-toxic, herb-like plants that help the body resist stressors of all kinds (including mental, biological and physical). Particularly beneficial for your adrenal glands, these little wellness gems will tweak hormone production and physiological responses to stress to aid in your body performing as it should.

“The benefits of adding adaptogens into your diet is that they help you balance life’s stressors,” says Ayres. “They work a bit like a thermostat by reading when your adrenal response is too high or too low, and work with your body to help balance cortisol levels – be it physical, mental or emotional.”

They’re also relatively easy to incorporate. Getting their name from their ability to ‘adapt’ their function according to the specific needs of the body, these plants are the perfect all-rounder and particularly relevant at the moment.

Hay recommends, however, to always seek the advice of a medical professional before incorporating. “Adaptogens are nature’s medicine so use it wisely. Don’t take it just for the sake of it. Know what exactly you want to treat before you start taking adaptogens, like you would do with any medicine.”

What Are The Different Types?

“When it comes to well-researched adaptogens, there are only about nine. Rhodiola, Asian Ginseng, American Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Eleuthero, Schizandra, Shilajit, Cordyceps and Raphonticum,” says Hay. 

Now, that may seem overwhelming but you don’t have to incorporate them all at the same time. Ayres recommends really getting to the bottom of what you want and need in your body, to find the right adaptogen for you. 

“Each adaptogen functions slightly differently,” says Ayres. “People can choose to use adaptogens for stress, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction or a stronger immune system. Or all of the above!”

If looking to resolve long term stress, Ashwagandha and Asian Ginseng are your best friends. These two adaptogens are great at rebalancing hormones that can result from high levels of cortisol or long term stress. Found in a multitude of formulas (such as powders, liquid droppers and tablets) these are able to be easily introduced into your daily routine.

Acute stress and anxiety, on the other hand, is best managed by incorporating Siberian Ginseng, Rhodiola and Schizandra into your diet, as they are great at reducing the fight-or-flight stress response. Siberian Ginseng, in particular, is used to boost the immune system, physical stamina and sexual health and Schizandra is thought to improve liver function and gastrointestinal problems. Hay recommends Rhodiola if you’re feeling overwhelmed as it “helps your body adapt and resist physical, chemical and environmental stress.”

Finally, if looking for something to help with immune support, American Ginseng is your guy. 

What is also interesting about these herbs is that their compounds possess opposing qualities and therefore adapt to whatever your body needs. For example, an adaptogen can possess both relaxing and stimulating qualities at the same time. The correct response is triggered when it enters the body and responds to what the body may be missing. How cool is that?

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Product Recommendations

As with any wellness trend, the number of products on the market can be overwhelming. How do we know which ones work? Which ones are the best? Which ones are the worst?

Lucky for you, we have our ways (that are not to be revealed) to know which adaptogenic products deserve a spot in your wellness cupboard.

  1. Super Zen by The Base Body Co: Naturally, this powder had to be included in our list of favourites, not solely for the chocolate flavour but also for the fact it contains clinically effective doses of five adaptogenic herbs. These being Ashwadandha, Rhodiola, Schizandra, Amla and Rehmannia. Talk about an all-rounder.
  2. Sex Dust by MoonJuice: The name says it all, really, but if you need further explanation, this cacao flavoured powder contains six key adaptogens to promote healthy hormone balance, reduce stress and support creative energy. Both out and, you know, in the bedroom.
  3. Ashwagandha by Sun Potion: A cult-favourite in the world of the adaptogen, this powder will help to harmonise the mind, body and spirit. Easily added into your favourite beverage, it is the perfect way to activate your inner zen. 

So, Wellness Bestie Or BS?

At these times of uncertainty, it is apparent that the abnormality of our day-to-day lives is increasing stress levels. Unemployment, illness, financial instability and social isolation are all contributing to heightened feelings of anxiety. Now, in no way are we saying adaptogens will fix the stress associated with these problems, but taking a supplement to help balance your hormones is a good start.

What is recommended is to take it slow, incorporate them where you can and monitor how you are feeling each week to make sure they’re doing what they should be doing. As with anything, each of us will be different. In saying this, taking herbs that will aid in balancing hormones and reducing stress levels is a definite yes from us. 

Ayres says it best, “I think anyone looking to improve their overall health will benefit from taking adaptogens.”

Mic drop. 

Have a favourite adaptogen that you want to share? Leave us a comment below!

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