Adapting to stress with herbal support
Stress is an inevitable part of life in today’s modern world. In addition to the usual's - work, finances, or relationships, current outbreak has become a major source of stress over the past several weeks. In addition to the fear and anxiety of disease, quarantines and "stay at home" orders have contributed to stress levels, leading to poor sleep, unhealthy eating, and other side-effects. It's important for everyone to take inventory of their health and take action.
More and more people than ever are reporting feeling chronically high levels of stress. Confronting this constant stress can be mentally exhausting, but research reveals chronic stress can affect your physical health as well. Chronic stress has been associated with numerous negative outcomes that affect your brain, nervous system, sleep patterns, cardiovascular health, and weight (1).
Popular stress management methods such as regular exercise, hobbies, meditation, and yoga are useful to mitigate daily stressors, but research unfortunately shows most instead resort to unhealthy habits when times are tough (2). Whether it’s alcohol, stimulants, or simply overeating, many people could benefit from finding a better solution to help manage stress...
Stress and Adaptogens
Originating from the Greek word “adapto,” the term adaptogen is applied to plants that produce special substances allowing them to survive under significant conditions of environmental stress. Former Soviet Union research scientists Nicolai Lazarev and Israel Brekhman were the first to systematically study adaptogens. Their research found that adaptogens work by normalizing the body’s functions under stress and that daily consumption may improve mental and physical performances while reducing fatigue (3, 4).
My favourite way of getting a daily dose (or few...) of adaptogens for optimal stress support and overall health is easy with the targeted blend supplied in Ionix Supreme, a daily tonic designed to provide stress-modulating effects on the body by my go to products brand, Isagenix. It incorporates a select blend of well-studied adaptogens and other unique botanicals, each chosen specifically for their role in supporting physical and mental performance, as well as offering a solution to aid in stress management. These are some that can be found in it:
Wolfberry (Lycium barbarum): A red-orange berry of the Solanaceae nightshade family that ancient regarded as nourishing to the liver, kidneys, and eyes. Modern studies affirm its use in modulating stress and supporting faster recovery post-exercise (5-7).
Eleuthero root (Eleutherococcus senticosus): A small, woody shrub native to Northeastern Asia used in traditional Chinese medicine as a natural remedy for reducing fatigue. Modern use of the root was popularized after the former Soviet Union popularized its use for its space and sport programs to support physical endurance (8, 9).
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea): A plant that grows in the coldest regions of the world, including Northern Asia. Rhodiola has been traditionally used in Russia and Scandinavian countries to strengthen the body’s resistance to stress and improve energy levels (10).
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Used in Indian Ayurevedic medicine for centuries and native to regions of India, Africa, and the Middle East. In recent studies, ashwagandha has demonstrated potent antioxidant effects (11, 12). Studies have also shown it to support healthy brain and immune function (13, 14).
Bacopa (Bacopa monniera): A plant popular in traditional Indian medicine practices for the enhancement of memory and to promote longevity. Preclinical studies have shown it to have antioxidant and adaptogenic effects on the central nervous system (15-17).
Schizandra (Schisandra chinensis): This berry grows as part of a woody vine native to the forests of Northern China and Eastern Russia and has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. In human studies, schizandra has been reported to increase work accuracy and decrease feelings of fatigue and exhaustion (18).
At these times of uncertainty, 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. Adaptogens are not replacements for a healthy lifestyle or will fix the stress associated with these problems, but taking a supplement to help balance your hormones is a good start. 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, but all looking to improve their overall health will definitely benefit from taking adaptogens.
Roberts C, Troop N, Connan F, Treasure J, Campbell IC. The effects of stress on body weight: biological and psychological predictors of change in BMI. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 Dec;15(12):3045-55. doi: 10.1038/oby.2007.363.
American Psychological Association (2018). Stress in America: Generation Z. Stress in America™ Survey. Available at https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2018/stress-gen-z.pdf
Panossian A, Wikman G. Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Curr Clin Pharmacol 2009;4:198-219.
Panossian A, Wikman G. Effects of adaptogens on the central nervous system and the molecular mechanisms associated with their stree-protective activity. Pharmaceuticals 2010; 3: 188-224.
Gruenwald J, Brendler T, and Jaenicke C. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Medical Economics Company, Inc. 2000. Montvale, NY.
Engels G, Brinckmann J, Lycium (Goji Berry) Lycium barbarum and L. chinense Family: Solanaceae HerbalGram. 2017, 113: 8-18.
Bucheli P, Gao Q, Redgwell R. Vidal K. Wang J. and Zhang W. Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects of Chinese Wolfberry In: Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition, Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, Boca Raton, 2011.
Saluzki D, Smolarz HD. TLC profiling, nutritional and pharmacological properties of Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) cultivated in Poland, Pak. J. Pharm. Sci. 2016; 29, 1497-1502.
Blumenthal M, Hall T, Goldberg A, Kunz T, Dinda K, Brinckmann J, et al. The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; 2003.
Darbinyan V, Kteyan A, Panossian A, et al. Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue–a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty. Phytomedicine 2000;7:365-71.
Jayaprakasam B, Padmanabhan K, Nair MG. Withanamides in Withania somnifera fruit protect PC-12 cells from beta-amyloid responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. Phytother Res 2010;24:859-63.
Auddy B, et al. Standardized Withania somnifera extract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. JANA 2008; 11:50-56.
Ziauddin M, Phansalkar N, Patki P, Diwanay S, Patwardhan B. Studies on the immunomodulatory effects of Ashwagandha. J Ethnopharmacol 1996;50:69-76.
Davis L, Kuttan G. Immunomodulatory activity of Withania somnifera. J Ethnopharmacol 2000;71:193-200.
Uabundit N, Wattanathorn J, Mucimapura S, Ingkaninan K. Cognitive enhancement and neuroprotective effects of Bacopa monnieri in Alzheimer’s disease model. J Ethnopharmacol 2010;127:26-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2009.09.056
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Aslanyan G, et al. Double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study of single dose effects of ADAPT-232 on cognitive functions. Phytomedicine 2010.