During men’s fashion week in Milan last January, Tamu and I were in awe at the hardships of remembering people’s names. Is it the age, the fatigue, or complete disregard? Just like in any social work environment, the beauty of what we do is the constant meeting of some fascinating people. But with the years that go by, my mind seems to have some serious lapses in the names and faces of those I meet. Disclaimer: no offense to anyone that has been privy to me forgetting your name, as we have just established I have a problem and I am truly sorry. In my reluctance to find a quick cure to this grave problem, I figured my best bet was ginseng. Digging a bit deeper, I enveloped myself in the realm that is adaptogens.
S-T-R-E-S-S. What is life without stress? With the several types of adaptogens out there, counteracting stress is where there benefits really come into play. If you are like me, laid back, brush it off your shoulder type attitude it may be hard to realize what is lingering underneath that easy going approach. My monsters are just as scary as those that carry their stress out in the open for everyone to take part in second hand. Needless to say, it takes a toll on my inner well-being. So let’s talk about how these adaptogens will get me back on track for my memory and stress levels.
What are Adaptogens anyway?
The overall consensus of the meaning of adaptogens is a unique class of healing plants to help restore and protect the body. They work in a way to respond to stressors by normalizing your physiological functions. Stressors can range from psychological, physiological, noise, to temperature. Adaptogens are a balancing act on the communication between your brain and hormone system. Dr. Robin Berzin, MD, founder of Parsley Health, states that many health practitioners compare the function of adaptogens to that of a thermostat: “they turn the heat down if it’s too hot and turn it up if it’s too cold, by sensitizing or desensitizing the cells in your body to chemical-based signals they receive.”
Just to get a bit nerdy for a second, adaptogens work through two master control systems in the body, the HPA axis (hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal axis) and the SAS (sympatho-adrenal system). The HPA axis controls endocrine function, alongside with the nervous system and some immune function. The SAS system deals more with our fight or flight response. When these systems are out of whack, it can lead to hormone problems like adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems and even libido issues. Not feeling that sex drive, it is not just a dry patch maybe your HPA axis is unbalanced.
How do you know which adaptogen is right for you?
There are a plethora of choices and an adaptogen for every area you may think you need help with. For example, if you are feeling over stimulated, the calming adaptogens can have a beneficial effect, but try to stay away from the stimulating adaptogens because they may cause insomnia or anxiety. Each adaptogen has a unique personality, so figure out which one suits you; it may even be a combination. Since adaptogens are nontoxic in normal therapeutic doses, you can experiment with what fits your needs or even test one for about 6 weeks to see how you respond.
Unfortunately, there is little research on the subject, but there are a handful of adaptogens with proven beneficial short-term effects. So it must be taken into consideration that though there may be some incredible benefits, no long-term analysis has been carried out to test for serious side effects. As with any supplements introduced into your diet, it is always a good idea to consult with your doctor before use, especially if you are already taking prescription drugs.
Top 7 Adaptogens
Panax Ginseng– also known as Asian ginseng is one of the most potent. It is notable for helping with memory performance and reducing stress.
Rhodiola– this herb can be great for reducing stress and adrenal fatigue, but since it is stimulating, it may potentially keep you up at night.
Schisandra– this berry helps with your adrenals, especially combating adrenal fatigue
Ashwagandha– say goodbye to anxiety. Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce anxiety and boost the immune system after being sick. This adaptogen goes in to support your brain- adrenal (HPA) axis by attempting to balance your cortisol.
Reishi and Cordyceps– are nutrition rich funghi with antioxidant properties, which help us feel and look youthful because of its anti-ageing attributes. They have been observed for their impact on cortisol levels and oxidative stress (our favorite topic over here at ATPB).
Holy Basil– integral part of Ayurvedic medicine, Holy Basil has been used to treat a number of conditions including skin diseases, gut issues, reduce bloating and gas, help with the constant struggle with brain fog.
Our Favorite Brands for Adaptogens
Thankfully now that I find myself in the mecca of anything and everything holistic, I was able to get my hands on some Moon Juice Brain Dust and Sun Potion Ashwagandha. Hoping to stimulate my brain, remember some names, and woosa my anxiety away, I am going to be sprinkling these magic potions into my morning coffee.