Adaptogens: Miracle Plants or Myth? – Introduction

Not too long into my health and wellness journey, which involved incorporating a healthier diet and herbal remedies into my day to day life, I stumbled into a group of herbs referred to as Adaptogens. A quick google search led me to dozens of articles on the internet touting their life-changing benefits such as: modifying the body’s response to acute and chronic stress, reducing inflammation, improving anxiety and depression, enhancing athletic performance, brain function, and mental clarity, and the list goes on and on (1).

After perusing through several articles on the internet, I was ready to stock my kitchen cabinet with adaptogens and observe myself transform into a superwoman!

Well, not so fast.

I need to do some more digging first. I mean, I am fascinated by the proposed magical effects on the human body, but do they really work?

If you’ve never heard of them, adaptogens are defined as non-toxic plants that contain specific substances that help the human body adapt to stress, support metabolic functions, and restore balance.They do this by increasing the body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional, and environmental stressors” (1). Given this, I wasn’t too surprised to discover that over the past 20 years (from 1999 to 2018), there has been an increase in the number of published articles investigating the effects of adaptogens (2).

We all deal with physical, biological, emotional, and environmental stressors in our day to day lives, in one form or another, and sometimes, all at the same time. Even though we attempt to adapt, more often than not, stress can get the best of us, leading to barely surviving, instead of thriving.

Unfortunately, despite intentional lifestyle and environmental modification, it is unlikely that we can eliminate all possible sources of stress. Barely surviving is NOT an option! There is evidence to support the claim that continued exposure to stressors can have short and long term negative effects on the body.

If these plant-based substances really do what they claim to do, can we use them as an additional tool to improve our quality of life?

This is the question I have been pondering over for the past two years, and subsequently, leading to the birth of this article series.

My goal is to study and assimilate relevant information, from books and scientific articles on adaptogens, and write about them in an easy to digest manner. I will utilize skills from my professional experience as a clinical pharmacist, reading and critiquing research articles and my experience in academia, which involved chopping up difficult subjects into more digestible bite sizes.

This Adaptogen series has four additional parts

To conclude this post, I can’t think of a more fitting quote to kick off this article series. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

Additional Reading:

  1. Winston, David, and Steven Maimes. Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Healing Arts Press, 2019.
  2. Liao, Lian-Ying, et al. “A Preliminary Review of Studies on Adaptogens: Comparison of Their Bioactivity in TCM with That of Ginseng-like Herbs Used Worldwide.” Chinese Medicine, vol. 13, no. 1, 2018, doi:10.1186/s13020-018-0214-9.
  3. Panossian, Alexander, and Georg Wikman. “Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity.” Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 3,1 188-224. 19 Jan. 2010, doi:10.3390/ph3010188

Call to action: If you want to be notified when the next series is published, and if you provide me with your best email address and I’ll promise not to spam you 🙂

Disclaimer: This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product mentioned herein is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. 

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