Putting stress on adaptogens

Putting stress on adaptogens

Richard DeSoto

In this age and time, life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and demands. For many, stress is so commonplace that it has become a way of life. Whether the stress is mental, physical, climate-related, or chemically induced, at times all people can benefit from a class of nutrients known as “adaptogens.”

Adaptogens were first discovered in Russia in the 1950s by professor Israel I. Brekhman, MD, who is best known for his pioneering work with Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). An adaptogen is a “soft-acting” plant that helps the body and mind adapt to stress.

Soft-acting plants, unlike the hard-acting varieties, are nonspecific in their nature. Adaptogenic action is often the result of the combination of several active principles, hard-acting plants or drugs are more specific and direct in their action on the body.

To qualify as an adaptogen, a plant must meet three criteria:

  • It must have “fast-acting” properties,
  • It must be “nontoxic,” and
  • It must promote “normalizing” functions.

Usually the effects of adaptogens are felt quickly. Depending on the metabolism and the health of the individual, the effects of an adaptogen should be felt within 24 to 48 hours (for some people this period may be longer — up to 30 days).

Adaptogens are extremely safe and enter and exit the system quickly, in many cases one to three days, unlike some varieties of ginseng or Echinacea that can build up to toxic levels. This is partly due to the water-soluble nature of adaptogens.

The third criterion of an adaptogen is its normalizing properties. These plants work on the cellular level and react to what is needed at the time a person begins to use them. They are not curative in their effects, rather, it is believed that they promote homeostasis and keep the body in balance.

Indications for use

The body doesn’t always distinguish between physical and psychological threats. When you are stressed over a busy schedule, traffic, debt, divorce, or problems with a friend or loved one, your body can react just as strongly as if you are facing a life-or-death situation.

The more your body’s stress system is activated, the easier it is to trip and the harder it is to shut off. Your anxiety level increases, your heart beats faster, your cells use considerably more fuel than normal. Long-term exposure to stress may have serious effects on the nervous system and cause headaches, neck, shoulder and back pain, and even speed up the aging process.

The effects of adaptogens were studied on a model of physical load accepted in space medicine and used regularly for cosmonauts at the MIR orbital station. The result of the study showed that the subjects treated with an adaptogen showed an increase in physical working capacity by 28 percent over the control group. It was also noted that adaptogen-treated subjects had lower heart rates at rest;

As a result, it was determined that adaptogens be recommended for use in long space flights to decrease the level of regulatory system exertion and increase the adaptive capacities of the astronauts, a finding that also applies to regular physical training.

Operative mechanisms

Adaptogens can be likened to a network support system similar to your best friend or family member who is always there for you. Adaptogens buffer the effects of stress

and increase your tolerance and energy levels, while reducing free radicals.

Free radicals are metabolic toxins that can hasten the aging process. Those taking adaptogens may find their anxiety level dropping, their cravings for sweets and caffeine reducing, and see positive changes in their sleeping patterns. Richard Brown, MD, author of The Rhodiola Revolution,1 notes that his patients overcame fatigue, had sharper memory and improved sexual performance, and eased depression by taking adaptogens.

Among the well-known adaptogens are Rhodiola rosea, Withania somnifera (also called Ashwaganda), Schizandra chinensis, Acanthopanax sentic and an herb that has similar qualities to an adaptogen, Andrographis paniculata.

Withania somnifera, in doses of 200 mg with 1.5 percent withanolides, has shown positive effects in reducing anxiety, promoting sleep, and easing inflammation of muscles.

Fried foods and preservatives, alcohol, excess belly fat, pesticides, and herbicides combine to put a great deal of stress on the liver. Schizandra chinensis, in doses of 100 mg with 0.8 percent schizandrins, helps the body absorb phosphorous, fights free radicals, and cleanses the liver. This is useful because the liver breaks down fats, filters toxins from the blood, and repairs blood cells.

Acanthopanax senticosus, in doses of 100 mg with 1.3 percent eleutherosides, is a shrub found in the Far East and when used with Schizandra relieves stress and builds endurance.

Andrographis paniculata has adaptogen-like qualities. It too is non-toxic and fast acting. Clinical studies show that this herb with 300 mg and 4 percent andrographolides assists the immune system and it can be used to treat cold and flu symptoms, and provide sinus and allergy relief.2-3

When the body and mind are under stress or strain, cells use more energy than normal and this is referred to as “short-term adjustment.” If the stress or strain continues, the cells have to adapt and work at higher levels. It is believed that adaptogenic substances increase the capacity of cells to manufacture energy resources and use them more economically during longer periods of high demand.

Adaptogens have been called the “key to well being,”4 as they shield the body against the ravages of time, stress, and disease. Adaptogens release the body’s own innate resources of energy, vitality, and strength. They help the mind and body help themselves.


Posted on 2011 October 27, in Health and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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