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All About Adaptogens

November 20, 2021 by Susan Horning

Adaptogen Teas That Will Make You Glow

See the published and edited article here: @Head Plus Heart.

Yes, I’m hooking you with the lure of glowing skin but adaptogens offer so much more than a boost to your appearance. There’s a reason why adaptogens have been getting their time in the spotlight, especially over the past couple of years.

My favourite way to get an adaptogenic boost is by making adaptogenic teas, adding a concentrated herbal tincture to my drinks, or adding powdered herbs to my smoothies. Below I’m sharing five of my favorite adaptogen tea blends, all of which are simple to create at home. But first, here’s a 411 on what adaptogens are and how they support our health and even appearance.

What Adaptogens Are

Adaptogens are a class of plants (herbs and mushrooms) that help our body adjust to physical, chemical, or biological stressors. There are more than 70 different types of adaptogens, many of which have been used in Eastern Healing practices for centuries. The term adaptogen was coined in the 1940’s when Nikolai V Lazarev of Russia named them from the Latin word ‘adaptare’, meaning ‘to adjust’.

An adaptogen is a substance that is defined as having three characteristics. These include: lack of toxicity, non-specific action, and a normalising action on the body. Adaptogens by definition are safe for long term use, and act as ‘tonics’, which act to strengthen and ‘tonify’ our biological system. They also increase resistance against multiple stressors by balancing the production of cortisol, our stress hormone, which helps us adapt to our changing environment. In other words, they help bring the body into a state of balance, or homeostasis.

The Right Adaptogen for the Job

With so many adaptogens to choose from (see our list of the most powerful adaptogens here) the best place to start, is to identify areas where your body might need more support. We all cope differently with stress- and with life- and the following plants can be a valuable support to our daily diet, particularly in times of change or uncertainty.

Getting that glow! Adaptogens that improve your hair, skin and nails. Antioxidants from herbs abound and are the most useful quality for improving your healthy glow. Turmeric, Moringa, Nettles, Oatstraw, Raspberry and Dandelion Leaf are packed with antioxidants that make you glow. Amla (Phyllanthus emblica) which is known to have 20 times more vitamin C than oranges is also great for enhancing hair growth and pigmentation, whereas Astragalus may be the best for skin disorders like burns or small tumours. He shou wu (Reynoutria multiflora) can diminish hair loss, and holy basil contains ursolic assic – one of the herbs that impvoes skin elasticity and reduces wrinkles. Hallelujah! Shatavari can be applied topically for sores and also helps improve skin tone and lustre.

Adaptogens that improve your sleep. Relaxing nervines can be the key to a good night’s rest after a busy day, encouraging the body to let down, digest, and unwind. Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) can help with challenges such as anxiety, fatigue, and insomnia, and is also supportive of the endocrine system – offering a gentle boost to an underactive thyroid, and nourishing the adrenal glands. Other herbs like Skullcap (Scuttellaria lateriflora), Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), Lemonbalm (Melissa officionalis), Chamomile (Matricaria lateriflora) and Hops (Humulus lupulus) can give a hypnotic effect, allowing for a deeper sleep and improved overall rest.

Adaptogens that improve your mood. Lightening up can be as simple as taking the time for tea. Adding herbs like Rhodiola (Rholdiola rosea), Schizandra, Siberian Ginseng, Damiana, and Lemonbalm, can work together to lift the spirits. Stronger herbs like St. John’s Wort can also be used, but should be taken consistently to garner consistent results.

Adaptogens that improve your mental focus. Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) and Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) both belong to a class of plants called nootropics which translated from Greek means ‘acting on the mind”. These adaptogens can help with forgetfulness, mental clarity, focus and concentration.

Adaptogens that support immune function. Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) is immune modulating, so it can balance out immune responses in the case of hypo or hyper-immune function. Ganoderma spp and Eleuthero can also be used as modulators, but also can have a stimulating effect on the immune system, so are useful at the first signs of a cold or flu. Astragalus on the other hand is best used preventatively, so you might want to skip it if you’re already sick.

Adaptogens that boost energy and stamina. Ashwaganda, Eleuthero, Gotu Kola, American ginseng can be used in cases of fatigue or for restlessness as they help to balance the body’s production of cortisol.

Adaptogens that support women and men’s health. Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) is rich in iron, which can help women who lean toward anemia due to heavy bleeding. Aprodesiac herbs can also boost libido and Eleuthero, Schizandra, Shatavari, Maca and Damiana can enhance sexual drive. Endocrine function is also enhance by plants.

With Adaptogens, Quality Matters

The key with any of the above is to know that not all adaptogens are created equally and the way a herb is grown, harvested, and the part of it used (flower, root, stem) gives each adaptogen it’s unique potency or lack thereof. Not all products are created equally, either. When you source a plant-based product it’s important to check that all of the ingredients are things you recognize. Note: powders may not last as long as the dried cut/sifted herb simply because they have more of the surface area exposed, whereas tinctures have the longest shelf life due to the fact that they preserve the plant constituents in alcohol. In general, using the actual dried herb, flower, or mushroom vs. powder always makes the adaptogen more powerful.

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