Adaptogens: What are they?
I have a busy, but fantastic job. These days, I live in New York, the city that never sleeps, and business as usual continues at my office in Amsterdam. I fly all over the place, making my dreams come to life. I have a positive outlook on life and venture out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. All of this means that my life isn’t always easy, but it’s incredibly satisfying and it makes me so happy. The downside is that my life can be stressful at times – even for someone as generally upbeat as me. This is why I always try to correct balance in my body by reducing the stress response, among other things. It’s not always easy. But when I don’t listen to my body, it sure has a way of making itself heard… I feel like I’m short of breath and experience heart palpitations. Say whaat? So, getting to that point is what I try to avoid…
Lately, I’ve been meditating for about 10 to 15 minutes every morning. I take a nice, relaxing bath at least once a week. I live in the here and now as much as I can, go out dancing with friends and take in a weekly yoga class.
I also regularly add adaptogens to my diet. Adaptogens are herbs whose effect on the body differs depending on the body’s specific needs at any given time. When a person is stressed, for example, his or her hormonal balance can be disrupted. This imbalance elicits an appropriate response from an adaptogen – blocking the overproduction of a particular hormone to return the body to equilibrium, for example. In this way, all adaptogens have a similar effect in the realm of mood (counteracting anxiety, fatigue, lethargy, etc.) hormones, libido, testosterone production and other aspects of restoring the hormonal balance. Western culture has only recently ‘discovered’ adaptogens, but their effects have been common knowledge in the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine and in the Indian Ayurveda. As you may have seen on social media (Insta stories, in particular), I add adaptogens to my tea, juice, smoothies and matcha lattes.
The list of adaptogens is long, but here are a few of my favorites…
This is one of the most popular adaptogens and it’s also my very favorite. It lowers cortisol production and increases the body’s resistance to stress. It reduces inflammation and has a strengthening and calming effect on the body. It’s also very high in iron.
Holy basil (Tulsi)
I love this herb. It’s tasty and helps reduce stress. It’s good for your digestion as well, as it calms an irritated digestive tract. And, like any good adaptogen, it also improves your endurance. My mother grows this in her herb garden, so I always pick lots when I’m there and make pesto out of it. Delicious!
Chaga is a mushroom that possesses strong anti-inflammatory and immune balancing properties. It regulates blood sugar and improves metabolism. It gives you more energy, helps you sleep better and strengthens your immune system. I use the powder form.
Maca gives you energy when you’re not feeling great and helps you to relax when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. It has a positive effect on your blood pressure, blood sugar and hormonal balance. It also supports healthy hormone production and, as such, it increases libido and can increase fertility. I’ve been adding maca to my smoothies for years and I love it!
This helps me with short, temporary bouts of stress. It also has a positive, relaxing effect on the nervous system, circulation and metabolism.
What are your favorite adaptogens? Let me know in the comments below!
Note: While adaptogens are a natural means of supporting your health, you still need to be cautious when using them – you want to avoid having too much of a good thing. Consider consulting your doctor before using adaptogens, particularly if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
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