When you consider the current state of politics, the economy, schools, families, and COVID, it’s no surprise that most Americans are stressed. Some 75% of Americans report experiencing moderate to high stress in the past month; high school students say stress is their No. 1 health concern; and 80% of people feel stress at work.
Whew! It’s enough to make people cranky, irritable, and too wired to sleep. The fascinating thing is, there are common plants that can make the situation so much more bearable. And, no, we’re not talking marijuana! We’re talking about adaptogens.
Adaptogens are plants that help you become more resilient to stress, to handle stressful situations with less anxiety and irritability, and more stamina. By definition, they must be non-toxic and safe for long-term use.
Interestingly, while adaptogens have long been used in traditional medicines, some of the first scientific studies began during World War II. Researchers in the Soviet Union were looking for ways to improve the abilities of their soldiers. They found native people using Schisandra chinensis as a tonic to reduce thirst, hunger, and exhaustion, and to improve night vision. The researchers began to clinically study its phytochemistry and effects.
By the 1960s, Soviet researchers had developed the idea of using herbal medicinal plants to increase stamina and survival in harmful environments, calling these plants “adaptogens.” The study of adaptogens developed into a field of biomedicinal research in its own right. Soviet scientists went on to produce an enormous amount of research, especially on Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng), and Rhodiola rosea. The extracts were used not only for soldiers, but also for Olympic athletes.
Today, adaptogens are studied worldwide. They are known to positively affect the central nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system.
What does all that mean for you? If you are in a stressful situation, help is only a pill, tea, or tincture away!
As you might expect, each plant may have slightly different effects. To help you choose, we found some analysis from Cleveland Clinic and Healthline:
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) – immune modulating, anti-inflammatory, calming, boosts working memory, may reset dopamine levels and regulate mood
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) – calms brain response to stress, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, may improve sleep
Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) – relieves both mental and physical fatigue, invigorating, can improve energy and performance during stressful activities
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) – rather like Asian ginseng, this relieves stress and fatigue; boosts immune function
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) – reduces physical and mental stress, stress-related anxiety, and depression
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) – alleviates fatigue, anxiety, and depression; staves off physical and mental fatigue
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) – boosts endurance, mental performance, and mental capacity