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Adaptogens: A Fad or Helpful Tool to Combat Stress?

Adaptogens, which have been used for hundreds of years in Ayurvedic healing practices, are gaining a lot of attention in the modern wellness world. They’re offered in supplement form and can often be found listed on coffee shop or smoothie bar menus. Adaptogens aren’t just frivolous additions to a latte though—they’ve been shown to help people adapt to stress, something every human could probably use!

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are a class of herbs, mushrooms, and other plants that work to boost a person’s resistance to and tolerance of stress of all kinds, whether physical or emotional.

“As the name suggests, adaptogens adapt to meet your needs,” said Dr. John Fulginiti, a surgeon who specializes in wound care and integrative medicine. “They bring balance similar to how a thermostat controls temperature. They turn your energy up when you’re tired and help you relax when you’re anxious or stressed.”

How do adaptogens work?

Adaptogens can be thought of as herbal pharmaceuticals. Each one has unique properties that help counteract the effects of stress on the body.

“Stress causes physical changes that can negatively affect the endocrine, neurological, and immune systems,” said Dr. Fulginiti. “Adaptogens have properties that help counteract those harmful effects and bring a person back to a state of homeostasis.”

An antidote to adrenal burnout

Adrenals are two glands that sit on top of the kidneys and play a crucial role in responding to stress. When a person is under chronic stress, their adrenals have to work overtime, eventually causing them to burn out. When a person has adrenal burnout, their ability to respond effectively to the stresses of life diminishes, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and tired.

According to Dr. Fulginiti, supplementing a healthy diet and lifestyle with adaptogens can help soothe and support the stress response, giving the adrenal glands a chance to recover. Specific adaptogens that have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety include astragalus root, ashwagandha, holy basil, rhodiola rosea, cordyceps, and reishi.

Practicing patience when taking adaptogens

Unlike many medications, adaptogens are not fast-acting. Rather, it can take some time for the desired effect to manifest. Some people might notice some improvement within a couple of weeks, while others may need to wait a few months to reap the benefits. Dr. Fulginiti encourages his patients to wait at least three months to really know if an adaptogen is addressing the target issue.

The bottom line

Adaptogens certainly aren’t a cure-all, but research continues to suggest that they can help ease stress and support a person’s overall wellness when taken regularly and combined with a healthy lifestyle.

Interested in learning more about how you can achieve a healthier lifestyle? Schedule a free call with Dr. Fulginiti.

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