What is an adaptogen?

Georgina Roberts Updated by Georgina Roberts

The short answer...

An adaptogen responds to hormonal imbalances caused by stress in the body and works to help restore balance.

The long answer...

Adaptogens are a group of plants and herbs that can help us to manage and balance mood, energy levels, stress hormones within the body, and even enhance cognitive function. Modern nutritional science has been exploring this in more recent years and re-discovering the bio-active benefits that our ancestors celebrated. We love these wonderful mushrooms, and you will find them in many of our products.

Adaptogens have been shown by modern research to improve the resistance of the human body to a wide range of stressors, from external (environmental) to internal (bodily systems). They do this by working with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and the immune-neuro-endocrine system, both of which comprise of multiple bodily systems and their interaction with each other. Stress comes in many forms and on occasions acute stress can actually be very beneficial to the body and encourage adaptions, for instance in the case of exercise our bodies undergo short term stress and provided the exercise stimulus and recovery are appropriate, our bodies will adapt to better handle that stressor. It is when stressors become chronic, or there is not sufficient recovery from acute stress that we can run into problems. Stress of course comes in many other forms, environmental, psychological, sociological, and then we must consider the stressful implications of a poor diet, lack of exercise, lack of sunlight, fatigue, depression, to just name a few. For such a broad potential of stressors on the human body, and adaptogen must meet the following criteria to be classified as such: firstly, an adaptogen must be non-specific and must assist the human body in resisting a wide range of adverse conditions and secondly adaptogens must balance and maintain homeostasis in humans by offsetting or resisting physical disorders caused by external stress. These definitions were first established in 1940 by scientist N. Lazerev, and later elaborated on by scientist I. Brekhman to say than an adaptogen must reduce harm caused by stressed states, have positive excitatory effects on the human body, must not cause side effects from these excitatory effects (like common stimulants) and lastly, they must not harm the human body. This impressive checklist is met by a range of different plants and herbs, of which medicinal mushrooms are included. These benefits were considered sacred by our forebearers, and modern research continues to discover more about these wonderful plants.

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