Sometimes it seems like the rush of everyday life is overwhelming, creating anxiety and overstimulation from busy schedules and endless to-do lists. Various alternative medicine traditions, from Ayurveda to Chinese medicine, emphasize precisely this modern-day malady as the culprit of most diseases.
In order to prevent chronic stress from building up in the body and throwing us off balance, we need to deal with the sources of the problem, which is usually the communication between the brain and the immune system. Adaptogens, which are ancient mushrooms, herbs, and roots from all over the globe, have special and diverse abilities to mitigate this mind-body connection, and to help the body recover and adapt to various stressors.
If you’re looking for non-chemical ways to help your body deal with stress and to recharge your system’s natural defenses, adaptogens are an incredible resource of vitality. We found some of the best adaptogens that can help with various problems—from lifting brain fog and increasing energy and endurance, to reducing anxiety and helping your sex life. Shutterstock Moringa is the vitamin boost that you’ve been lacking. With more Vitamin C than oranges, more Vitamin A than carrots, and more calcium than milk, this little leafed plant is like a botanical multi-vitamin. It’s also chock-full of iron, protein, and potassium. Moringa can sometimes be found fresh, but is more commonly stocked as a powdered supplement and is used in alternative medicine as a good antioxidant source, treating headaches and boosting a mother’s milk production.
Read more about moringa and its uses here. Shutterstock When it comes to best adaptogens to try, you can’t beat this ‘mushroom of immortality’. It boosts immunity and supports the body’s ability to heal. The antioxidants in reishi can help build strength and vitality and the beta-glucans in the fungus may help fight cancer. Also naturally calming, reishi can be found in bedtime teas to help foster relaxation for better sleep. While capsules are available, it’s best to take it in a liquid or powder form to allow quick absorption in the body.
Read more about reishi and its uses here. Shutterstock Whether you use this ancient Ayurvedic herb for reducing stress and anxiety, assisting your immune system, helping athletic performance or adding a little zing to your sex life, it’s been a studied and proven benefit for a diet for over 4,000 years. It’s also a help to regulate thyroid function, especially in women.
Read more about ashwagndha and its uses here. Shutterstock Full of vitamins and minerals, Chaga mushrooms are referred to in European and Asian folk medicines as a ‘Gift from God’. As an adaptogen, Chaga fights stress, reduces anxiety and regulates hormones. It’s been shown to fight cancer, reduce cholesterol and regulate the cardiovascular system.
Read more about chaga and its uses here. Shutterstock Maca root is another libido booster, helping with mild erectile disfunction and stimulating feelings of desire in both sexes. At the same time maca root is tackling common difficulties in the bedroom, it boosts fertility by raising sperm count for men. It also tackles PMS and menopause symptoms by balancing hormones. Taking maca before a workout may help with a natural, no caffeine energy boost and it’s been found to bring down anxiety levels.
Read more about maca root and its uses here.
The unique appearance of this white, fuzzy mushroom hides a powerhouse of nutritional value. High in protein and full of antioxidants, this fungus contains hericenones and erinacines, two compounds that help protect brain tissue and stimulate new growth. A help with mild cognitive impairment and a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s, this super mushroom is sure to be found in many future clinical trials. Shutterstock In science class, we all learned about the value of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a key component in the transfer of energy in our body. Cordyceps stimulates production of ATP, giving a push to our energy levels. It behaves like insulin, regulating hormones. Cordyceps also is a powerful antioxidant, reducing the effects of aging on skin, hair and nails. Shutterstock A go-to supplement to help with a good night’s rest, valerian’s long-term use is to treat insomnia. It relaxes the central nervous system, helping the user drift off and conquer mild sleep problems. Studies suggest that valerian also helps with PMS, reducing muscle spasms and cramps.
Read more about valerian root and its uses here. Shutterstock Triphala helps ease the digestive system, reducing gas, diarrhea or constipation. It’s a blend of three fruits, amla, haritaki, and bibhitaki, that work together to help good bacteria thrive in the gut and eliminate bad bacteria.
Read more about triphala and its uses here. Shutterstock The gotu kola herb might appear like parsley, but that’s where the comparison ends. This Ayurvedic herb helps with memory and lessens anxiety and depression. The high amount of antioxidants can get rid of the free radicals that constantly bombard our bodies and administered topically, may even help with the appearance of stretch marks and cellulite.
Read more about gotu kola and its uses here. Shutterstock A potential cancer busting, cholesterol-lowering and immune boosting plant, astragalus was used in ancient Chinese culture to regulate the appetite and encourage energy. It’s a great anti-inflammatory and has antimicrobial and antiviral properties, making it a good choice for cold, flu or allergies. Astragalus also strengthens blood vessels and helps blood flow. Shutterstock The endocrine system is fortified by using this flowering herb, resulting in balanced thyroid and adrenal levels. Like other adaptogens, it fights anxiety and exhaustion, but it also balances the production of cortisol which allows the body to properly burn fat, leading to a rise in metabolism. Shutterstock An interesting mugwort treatment is moxibustion. In combination with acupuncture, mugwort is burned over an expectant mother’s body to stimulate breech-position babies to turn. Mugwort also relaxes muscles in the uterus, helping nudge a late period or help with cramps. That makes mugwort unsuitable for a woman in her early stages of pregnancy. There is a risk of miscarriage.
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