Adaptogen Supplements

Adaptogen Supplements are active substances that are thought to aid your body’s adaptation to stress. They are found in plants of the plant groups Araliaceae, Asteraceae, Crassulaceae, and Schisandraceae.

Adaptogen Supplements have been utilized in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for centuries. They are supposed to restore homeostasis (balance) to the body, particularly after periods of stress. This is consistent with the TCM belief that the body must maintain balance and harmony in order to be healthy.2

Adaptogen Supplements can be obtained from both natural and synthetic sources. Among the natural sources of adaptogens include Withania somnifera (ashwagandha), Rhodiola rosea, Panax ginseng, and Siberian ginseng.1 Various types of supplements are synthetic sources of adaptogens.

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Adaptogens are known to provide a variety of health benefits, including aiding in exercise recovery, stress reduction, hormone balance, and immunological function.3 However, like with many plants and supplements, there is limited scientific evidence to support their usage.

This page will discuss adaptogen advantages, as well as adaptogen sources, efficacy, and negative effects.

What Are the Benefits of Adaptogens?

TCM and Ayurveda (an ancient form of Indian healing medicine) have both used adaptogens for hundreds of years. They have grown in popularity in the Western world in recent years.

The overarching goal of adaptogens is equilibrium. Adaptogens, according to researchers, can accomplish this by targeting a wide range of tissues and organs in the body.

Adaptogens are said to offer numerous benefits, although not all of them are supported by strong scientific data. According to one study, adaptogens may be beneficial for:

  • Stress
  • Arthritis
  • Sleep
  • Neuroendocrine health
  • Cancer

Another review on adaptogens discussed additional benefits for:1

  • Physical endurance
  • Mental health
  • Blood sugar control
  • Fatigue
  • High cholesterol
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Hot flashes

Research on adaptogens continues to emerge, as there is still much to learn about these compounds. Studies have been performed on the following adaptogens:.

Panax Ginseng

Panax ginseng (P. ginseng), like other adaptogens, has been utilized in traditional medicine for thousands of years. P. ginseng, according to one evaluation, is a moderately safe herbal medicine with various potential benefits. P. ginseng may provide the following benefits:

  • Immune system modulation
  • Anxiety reduction
  • Heart disease prevention
  • Diabetes management

Unfortunately, many of the health claims surrounding P. ginseng have not been proven through human trials. More research is needed.

Withania Somnifera

Withania somnifera (W. somnifera), often known as ashwagandha, is widely utilized in Ayurveda for its alleged health advantages. The ashwagandha root is thought to be anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective. As a result, ashwagandha has been researched for its usage in:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • General inflammation
  • Bacterial infections
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Physical performance

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea (R. rosea) is a medicinal plant endemic to hilly locations around the world that is mostly utilized as an adaptogen.

R. rosea is primarily used as an adaptogen to treat several types of stress, including physical and biological stress. Some researchers believe R. rosea has a variety of impacts, including:

  • Preventing fine lines and wrinkles
  • Anticancer
  • Antistress
  • Anti-inflammatory

As with other adaptogens on this list, more research is needed on Rhodiola rosea before it can be recommended as a therapeutic agent.

How Do Adaptogens Work in the Body?

There are three criteria that a plant or substance must meet to be classified as an adaptogen. These include:2

  1. An adaptogen must work nonspecifically, meaning it must provide benefits for a wide range of conditions, including physical, chemical, and biological stress.
  2. Adaptogens must help the body maintain homeostasis (balance) by offsetting any imbalance caused by a health condition or external stress.
  3. Adaptogens must not be harmful to the human body.

Because adaptogens function in a generic manner, their mechanism of action is not fully known. Plant-derived natural adaptogens are hypothesized to target the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis as well as specific stress mediators.

These adaptogens may also have an effect on blood levels and other chemicals such as nitric oxide, lactate, blood sugar, cortisol, lipids, and liver enzymes. Adaptogens are often used to alleviate various types of stress.

Stress

Adaptogens do not prevent stressful events from occurring; rather, they are hypothesized to improve the body’s response to stress once it does.

Stress is regarded as both a physical and emotional reaction. An external incident, environmental situation, or chemical or biological substance can all cause stress. Stress causes the body to release hormones that cause the fight-or-flight response, causing physiological changes.

Stress is something that everyone experiences from time to time. However, if stress becomes chronic, problems can occur. Stress can also be a factor in a variety of medical issues.

All sorts of stress may benefit from adaptogens. They are thought to activate cell signals that boost flexibility, resilience, and even survival. Adaptogens, according to some researchers, are especially effective against stress induced by adult-onset diseases such as weariness, depression, sleep difficulties, inflammation, infections, and others.

According to some study, the HPA axis regulates stress hormones, which may be influenced by adaptogens. This suggests that adaptogens may act directly on the HPA axis to modulate the secretion of stress hormones.

Are Adaptogens Effective?

Much of the evidence for the usefulness of adaptogens is anecdotal.

Many of the health benefits of adaptogens are supported by scant scientific evidence. There are few human trials because most adaptogen investigations have been conducted in vitro (in a lab setting) or on animal subjects.

Nonetheless, some researchers cite preliminary data on adaptogens to support their efficacy, claiming that these herbs help restore an inactive or overactive immune system, regulate hormones, and improve brain chemistry.3

A pilot study looked at how adaptogens might affect patients with protracted COVID, or COVID-19 symptoms that last for a long time after the illness. Participants with long-term COVID symptoms were randomly assigned to either a placebo (an inactive chemical) or a supplement containing three adaptogens (R. rosea, Siberian ginseng, magnolia berry, or Schisandra chinensis).

The adaptogen pill was found to lower chronic pain and exhaustion, as well as levels of creatinine (a chemical that, if increased, may suggest renal illness). Despite these encouraging findings, more study is needed to establish the efficacy of adaptogens.

Adaptogen Supplements

Adaptogen supplements can be acquired online or at a variety of stores such as grocery stores and health food stores.

Adaptogens are available in a range of supplement forms, such as capsules, powders, beverages, and tinctures.Adaptogen plants can also be used fresh or dried.

Adaptogen chemicals are found in several processed foods and beverages. Some companies, for example, make adaptogen coffee or hot chocolate. There are also online recipes for adaptogen-rich foods and beverages.

When feasible, search for supplements that have been certified by a third party, such as USP, NSF International, or ConsumerLab.com.These organizations assess the purity and quality of a product. You don’t have to worry about pollutants in your product if it has a seal from a third-party organization.

Side Effects of Adaptogens

When utilizing herbs or supplements, there is always the possibility of adverse effects. According to research, plant adaptogens do not have any major adverse effects. V. Todorova, K. Ivanov, C. Delattre, et al.Plant adaptogens: a history and future outlook.2021;13(8):2861. doi:10.3390/nu13082861.

There have been few studies that have looked into the long-term safety of using certain adaptogens. As a result, the complete safety profiles of most adaptogens are unknown. Some adaptogens, such as P. ginseng and R. rosea, have been studied more completely than others. P. ginseng may result in:

  • Insomnia
  • Menstrual problems
  • Breast pain
  • Increased heart rate
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Headache
  • Decreased appetite
  • Digestive issues

For some people, ashwagandha use may lead to:18

  • Drowsiness
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

It should also be noted that herbal supplements may interact with other supplements, over-the-counter medications, or prescription drugs. Be sure to discuss potential interactions with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian before using adaptogens.