What Are Adaptogens? 

What are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are herbal medicines that support the body’s adaptation to stress.

When faced with a stressor, the body undergoes several processes internally to respond and adapt to it appropriately. Sources of stress can be either physical, such as infection or rigorous exercise, or mental-emotional, such as managing a heavy workload or moving to a new city.

The role of adaptogens is to assist the body in managing the internal stress response, to improve overall resiliency and avoid reaching a point of collapse or burnout. Though this concept is newer to western medicine, adaptogens have a long history of use in traditional eastern medicine

Our bodies react very strongly to stress.

Upon exposure to a stressor, our perception of our own ability to cope plays a major role in how that stress is interpreted and what kind of physical response occurs in the body. When we’re unable to manage external pressures, there are repercussions inside the body which manifest in many ways.

Symptoms of stress can include increased heart rate, sweating, digestive upset, muscle tension, sleep disturbance, fatigue, reduced immune response, and decreased recovery time, though they vary from person to person. 

Adaptogens support the adrenal glands and help restore a healthy stress response in the body.

The adrenal glands are two smaller glands located on top of each kidney that regulate a large part of the body’s response to external stressors. Improved adaptation and resilience to stress helps reduce stress-related symptoms, leading people to feel like the stressors they are exposed to no longer generate as strong of a response, and past triggers are less overwhelming.

The following herbs are examples of adaptogens: 

  • Licorice
  • Ashwagandha
  • Siberian Ginseng
  • Panax Ginseng
  • Rhodiola

Some of these adaptogens tend to exert a more calming effect, while others can be more stimulating, so it’s important to select the appropriate herbal blend based on each person’s unique situation and symptoms.

Dr. Caitlan Gignac
Naturopathic Doctor San Jose


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