More than one in ten of all Americans are on antidepressant medication. Many of them will experience unwanted side effects, and may even become addicted to these medications over time. Natural substances knowns as adaptogens can provide effective stress relief very safely, making them an excellent alternative in a number of instances.
What are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a class of herb that must meet a certain set of criteria. According to adaptogen expert Dr. David Winston, herbs must:
Be relatively non-toxic
Influence many organs or body systems by making them more resistant to biological, physical, and chemical factors
Help modulate system function
Examples of Adaptogens
Dr. Winston claims that there are only 13 herbs that meet the above criteria, despite the fact that dozens are marketed as adaptogens. Among the most common are American ginseng root, eleuthero, licorice rhizome, Ashwagandha root, and Asian ginseng root. Some herbalists also include maca root and astragalus on their list of adaptogens, although these two are not included in Dr. Winston’s book Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief.
How do Adaptogens Work?
Adaptogens have been shown to calm an enzyme known as c-Jun N-terminal kinases or JNK. This enzyme becomes activated when the body experiences stress, and is responsible for increasing inflammation and decreasing energy. Adaptogens cause cells to produce proteins that resist JNK, while also helping to regulate the nervous and immune systems, which are often under attack during periods of high stress.
How to Use Adaptogens
The exact adaptogen needed will vary based upon the type of stress you are experiencing and your overall health. Many herbalists prefer a combination of three or more adaptogens that include some form of Asian ginseng, Ashwaghanda root, and eleuthero. These herbs often come in powdered form or in gelatin caplets, and a single dosage each day is normally enough to provide the desired results.
The effect of adaptogens on pregnant and nursing mothers has not yet been evaluated. As such, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking them. Patients should also limit their caffeine intake, as some adaptogens do provide a stimulating effect. Those who are currently taking prescription antidepressants should consult with a physician, as stopping them all at once can produce some serious and sometimes life-threatening side effects.
The best results are possible when using wild crafted herbs, which are gathered from their natural habitat and contain the highest amount of active compounds. If wild-crafted herbs are unavailable, choose organically-grown ones that are produced on farms without using pesticides or chemicals. Keep in mind that when doing so, the therapeutic constituents may be found in differing amounts, meaning that your results may vary significantly from one batch to the next. As such, you may need to adjust your dosage accordingly.
Stress is unfortunately a part of everyday life; however, that does not mean people are destined to rely on medications. Adaptogens can provide some amazing effects for anxiety sufferers, and can greatly reduce the need for prescription drugs.