Business Stress Man with Text Worry

The New Year is the perfect opportunity to replace old habits with new ones and harmful habits with beneficial ones.

Consider the way we deal with stress, for example.  Many of us deal with stress at home and / or at work and can fall into detrimental coping habits, i.e. becoming dependent on too much coffee to get us through the day and stay alert.  Unfortunately, after the caffeine highs come the lows, along with chronic fatigue as your adrenal system eventually become depleted.  This can leave you feeling run down, irritable and eventually less able to cope.

If you are under long term, unavoidable, sustained stress – maybe you’re trying to complete a challenging project at work or just find yourself in the middle of an on-going, domestic drama, consider using herbal adaptogens.

What are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are herbs that help the body to adjust to acute or chronic stress by increasing its response to stress whether it is physical, emotional, biological or environmental.

Adaptogens support our bodily functions and are unique in helping to modulate the immune system. They are capable of either toning down the activity of over-functioning systems or strengthening the activity of under-functioning systems, thus having a normalising effect.  As an example, Asian ginseng can either stimulate the nervous system or calm it down. Adaptogens increase resilience – preventing and reducing the incidence of illness.

When to use Adaptogens

Low energy and fatigue respond well to adaptogenic tonic herbs, i.e. Korean ginseng, Ashwaganda and Astragalus, which will help to make our response to stress more robust.

Chronic or persistent fatigue will respond to the adrenal tonics such as Licorice and Rehmannia, which will help to restore depleted adrenal reserves.

Anxiety and an overworked nervous system can benefit from nervine tonics as St. John’s Wort, or Skullcap, which also help to lift mood.

Chronic colds and infections will benefit from the immune-modulating effects of such herbs as Echinacea Root and Andrographis which will help to increase immune function.

How do Adaptogens work?

Various active constituents found in herbs work to stimulate the connected neuroendocrine and immune systems.  Adaptogens affect the brain, nerves, endocrine glands, (pituitary, thymus, pineal, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, pancreas, ovaries, testes) and immune systems by helping to re-regulate, normalise and enhance function.

Adaptogenic herbs support the entire neuroendocrine system, in particular adrenal function, thus helping to neutralise the adverse effects of stress.  Adaptogens allow our bodies to maintain an adaptive response and reduce the damage that a persistent stress response can cause.As many of our health problems are inter-related, adaptogens are often prescribed in combination for both the prevention and treatment of disease, and to improve general health and vitality.

Patricia Ferguson is a Medical Herbalist and owner of Greenleaves Herbal Healthcare. For advice on managing stress and poor immunity please call 0845 468 0823 or a fill in a consultation form.

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4 thoughts on “Herbal Adaptogens for Stress Management

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  • February 8, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    Hi, great post. I was researching adaptogens for use in training to help with recovery, when i came upon your site. Rhodiola Rosea seems to be very popular for this purpose, would it also be useful for adrenal fatigue or chronic fatigue?

    • September 28, 2015 at 3:51 pm

      I’m sorry for the very late reply! Yes, Rhodiola is one of those herbs that seems to have a very broad range of effects and I would certainly use it in both of those conditions, fatigue whatever the cause will benefit from this versatile and effective herb.

      Best wishes



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