Adaptogens : A Thorough Insight
The wellness world is abuzz with its latest super healers- the adaptogens.
What are adaptogens, you ask? Adaptogens are the stars of holistic healing and they are powerful non toxic herbs that help the body in reacting, recovering and adapting to the short terms and long term physical and mental stress.
Confused? Let us simplify it further... When you’re stressed, your body experiences physical and mental pressure and diverts resources to the brain and skeletal muscles to feel whatever the perceived threat is. The heart rate increases, the cortisol spikes, increasing the blood pressure and the breathing speeds up , digestion decreases. Now these are great life saving measures if you were running from say, potential death threat like a tiger running after you, but do you need to experience this every time you have a bad day at work or in personal life? In another scenario, you pop a lot of pills in hopes to reduce the inflammation in your body. Now medical science strives to make all your medicines as safe as possible but you have to deal with a lot of side effects. This is where adaptogens come in. They are called adaptogens because they have the unique ability to ‘adapt’ their function according to the specific physical, chemical and biological needs of your body. They consist of special compounds that can possess opposing, ‘magical’ qualities, such as being relaxing or stimulating depending on what you are going through. The correct response is triggered according to the body’s specific needs.
There has been a lot of research on them and they indicate that adaptogens can combat fatigue, enhance mental performance, ease depression and anxiety, reduce inflammation, heal your gut, boost energy and strength and help you thrive rather than just muddle through. Let’s look at the indian adaptogens that are taking over the world.
Ashwagandha: The king of adaptogens, Ashwagandha is a super star healer and sexual health booster. It improves the function of the reproductive system by creating a healthy sexual and reproductive balance. It enhances your body’s resilience to stress and relaxes you. It helps you sleep better which in turn helps your body fight inflammation. It has also shown to increase the natural killer cell activity and decrease inflammation caused by their low levels, thereby boosting immunity.
How to take it: Before bedtime, one capsule with normal temp water/ milk Or 1/2 tsp powder with a cup of milk. Do not self prescribe.
Brahmi: Remember how moms would give us this green syrup every morning to help us concentrate during exams? Yup, that was Brahmi. Brahmi helps boost cognition, memory power and helps you concentrate better by inhibiting cortisol levels and reducing stress and anxiety which also fog your brain during such times. Brahmi is also an antioxidant and is believed to prevent free radicals from mutating the cells into cancerous forms.
How to take it: 1 tsp with water not more than that because it is very cold in nature. More than 1tsp can cause cold or cough to children or adults.
Shatavari: Effective diuretic, antioxidant, anti inflammatory, immunity booster, cough reliever, gut health healer, kidney stone dissolver, Shatavri is the queen of adaptogens. It’s multiple healing factors make it a staple in ayurvedic and natural healing practices. This adaptogen is also lactation super-food that is proven beneficial for women who are breastfeeding.
How to take it: 1 tsp with water or a capsule per day before bedtime. Pregnant women are not allowed to take adaptogen because they can lead to uterine contractions and some are abortive in nature.
Mulethi (Licorice): Mulethi contains the active compounds glycyrrhizin and carbenoxolone, known to relieve constipation, stomach discomfort, heartburn, acidity and other stomach problems. It also acts as a mild laxative, playing an effective role in stimulating bowel movements. Mulethi is also a throat soother when you experience cough and cold and it helps expel the mucous from the chest due to its decongesting properties.
How to take it: For your stomach related issues, take mulethi water empty stomach in the morning
Ginger: We have ginger in all forms of cuisines in India and across the world, don't we.? In India we start the day with ginger basil tea, put it in sabzis, have digestive drinks and even put it in some desserts! Ayurveda says it warms the body, is digestive and gut healer and it is also beneficial in relieving period pains.
How to take it: Grate some ginger or slice some ginger and infuse it in water. You can lightly boil the water and add honey to drink it every morning on empty stomach, with lemon to boost fat burning.
Basil: Remember how everyone during Covid 19 has been emphasizing on having tulsi/ basil every day for immunity boosting? They’re right! This antifungal, antiviral, antiseptic, antibacterial, gut healing herb is one of the most important adaptogens.
How to take it: All parts of the herb can be used to heal different ailments. Fresh flowers in water or tea: heals bronchitis; Leaves and seeds, with black pepper: heals malaria; Leaves: helps curbing diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting; Oil: heals eczema and relieves insect bites; Alcohol extract heals and soothes stomach ulcers and eye diseases
Aloe Vera: Another wonderful plant that is a super effective adaptogen. It heals your stomach, it heals your skin, it heals your immune system and makes it stronger, it helps soothe your scalp and in turn help your hair grow faster.
How to have it: Scrape the gel fresh from the plant by cutting open the leaf and washing off the yellow liquid. Apply it on your skin at night and sleep to wake up to a fresh, problem free puff free face. Apply it any time of the day to soothe insect bites and to get relief from sunburns. It also has anti tanning properties. Have the get freshly extracted, or in juice form in the morning to boost gut health and metabolism.
Milk Thistle: Milk thistle is a liver savior you need to always keep at hand. It is the key liver detoxification agent and helps heal cirrhosis, jaundice, hepatitis, and gallbladder disorders. It is also known to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients. The active ingredient in milk thistle is silymarin which is both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
How to take it: Do not take it without your medical practitioner’s guidance.
Amla: Anti-aging, immunity-boosting, anti-inflammatory, eye health booster, healthy hair growth promoter, heart healthy, gut friendly, anti viral Amla or the Indian gooseberry is the prince of the adaptogens, and a must have in the medicine cabinet.
How to have it : Do not have Amla without consulting your health care provider as different bodies and ailments need different doses. However, it is recommended that you have Amla juice first thing in the morning to boost metabolism and gut health.
Can kids be given adaptogens? How much? Adaptogens like ginger, tulsi are safe. In the form of kadha (1 tbsp) can be given to kids OR juice of tulsi and ginger mix with honey given to kids when they are suffering from cold, cough and fever. Turmeric is an adaptogen and it is a spice without which our Indian foods are not complete and it is safe for kids. Now some complex adaptogens like Ashwagandha, Mulethi, Brahmi, Shatavari, Chamomile, Green tea, Maca and many more. They should be avoided for the kids below 5 years of age. They may be allergic or their gut may not be ready for them so easily and its very likely kids may feel nauseous, may experience diarrhoea & flatulence. Brahmi is another adaptogen that is said to be cold, as per ayurveda and incorrect quantities may lead to chronic cold and cough. A child instead can be given almond in powder form as replacement.