Stress is one of the primary reasons behind poor mental health, time off work, and feeling fatigued and full of brain fog. It can also heighten the sense of anxiety and depression in some people.
Some people may love the thrill of a deadline, but when life becomes too stressful, you might find yourself becoming unwell instead of “thriving under pressure”. When stress becomes chronic or long-term, it can even cause the onset of physical conditions such as obesity and heart disease.
This is where adaptogens may come in helpful. It is thought that we can use them to help balance our hormones and achieve a state which is much less tense. Why? Because adaptogens help the body to adapt to stressful situations, and reduce the impact of long term stress. In order to do this, they affect certain areas of the body in an effort to reduce stress and fatigue, whilst giving the body the opportunity to restore its natural balance of hormones and chemicals which can be disrupted when you’re under pressure.
They can also help with recovery from stressful situations, positively impact on your reactions to stress, and prevent damage from long term stress. Essentially, adaptogens can help you and your body to cope when things get tough.
There is even evidence to suggest that adaptogens can not only help to restore your body after impact from stress, but also help in other areas of life. We’ll see more of this below, but current evidence suggests that adaptogens may help with healthy sleep, reduce the symptoms of conditions such as fibromyalgia, and reduce the inflammation and swelling associated with various joint conditions (Liao et al., 2018)
How do adaptogens fight stress?
When you’re in a stressful situation, your body responds to the perceived threat by entering a state known as general adaptation syndrome (GAS). There are three stages in this process going from alarm, through to resistance, and ending in exhaustion. If you’ve ever wondered why a stressful experience can leave you feeling more tired than normal, then GAS is the reason!
Adaptogens work to stimulate your mind and body, holding you in the resistance phase for a longer period, and preventing the move into the final exhaustion phase. This means that, instead of crashing during a stressful moment, you can keep going.
Adaptogens also work to promote hormonal balance, which can help with stress management. Stressful events trigger the adrenal gland to release the stress hormone, cortisol, which boosts your energy temporarily in order to deal with the stressful situation in front of you.
The problem is that our surroundings have developed to a point where any small thing in life can be perceived as stressful, and our brains have not yet adapted to recognise the difference between a truly life threatening experience and something which might just be inconvenient. A late train, missed deadline, or even your laptop updating when you’re in the middle of a task can now induce a stress response and cause our adrenal glands to go to work. The issue here is that too much cortisol can be bad for our health. Frequent stress triggers can lead to the onset of a condition called cortisol dysfunction, which can lead to widespread pain and inflammation in the body (Hannibal and Bishop, 2014).
Using adaptogens to help manage our stress response and prevent frequent releases of cortisol can help to prevent the negative impact associated with long term or chronic stress.
Which adaptogens can help with stress?
There are many different adaptogenic plants and herbs, all holding different health properties on top of their ability to help us manage stress. Here are just a few:
Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha has been used in traditional and Ayurvedic medicines for centuries to alleviate anxiety, pain and inflammation, as well as helping to increase energy. By helping to lower levels of stress and anxiety, it’s believed that ashwagandha may promote healthy sleeping patterns, improve your heart health and boost memory. It is also believed to hold anti-inflammatory properties, which may prove especially beneficial for those with conditions which affect their joints and mobility (Speers et al., 2021). You can find ashwagandha in Vivo Life’s MAGIC Raw Hot Chocolate to help support the nervous system.
Cordyceps: This wonderful mushroom might help to boost our stamina, which is important when considering the fatigue that stress can cause. Like ashwagandha, cordyceps are believed to hold anti-inflammatory properties, as well as being high in antioxidants, which can help to prevent damage to our cells. Not only this, but Cordyceps have been found to help the body increase its capacity for oxygen during exercise and may help to improve mental clarity (Ashraf et al., 2020). Vivo Life uses expertly sourced Cordyceps in its MAGIC Matcha Coconut Latte to promote healthy energy levels and focus by increasing oxygen utilisation alongside matcha, which is also famous for its ability to to boost brain power.
Reishi mushrooms: As well as holding adaptogenic properties, reishi mushrooms may help to promote your immune system, which is often diminished by stress. They may also have a beneficial effect on the symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, and depression - all of which are exacerbated by high or consistent levels of stress. Using a supplement containing reishi mushroom before bed can help to promote better sleep cycles, and leave you feeling refreshed in the morning (Batra, Sharma and Khajuria, 2013). By naturally reducing cortisol levels, reishi mushrooms can alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety, which is important for our stress response. This is why Vivo Life uses the fruiting body of reishi mushroom in our MAGIC Raw Hot Chocolate.
Turmeric: Yes, turmeric holds adaptogenic properties, alongside many other health benefits! Studies have shown turmeric may also have an effect on the body’s production of both dopamine and serotonin, which can further reduce the symptoms of depression in the brain (Ramaholimihaso, Bouazzaoui and Kaladjian, 2020).
Lion’s Mane Mushroom: Not only does this shaggy fungus act as an adaptogen promoting balance in the body and optimising brain function, research has also shown that it may aid in faster recovery for nervous system injuries, including potential reductions in brain damage as a result of strokes (Lee et al., 2014). It also offers a boost of energy, and can help to improve your cognitive function and memory recall.
As you can see, there are lots of options for adaptogens! At Vivo Life, we believe in the power of adaptogens for hormonal balance and stress reduction, so we have created a range of MAGIC Lattes to fulfil different needs, from a boost of energy and clarity with a matcha coconut latte, to a relaxing wind-down hot chocolate at the end of a busy day.
Liao, L., He, Y., Li, L., Meng, H., Dong, Y., Yi, F. and Xiao, P. (2018). A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide. Chinese Medicine, [online] 13(1). doi:10.1186/s13020-018-0214-9.
Speers, A.B., Cabey, K.A., Soumyanath, A. and Wright, K.M. (2021). Effects of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) on Stress and the Stress-Related Neuropsychiatric Disorders Anxiety, Depression, and Insomnia. Current Neuropharmacology, 19. doi:10.2174/1570159x19666210712151556.
Ashraf, S.A., Elkhalifa, A.E.O., Siddiqui, A.J., Patel, M., Awadelkareem, A.M., Snoussi, M., Ashraf, M.S., Adnan, M. and Hadi, S. (2020). Cordycepin for Health and Wellbeing: A Potent Bioactive Metabolite of an Entomopathogenic Medicinal Fungus Cordyceps with Its Nutraceutical and Therapeutic Potential. Molecules, 25(12), p.2735. doi:10.3390/molecules25122735.
Ramaholimihaso, T., Bouazzaoui, F. and Kaladjian, A. (2020). Curcumin in Depression: Potential Mechanisms of Action and Current Evidence—A Narrative Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2020.572533.
Lee, K.-F., Chen, J.-H., Teng, C.-C., Shen, C.-H., Hsieh, M.-C., Lu, C.-C., Lee, K.-C., Lee, L.-Y., Chen, W.-P., Chen, C.-C., Huang, W.-S. and Kuo, H.-C. (2014). Protective effects of Hericium erinaceus mycelium and its isolated erinacine A against ischemia-injury-induced neuronal cell death via the inhibition of iNOS/p38 MAPK and nitrotyrosine. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, [online] 15(9), pp.15073–15089. doi:10.3390/ijms150915073.
Batra, P., Sharma, A.K. and Khajuria, R. (2013). Probing Lingzhi or Reishi Medicinal Mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (Higher Basidiomycetes): A Bitter Mushroom with Amazing Health Benefits. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 15(2), pp.127–143. doi:10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i2.20.
Hannibal, K.E. and Bishop, M.D. (2014). Chronic Stress, Cortisol Dysfunction, and Pain: A Psychoneuroendocrine Rationale for Stress Management in Pain Rehabilitation. Physical Therapy, [online] 94(12), pp.1816–1825. doi:10.2522/ptj.20130597.