Can Adaptogens Help Us Handle Stress Better?

by Karen Hughes on November 1, 2020

What Are Adaptogens?


Adaptogens are substances that come from herbs, roots and fungi the help the body “adapt” to stressors. Can they help us handle stress better?

When faced with stress, regardless of whether it is physical or mental, our bodies process it in 3 ways. These three steps are known as General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). 

  1. The body gets alerted.
  2. The body goes into resistance.
  3. The body enters exhaustion.

General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)

Have you ever gone through an intense workout? If you have, you might easily recognize these steps.  First, you mentally prep (alarm) yourself for the activity. Your workout begins. Muscles are called into action (resistance).  Completed, muscles relax, and you finish the workout (exhaustion).

Why Adaptogens Work

Adaptogens can help our bodies stay in the resistance (action) stage longer.  It doesn’t matter whether you are physically experiencing stress or emotionally experiencing stress, the same thing happens. 

Just like sugar is sugar, stress is stress.  The body cannot distinguish one from the other.  Once alerted, your adrenal glands release cortisol (known as the stress hormone) into action.

The Stress Hormone

Stress, is NOT a bad thing.  It helps us achieve great things.  Too much stress is known to have a domino effect on the body.  When the body is constantly under stress and cortisol (the stress hormone) is released, resources are taken from the other organs in the body.  Too much stress weakens the immune system as well as natural circadian rhythm.

Sleep becomes disrupted and a domino effect begins. Research now shows the positive and negative impact sleep can have on the body.

Weight Gain

Did you know that too much cortisol can also result in weight gain?

Adaptogens can help reduce stress hormone by helping the body stay in the resistance phase a bit longer. 

Only you can manage your personal stress. Discovering whether an adaptogen supports your body will be a trial and error.

There are many adaptogens to choose from including herbs, roots and mushrooms. A few of those that have gained popularity over the years are below.

7 Common Adaptogens

  • Ashwagandha
  • Astragalus
  • Goji Berry
  • Licorice Root
  • Maca
  • Tulsi/Holy Basil
  • Turmeric

Before using adaptogens, you reach out to your healthcare provider. You’ll want to be informed and discuss any factors that might get in the way of your success. I’ve also found your neighborhood pharmacist a wonderful partner as well.


Karen C Hughes

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