Adaptogens: the new mommy's little helper
I've been super open about my motherhood being fueled by adaptogens. From the sleepless nights to the stress of having someone depend on you for everything, they come in really handy for making sure my tank never completely empties. Adaptogens are meant to bridge the gap during stressful times, but they are not to replace rest, nourishment, or a life that is in balance. If you're in that stage of motherhood where you could use a little extra sleep, a little extra energy, and your immune system to easily kick whatever your kids keep bringing home from school, adaptogens may be for you!
Adaptogens are a cool class of herbs that allow your body to come into balance. Each herb in this class has it's own super power but they all help the body through periods of stress. Many adaptogens help reduce oxidative stress in the body, which can be caused by many things including lack of sleep (talking to you, mamas!) These herbs help increase energy, stamina, quality sleep, and modulate your immune system. You have to take adaptogens consistently for several weeks to reap the benefits but sometimes you notice a difference immediately.
I think the most well known adaptogen is Ashwagandha. It's roots (so to say) are found in Ayurvedic Medicine. Ashwagandha is great for mom's as it can be a fantastic energy tonic that also will help boost breast milk production. It has been said to tone uterine muscles. Ashwagandha is a tonic for the nervous system as well, meaning it nourishes the nervous system. It has been used to help people with anxiety or nervous compositions. It calms and strengthens the nervous system and promotes deep restful sleep. Ashwagandha is used to help reduce inflammation and increase iron. It is a powerhouse of a herb. Since it's a tonic herb you need to take it daily for a few weeks to notice the benefits. You should always consult with your care provider if you are pregnant or trying to conceive if Ashwagandha is okay to continue taking.
My favorite adaptogen is actually a mushroom! Reishi has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. Reishi is most commonly known for it's immune system benefits but if that's all you know it for you're missing out on all this fungi has to offer! Reishi is the "chill" adaptogen cooling out your nervous system allowing it to deal with stress and allowing the body to calm down. There is a funny story I've read from the hospitals in China referring to the calm babies as "reishi babies" inferring that their mothers consumed reishi while pregnant. (Please consult your healthcare practitioner before consuming reishi while pregnant!) Reishi is immune modulating, calming to the nervous system, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and more. It has been coined "the elixer of immortality", so you know, it's kind of a big deal. Reishi has been shown to bring blood pressure and blood sugar into balance. Reishi can also bring about some wild vivid dreams, so keep that in mind! I love to drink a reishi extract in hot chocolate to calm my nervous system if I’m overstimulated!
Eluthero is a highly studied adaptogen. During the space race to the moon the Russians did a lot of testing of eluthero on their astronauts (and athletes) to find something to help with stamina and energy. They found it in eluthero. They also discovered that it increases mental clarity and the body's ability to handle stress, including oxidative stress (which one would have a lot of if traveling by rocket). Eluthero was previously referred to as Siberian Ginseng, however it is not ginseng, therefor it is most commonly known by the name eluthero (which is short for it's latin name Elutherococcus Senticosus). Eluthero has neuroprotectant, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties (among many more). Eluthero is best taken in the morning, as it can be stimulating. If you are breastfeeding pay attention to how baby reacts, in some very sensitive little ones it can be too stimulating!
Rhodiola is gaining a bit of popularity as adaptogens become more popular. Rhodiola has been used for those with anxiety and depression, as it is a thymoleptic. Taken over time people notice a relief in those symptoms. Rhodiola should not be taken by people with a history of bipolar or manic tendancies. Rhodiola is another adaptogen that helps with mental and physical stamina, especially in the face of stress. It is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and hepatoprotective. It is said to "break the cycle of stress in the body". It can shines with mental fatigue and cortisol imbalance as it resets the stress response.
All adaptogens have to be taken for weeks to see the benefit, however some of it you can feel right away. You can find adaptogens in tinctures, elixers, or capsule forms. I personally drink a morning elixer of adaptogens and night time hot chocolate with reishi extract. Some adaptogens are better suited for certain people, not all are going to check the boxes for your own personal body. Working 1:1 with a skilled herbalist is always the way to go when it comes to something chronic, like stress. And please always check with your healthcare provider before starting a new herbal regimen, especially if pregnant. This information is for educational purposes only and not meant to diagnose or treat any disease.
Do you take any adaptogens? Had you ever heard of them before?