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What is an adaptogen?

What is an adaptogen?

While stimulants like coffee and energy drinks can give us a boost, they might not always be the best solution. Sometimes an adaptogen can be a better choice — find out why.

Lifestyle insight

The three phases of stress

Three phases of stress were proposed by endocrinologist Hans Selye in his theory of the “general adaptation syndrome”.

  • The first is an alarm phase, that is felt as a spike in alertness followed by tiredness
  • The second is a resistance phase, which is described as fatigue
  • And the third is a phase of exhaustion

These are the kinds of stress responses that adaptogens are often used to relieve.

Adaptogens relieve stress and restore balance

An adaptogen is a mildly acting substance that stimulates the body and provides two types of benefit. First, adaptogens improve the body’s response to various forms of stress through adaptation. Second, they have a balancing effect on the body’s physical and psychological functions.

Adaptogens help the body adapt to stress by acting on mechanisms within cells throughout the body. By doing so, they improve resistance to stress and they promote overall health and energy balance — mainly through increasing the body’s ability to use oxygen.

One of the most well known adaptogens is ginseng. Ginseng is often described as having an “adaptogenic effect” due to its roles in fighting fatigue, treating exhaustion and enhancing vitality.

Adaptogens versus stimulants

The actions of adaptogens are most easily seen when the body’s physical functions are out of balance — for example, when you are stressed for a long periods of time, but instead of staying alert you become exhausted. In these situations, an adaptogen can be more helpful than a stimulant because you don’t end up feeling a further drop in energy levels.

Adaptogens such as ginseng act by first increasing performance and then improving resistance to stress

Stimulants such as caffeine start by increasing performance but later decrease performance

Adaptogens provide a stimulating effect but don’t cause a low when they wear off

So next time you’re feeling exhausted, fatigued, or just a little under the weather, why not consider the benefits of an adaptogen like ginseng?

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