Adaptogens Guide + Balance Hormones + Lower Stress
Hormonal imbalances trigger fat storage and weight gain, and many other symptoms like PMS, acne, painful breasts, migraines, cellulite, loss of libido, a disrupted monthly cycle, menopausal issues, and burn-outs. Your hormones dictate virtually every part of your life: from your state of mind to your behavior, body shape, eating habits and even your reaction to stress.
My first job out of college was at the University of South Dakota Medical school. I worked in the Biomedical Department doing cardiovascular research studying soy Isoflavones a class of phytoestrogens — plant-derived compounds with estrogenic activity. This is where my journey began in understanding female hormones and the effects on the body. My conclusion - I truly feel hormone balance is the foundation of health.
When we talk about hormones, people often just think about male or female sex hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone but there are numerous hormones that affect our systems such as cortisol, the stress hormone, insulin which controls blood sugars and is very inflammatory to the body in high levels, and thyroid hormones that can affect mood, energy and weight. All these hormones are part of what we call endocrine systems, and a deficiency or imbalance in one of them can have an impact on the other hormones too.
Hormones act as messengers in the body; with each hormone sending specific instructions to every organ. Your body’s hormones are produced in a few different endocrine glands such as your adrenals, pancreas, reproductive tract, brain (hypothalamus and pineal and pituitary glands), as well as your thyroid, parathyroid, and gastrointestinal tract.
Why Do We Suffer From Hormonal Imbalances?
- Under-eating & over-exercising
- Wrong foods
The goal is balance in relation to the body’s hormones. When they are either too high or too low it can cause a variety of health issues. Adaptogens are a great way to balance your body as a whole.
Adaptogens are a class of plants used for their healing abilities of balancing, restoring, and protecting your body as a whole. Adaptogens were granted their name because of their distinctive ability to ‘adapt’ their function according to your body’s needs. An adaptogen does not have a specific action, nor target a certain body region, rather it benefits the body as a whole, being able to respond to any influence or stressor that it needs to.
These rejuvenating plants improve and recharge the health of your adrenal glands, counteracting the harmful effects of stress. Cells are accessed more energy and the ability to eliminate toxic byproducts of the metabolic process to help the body use oxygen more efficiently. More cellular energy in combination with boosting the adrenal glands strengthens the body’s ability to cope with stress, anxiety, and fatigue – calming you down and boosting you up simultaneously.
Adaptogens are a broad family of herbs and plant medicines that have been used for thousands of years throughout the world. To be labeled an adaptogen, a plant medicine must fulfill at least three specific criteria:
- They are generally safe (for just about everyone).
- They help you handle stress.
- They work to balance your hormones.
Here are some of my favorite adaptogens. For this post we’ll just focus on stress.
Asbwagandha is a magic herb that helps to restore strength and vitality to a totally burned out body. Ashwagandha can be extremely effective at balancing hormones. It benefits thyroid function because it promotes the scavenging of free radicals that cause cellular damage. Ashwagandha can be used to support a sluggish or overactive thyroid, and it can also help to overcome adrenal fatigue. Your adrenals can become overtaxed when you experience too much emotional, physical or mental stress, leading to the disruption of hormones like adrenaline, cortisol and progesterone.
Increases the amount of anti-stress compounds our bodies use to prevent and repair stress-related damage. By reducing the ability of stress hormones like cortisol to bind to receptors, astralagus boosts immunity and shields the body from the effects of stress.
Within the adaptogenic kingdom there is also an extra-special group of medicinal mushtooms that offer some of the same hormone-balancing benefits as the adaptogens above and some extra immune-boosting qualities too:
- Lion’s Mane
- Turkey Tail
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Referred to as the “elixir of anti-aging,” holy basil helps fight fatigue and stress, boosts the immune system, and regulates blood sugar, blood pressure, and hormone levels. Holy basil is one of my favorites for brain fog since it works to regulate cortisol and increase cognitive function
Rhodiola (Golden Root)
Contains the phytochemical salisdroside which helps resist anxiety and aging. Other benefits include suppression of the production of cortisol, increased levels of stress-resistant proteins, restoration of normal patterns of eating and sleeping after stress, resistance to mental and physical fatigue, and protection against oxidative stress, heat stress, radiation and toxic chemicals. Additional research has shown this adaptogen can protect the heart and liver, increase use of oxygen, improve memory and longevity, as well as aid in weight loss.
Here is a little recipe with Ashwaganda (my favorite adaptogen)
Make this in a large batch and drink as often as you like.
- 1 cup ashwagandha root
- 1 cup shatavari root
- 1 cup tulsi leaf
- 1 cup chagra root
- 1/4 cup cardamom pods
- 1/4 cup dried ginger
- 1 cup rooibos leaf tea
Sprinkled Ceylon Cinnamon and Star Anise
Mix all the ingredients together in a big jar and keep somewhere cool and dry. To serve, simmer 1 1/2 cups water and 1 tablespoon of the chai blend in a saucepan for 10 minutes. Pour through a sieve into a mug, sweeten and add milk to taste. I prefer a little steamed half and half sprinkled with ceylon cinnamon or star anise.
Are you out of balance?