We all know the world can be a stressful place and that these stressors can take a physical toll as well as a mental one. These physical symptoms include weight gain, headaches, and digestive problems, amongst others. Being able to reduce the impact that stress has on the body can seem almost impossible when the pressure of the world becomes overwhelming and, as many people have in the past, we can look to traditional medicines for an answer. What you can find there are adaptogenic plants.
We’ve previously looked into what adaptogens actually are and how they work in the body, but let me summarise quickly! Adaptogens are plants thought to increase the body’s ability to handle the stressors of life and promote a hormonal balance, which allows us to resist the physiological effects of stress for longer. It’s believed that adaptogens work in tandem with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to encourage homeostasis by increasing and restricting certain hormones relating to stress.
Adaptogenic plants and mushrooms, whilst used for centuries in traditional and ayurvedic medicines, have had very little scientific research performed so far, so the long term effects of adaptogens haven’t been studied thoroughly. This begs the question, can you take too many adaptogens? Is it the case that too much of a good thing might actually throw your system out of balance? Let’s see if we can find out.
The benefits of adaptogens:
Adaptogens are awesome. If you need an energy boost without a caffeine crash, adaptogens can help. Need to stop your brain from firing off in every direction as you settle down to sleep, adaptogens can help. Feeling stressed out, and need a moment of calm? Adaptogens again!
These medicinal herbs and fungi have a huge number of health benefits which can really improve our lives, including increasing productivity, giving a boost of mental clarity and helping to combat fatigue. When our bodies are faced with a stressor, it goes through a process called General Adaptation Syndrome, which has three stages: alarm, followed by resistance and then exhaustion. Adaptogens keep us in the ‘resistance’ phase for longer, ensuring that we don’t crash into exhaustion. This gives us the opportunity to perform better and physiologically adapt to situational stressors.
Can you have too much?
Each adaptogen has a different effect on the body, so choosing an adaptogenic product is completely dependent on what you want it to do. For example, a morning coffee with Lion’s Mane mushroom can help to give you a boost of mental clarity and focus, whereas a dose of reishi mushroom can help to promote healthy sleep cycles and relaxation.
After deciding on which type of adaptogen might be best for you, always follow the product information and serving sizes. Start slowly so that you can observe the changes - if an adaptogen doesn’t suit you, you’ll be able to note those changes and any side effects you’re experiencing. It is also worth rotating your adaptogens in order to give your body the chance to benefit from all the subtle differences and effects of the plants themselves, and help to increase our innate ability to handle stressors.
Adaptogens are generally thought to be free of side effects, although it is possible to experience allergic reactions to their components. Some adaptogens are thought to develop side effects if taken for too long or in too high doses, and there are certain instances where adaptogens might not be suitable for you. For example, certain studies have shown that ashwagandha might not be safe to take if you’re pregnant. Despite the fact that adaptogens have been used for centuries in traditional medicinal practices, further study is still ongoing into their use, so if you do have any concerns about their use, do consult a medical practitioner for further information into supplementation.
So, whilst there doesn’t seem to a definitive answer on whether you can have too much of an adaptogen over time, rotating your adaptogens and using them according to the product information has multiple benefits for our health, both mental and physical, but it’s important to remember that there are other methods of reducing and adapting to stress.
My adaptogen of choice is Vivo Life’s Raw Hot Chocolate with reishi mushroom. It’s a little cup of joy at the end of hard days, a calming point in my evening where I can relax, enjoy the deliciousness and know that I’ll have a great night’s sleep! However, I try to remember that there are other things which can help to reduce the amount of stress in my body and mind. Meditation, mindfulness, journaling, these are all excellent techniques you can employ to reduce the impact of stress.
Remember - adaptogens cannot take stress away from you entirely, nor can they eliminate situational stressors in our lives, instead they help the body to change the way it reacts to these stressors. Sometimes, just taking a supplement won’t have a long term impact on your life, and lifestyle changes also need to be made in order to truly benefit your world.