Powerful Herbs for Stress
Herbal supplements are a great tool to use for your health and well-being. Indigenous cultures and older civilizations have been using herbal remedies for thousands of years. Plant medicine has been used to treat everything ranging from stomach aches and infections to sexual impotence.
Unfortunately, these days it's hard to tell what works from what doesn't in the realm of supplements. In this article I will outline two of the most powerful herbal stress supplements known to man. These have been proven to work through scientific studies.
There exists a super-class of herbal supplements called 'adaptogens'
Wikipedia.org defines an adaptogen as:
"substances, compounds, herbs or practices refer to the pharmacological concept whereby administration results in stabilization of physiological processes and promotion of homeostasis, for example, decreased cellular sensitivity to stress."
Adaptogens supercharge your body. You become more resilient to external stressors and you are more able to maintain balance or homeostasis with all bodily processes.
Homeostasis is the force that keeps your body in a healthy state. When you get too hot or cold it keeps you just the right temperature. When you get stressed or get sick homeostasis brings you back to your normal healthy state.
Ultimately, an adaptogen makes you more resilient to change.
What are the two best herbal adaptogens?
1. Rhodiola Rosea
A perrenial plant used in traditional medicine for that grows in in arctic mountains. For hundreds of years, rhodiola was consumed as a traditional medicine by the people of Siberia and Scandinavia to deal with the stressful climate. Many believe that the vikings also consumed rhodiola for physical robustness (source).
In addition to this there are a variety of other possible benefits that scientists have found rhodiola to possess, including:
Protecting the nervous system from oxidative stress
Promoting quality sleep
Lifting your mood
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels
With a wide-range of potential benefits, rhodiola really is a modern day super-herb.
How To Use
Rhodiola is taken as a root extract. While it is safely tolerated up to 1-2g, the more common doses range from 100mg all the way up to 500mg a day. Because it can be stimulatory, it is best to take in the morning or early afternoon. You should take on an empty stomach to enhance absorption.
It is important to get a standardized extract with rhodiola. The two compounds used most often are rosavins and salidrosides in a 3:1 ratio of 3% rosavin to 1% salidroside. This is because it most accurately emulates the natural state of the plant. Interestingly enough, research has shown that salidroside may be responsible for most of the beneficial effects. In fact, the rosavins are not even an active compound.
Salidroside seems to support nerve health by regulating nerves, neurotransmitters, and preventing premature cell death (source). In addition it has been shown to protect brain and skeletal cells from oxidative damage (source), (source).
Salidrosides are the most important compound, with the ideal standardization being 3% salidrosides. Do not buy rhodiola without a 1-3% standardization.
My Experience With Rhodiola Rosea
It actually acts on your dopamine receptors making you more sensitive to dopamine. Because of this, when I first began taking rhodiola, it made me very sleepy. This is often the case with supplements that act on your dopamine receptors. After a few days this went away. I noticed a few things from supplementation.
I had more stamina in the gym
I was in a slightly better mood
I could concentrate a bit better on my work
While the difference wasn't huge, the benefits were still nice. All in all, rhodiola is one of my favorite herbal supplements.
This leads me to the next supplement, another outstanding adaptogen.
Also known as Indian Ginseng, ashwagandha a plant used in traditional Aryuveda medicine as an adaptogen. Cultures have used the root as well as the berries for various benefits. Most supplements of ashwagandha contain an extract of the root. Like rhodiola, ashwagandha is an adaptogen with mood boosting effects.
Ashwagandha reduces general anxiety, stress, cortisol, and increases physical strength (source), (source), (source), (source).
Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress so this is equivalent to solving the problem at the source.
I find the studies showing the increase in power output of ashwagandha especially interesting. With the last source cited, untrained men put on a strength training program improved their lifts more with 600mg a day of ashwagandha extract as compared to the placebo group.
How To use
First, it is important to get an extract standardized for withanolides, without this you can't be sure how effective it is. The typical dose of ashwagandha ranges from 300-900mg a day, although greater benefits can be had with doses as high as 6000mg a day split into three 2000mg doses. Like rhodiola, you should take ashwagandha on an empty stomach to increase the amount of absorption.
My experience with Ashwagandha
Throughout the years I have used this herb on multiple occasions. While I have noticed slight strength increases I don't think it's a huge help in terms of muscle building. Where i've found it to shine is as an anti-catabolic agent. Basically I use it to help preserve my muscle when i'm going through tough situations.
For example, during exam weeks when I don't have time to workout and am also stressed, the cortisol reducing effects of ashwagandha have helped me preserve a lot of my strength. I'm able to get back to where I originally was in the weightroom faster when I use ashwagandha.
Because it's an adaptogen, it reduces my level of stress slightly, which is great to just take as a day-to-day supplement. This is why I try to take at least 300mg of the root extract per day for general health and well-being.
Ashwagandha and rhodiola are two outstanding herbal adaptogens. They are both shown to increase physical performance and boost your mood in different ways. While rhodiola works with your dopamine pathways and reduces fatigue, ashwagandha reduces cortisol to lower stress and increase strength.
Because of this these two herbs work incredibly well when taken together and should be added to your daily routine for overall health and well-being.
Make sure to get standardized extract of 3% salidroside for rhodiola and at least 1.5% withanolides, take them everyday on an empty stomachs, and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
Adaptogens are extremely helpful compounds, and these are two of the best. This is why i've included them in my mood booster, ElevatePlus.