Clinical and Evidence-Based Benefits
Within the last 10 years, the National Institute of Health has released 83 systematic reviews, 15 clinical trials, and 13 randomized control trials within the last 10 years in regards to topics involving Ayurvedic medicine. While this is certainly not a large amount of studies, this topic is being studied more frequently than a few years ago. The term ayurveda stems from the traditional Hindu system of medicine. The main idea behind this natural outlook on medicine is that bodily systems can be balanced from diet, herbal supplements and breathing habits. It is not uncommon for the media to ‘push’ for the selling of products that are claimed to improve your overall health, and it is easy for the general public to be easily persuaded. I slowly began using a few different adaptogens about 8 years ago when I became more interested in some of its claimed benefits. Within the past year, however, I became more diligent and intrigued on the evidence behind these benefits and researched numerous articles. In this blog I will share some of the highlights from my research on adaptogens and will also link some of my favorite and most frequently used supplements.
First and foremost - What are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a variety of herbal supplements that counteract the negative effects of stress that can occur in our bodies. Stress can affect our bodies systems, such as our neurological, endocrine and immune systems. Adaptogens are able to work on a molecular level and regulate the stress response induced by the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands.
How do adaptogens work?
Our bodies naturally go through different stages of stress: alarm, exhaustion and resistance. These are essential and protective to combat certain ‘everyday’ stressor situations, such as working out - our brain releases adrenaline to help improve our muscle performance and even concentration. Adaptogens are able to keep our bodies in these powerful stress responses for a longer and more balanced way, rather than just becoming extremely exhausted and defeated post-workout (for example).
Adaptogens have several properties that improve our body and mind such as neuroprotective factors, anti-fatigue, antidepressant and central nervous system stimulant effects. Essentially, they can increase your mental work capacity.
All of this sounds way too good to be true, right? - so here’s a few highlighted articles from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to assist in validating the information provided above.
Review #1 - Adaptogens can be used to promote health for general well-being. In addition, they can be used for specific conditions and health problems, such as cardiovascular health and even neurological disorders. It mentions psychiatric disorders and neurological disorders that increase with age, which have been improved through this use in human clinical trials.
Review #2 - Through this double-blind randomized control trial, the well-known adaptogen called Ashwaganda was tested in patients with chronic stress. Cortisol levels (stress hormone) and Body Mass Index (BMI) were evaluated in 52 patients. The outcome of this study suggests that Ashwagandha root extract can be used for body weight management in adults under chronic stress.
Review #3 - This systematic review evaluated the use of Rhodiola to improve physical and mental fatigue. This herb has been studied to produce performance-enhancement capabilities. A total of six Randomized Control Trials were evaluated in this study. However, none of the studies included were free of plausible bias rendering evidence behind the efficacy of Rhodiola is currently inconclusive. It is true that more methodical and concrete human clinical trials must be designed and performed to validate the benefits of Rhodiola.
Review #4 - This study evaluates the pharmacological action of adaptogens. One model presumes that a specific receptor-drug interaction is unsuitable for this scenario. To understand the mechanism of action of adaptogens, molecular targets, signaling pathways, and networks common to adaptogens have been identified and are associated with chronic inflammation, atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative cognitive impairment, metabolic disorders, and cancer, all of which are more common with age. Further evidence is necessary to conclude a definitive set of interactions between adaptogens and stress response pathways. However, it was proved through this study that all other mediators of the effects of adaptogens play roles in chronic inflammation!
It is true that several more uncommon adaptogens warrant further clinical evaluation and it is important to always research a supplement before ‘believing’ its benefits! I hope I was able to provide some additional insight to adaptogens and how they may be very valuable to our health. Even if you are not an advocate, it is important to be cognizant of the available evidence-based science behind some commonly used herbal remedies and how so much is being researched daily. Below you will find my favorite adaptogens that I believe in and have used for years.
Check out my How to Improve Cognitive Focus blog for information on how I specifically use some of my supplements!
Lion’s Mane https://amzn.to/2yL2FsI
The best and most efficient pharmacy is within your own system.
Robert C. Peale