Adaptogenic Herbs, aka ‘Adaptogens’ … How Do They Work?

How adaptogenic herbs, aka adaptogens, work is more complex than other substances. If you scarf down a cupcake, for example, on a stressful day, the reason is pretty obvious why you feel like you have more energy, even if it’s a temporary jolt. Most people think it’s the blood sugar spike that provides the energy.

But before the blood sugar spike, what’s actually happening behind the scenes to provide the energy? First, enzymes split fructose and glucose into constituent molecules. Blood absorbs the fructose and glucose and transports the sugar molecules to the liver. The liver then converts fructose into more glucose. Then, a process of cellular respiration occurs. This is when glucose and oxygen eventually become a chemical called ATP. ATP is what our trillions of cells use to provide us with the energy we need for everyday functions.

Adaptogens help relieve stress by controlling the amount of stress hormones released. On a very stressful day your hypothalamus gland, located in the center of your brain, releases CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone). Think of CRH as the fire alarm that goes off in response to stress. When CRH is released, it triggers anxiety.

Are you chronically stressed-out?  It’s because your body exhausts itself from constantly releasing CRH and ACTH. And that’s how adaptogens can help you. Adaptogens inhibit the release of CRH and ACTH. Because of this, your body does not burn out by releasing excess CRH and ACTH (and other hormones involved in the stress response).

You will experience more anxiety the more CRH your hypothalamus gland releases. Therefore, if adaptogenic herbs inhibit the release of CRH, you’ll experience less anxiety.

Adaptogens help calm you down AND increase energy

Here’s another beautiful way adaptogens work: they can both calm you down and increase your cellular energy. What other substance can do that, safely, with no toxic side-effects? (None.) Adaptogens act as thermostats, instructing some cells to ‘get going’ and be more productive, while telling others to cool down and chill out. 

Got that?

If it’s too over your head, don’t worry about it. Just know that if you’ve got lots of stress, you need adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens instruct your cells and organs how to chill the stress response. Not just so you will survive, but thrive!