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Adaptogens: Herbs for a Vibrant Life – Especially for Seniors

We are exposed to many stresses throughout the day, both physiological and psychological, which can have a profound impact on our health. Seniors face an even greater cumulative stress exposure, having often endured a stressful lifestyle for many years. Adaptogenic herbs provide support to adapt well to the stresses and remain resistant to the physical effects helping the body retain a state of homeostasis. In traditional medical systems, adaptogenic herbs hold the key to living a vibrant life, especially for older individuals.

Adaptogens are an amazing group of botanical medicines. In addition to providing stress support, adaptogens must also have a broad range of therapeutic effects and cannot cause any major side effects. There have been clinical studies in both animal and human models demonstrating the ability of adaptogenic herbs to support optimum functioning.

Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain how adaptogens work. Studies have demonstrated that effects range from affecting the DNA-dependent synthesis of RNA to affecting the sympathetic nervous system, to modulating cellular communication molecules including hormones like cortisol, protein kinases, heat shock proteins, nitric oxide, and more. In any case, clinicians report these to be one of the most helpful groups of botanicals. In addition, traditional medical systems have used these herbs to support healthy aging and are credited with the long and vibrant lives of individuals using them.

The most well-known herbal adaptogens include ginseng, rhodiola, and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus); but there are several additional adaptogens that you may not be as familiar with which also deserve credit for their efficacy:

Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum), aka Tulsi: An Ayurvedic herb for those who get wired in response to stress, rather than fatigued. It has been studied for its modulating effects on the immune system, as well as its ability to support wellbeing. It provides calming effect as well as its ability to support a focused state.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Another Ayurvedic herb, it is one of the adaptogens with the most research to support its use, having been studied for its antioxidant effects, as well as its ability to support healthy stress management by supporting optimum cortisol production.


Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum): People typically think of Reishi for its immune supportive properties, but its adaptogenic qualities are also noteworthy. Very well-tolerated, Reishi can support healthy energy levels and help retain strong immune function under stress.

In traditional medical cultures, including Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, adaptogenic herbs are thought of as “elixirs of life”, and are taken throughout the lifespan to support general well being. Since stress levels in the US are so high, and knowing the negative impact that stress has on human health, it makes sense to include adaptogenic herbs as part of almost everyone’s wellness plan.


Tags: adaptogens, sympathetic nervous system, cortisol, protein kinases, heat shock proteins, nitric oxide, ginseng, rhodiola, and Siberian ginseng, eleutherococcus, holy basil, tulsi, ashwagandha, Reishi mushroom, ayurvedic medicine, ayurveda,