Note: Each week, family physician Regina Chinsio-Kwong, DO from Mission Heritage Medical Group in Laguna Niguel will offer insight on a different vitamin—why you need it, how to incorporate it into your diet and how it affects your health. If you are considering taking any kind of supplement, consult with a medical professional first.
WHAT IT DOES: Feeling stressed out? Who doesn't these days. Stress can take a toll on the body, causing headaches, loss of sleep, increased heart rate, mood changes and a host of other problems. Adaptogens are herbal compounds that help the body cope with or "adapt" to stressful situations. They can affect the brain's hypothalamus and the pituitary and adrenal glands, which work together to manage the body's response to stress. Adaptogens are said to increase energy, decrease fatigue, boost immunity and control the stress hormone cortisol, among other things. They can be taken in single doses for a particularly stressful event or for long-term maintenance.
RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE: Because there are several different types of adaptogens, the recommended daily dosage varies depending on the type of herbs being used. It's important to consult with a doctor before taking any type of adaptogen.
HOW TO INCLUDE IT IN YOUR DIET: Common adaptogens include Asian and American ginseng, eleuthero, ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea, astralgus and licorice root. Adaptogens are available in supplements, in doses of single herbs or in a combination of compounds. Dried herbs may also be available at specialty stores for tinctures used in teas. Fresh herbs can be used, but most of them are not native to North America. If you do attempt to grow any adaptogenic herb, be sure to use organic methods, and consult on a medical professional on how to use them.
HEALTH IMPACT: Side effects are generally rare and vary with the type of herb. For instance, ginseng can cause issues such as heart palpitations, lower blood sugar, insomnia, anxiety or stomach problems. Licorice root can cause elevations in blood pressure or changes in potassium. People with high blood pressure or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid adaptogens. Again, consult with your doctor before using any type of adaptogens.
RECOMMENDED SUPPLEMENT BRANDS:
Integrative Therapeutics, Metagenics, Orthomolecular, Pure Encapsulations, Thorne Research
* Given current issues with herbal product quality and labeling issues, it is strongly recommended to use brands that are NSF verified, USP certified products, or brands where third party testing is performed.