Adapt and Survive
What is it that makes an organism survive? Evolve. Thrive. It is the ability to adapt to its environment. To change when it needs to, become more flexible, more resilient and stronger. Anything that helps an organism adapt is known as an adaptogen. Adaptogenic substances, compounds, herbs and even practices are those which results in a stabilisation of our physiological processes and a greater ability to handle stress. The most incredible part of these substances is that they not only help and organism adapt to stress, but they adapt to work with the individual who takes them as well. They “personalise” – so to speak. Genius. So why haven’t we heard of these before? Some of them we have. Some of them we are just discovering, but all of them have roots in the ancient medical traditions of their countries of origin. The global community has just allowed us access to a whole new range of natural products we never used to be able to find.
The term itself – “adaptogen” was first used in 1947 by a Russian scientist named Nikolai Lazarev, but it wasn't until the 1960s that a formal definition was created. A substance was expected to behave in certain ways if it was to be considered adaptogenic. It must be nontoxic to the recipient. This removed narcotics and other less safe drugs from the definition. They might allow someone to deal with stress more effectively in the moment, but they were not non-toxic in the long run. Adaptogens must be completely safe. They must produce a nonspecific response in the body such as an increase in its power to resist multiple stressors: things like physical, chemical and biological agents. In other words they not only help the body deal with stress from outside, but also from inside – protecting against disease, illness and inflammation. An adaptogen must also normalise the body. This means that they help the body reach a type of equilibrium, a safe and healthy state, know as homeostasis. They help us find the perfect state of physical existence.
One interesting thing to note about many of the adaptogens is that they are plants and herbs that grow under extremely difficult conditions. They are in a constant battle with their environment. They understand stress and have evolved to combat it and allow themselves to thrive under it. There are many, many plants that are considered to be adaptogens, but here is a simple guide to just a few that we at VM have used and found to be valuable. You can find them online from companies like Sunpotion and Four Sigmatic, or at your local health food store.
Astralagus – This herb comes in first because it has a reputation as the most potent Qi tonic in the world. A traditional Taoist herb, it is said to strength and protect the body’s entire energy. This includes the metabolismand digestive systems as well as looking after your skin from the inside out. This powder works well in smoothie bowls or added in to your protein shake.
Shrooms: Cordyceps, Reishi, Chaga and Lion’s Mane. These mushrooms have powers you can’t even imagine (not those powers!). These have been used to thousands of years in tradition oriental medicines and have specialised properties that can be used individually or together. They work well mixed with your morning coffee.
- Reishi – offers immune support and stress relief. It is perfect just before bed.
- Cordyceps – helps with oxygenation and thus energy, endurance and mental acuity.
- Chaga – provides and energy boost and is a powerful source of B-vitamins
- Lion’s Mane - nourished nerve tissue and can even act as a catalyst for nerve restoration. It is valuable in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases and is often known as ‘brain food’.
Ashwagandha – also know as ‘Indian Ginseng’ this herb has a long history of used within Ayurvedic Medicine. The plant grows in India, north Africa and the Middle East. The most potent part of the plant is the root. The plant may: strengthen the body’s immune system, increase the body’s ability to deal with mental, emotional and physical stress, allow for a greater sense of calm and an ability to deal with stress hormones. Ashwagandha is quite bitter so add it in to something that will help disguise the flavour.
Moringa – this has been called “the miracle tree” because it contains a huge range of bio-available nutrients, minerals and high levels of vitamins B,C,D and E. The leaf is reported to improve nutrition, stabilise blood pressure and relieve anxiety, allowing for deeper sleep. Moringa is available as both a powder and a pleasant tasting tea.
Licorice root – well, we all know how this one tastes and we either love it or hate it. But I bet your didn’t know it was also anti-inflammatory, full of phytoestrogen that makes it great for women’s health, excellent in helping out with leaky gut symptons and useful to combat adrenal fatigue. We use licorice root in our Two-Phase Vitamin C Brightening System because it contains glabridin, a compound that may help to diminish discolouration of the skin.
Gotu Kola – This little Indian plant is a healing magician with its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It is said to be great for digestion, boosting circulation and relieving anxiety and can act as a toner to tighten aging skin. It makes a delicious tea, and our VM range uses Gota Kola in several of our products, from our new Collagen Boosting Gel to our enduring favourite, Marine Collagen Anti-Aging Night Cream.
Panax Ginseng – You’ve certainly heard of ginseng. It is one of the most common roots used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is used in TCM for its “cooling” properties and is said to help with treating diabetes, strengthening the immune system and improving strength and stamina in those who take it. Ginseng can be taken as a powder, a tea, a tincture and we use it in our signature product – The Cryo Facelift – for its ability to increase collagen production.
Of course, as with every natural product, don't blindly dose yourself up. Read up on the details of each, consult a natural therapist and try things in small doses first of all. These are powerful plants and not right for every single body. Always experiment on yourself gently until you find the right natural supplement to enhance your health and fill in any gaps in your body's needs. And make sure you take a close look at the companies selling the products. Are they ethically and sustainably farmed? Are the extracted from the plants in a way that maintains the integrity of the adaptogen. If a product is too cheap and there is no evidence of its origin - give it a miss.