Adaptogens: Natural Stress Relievers

Adaptogens: Natural Stress Relievers

Adaptogens are becoming increasingly well-known for their 'balancing' effect. So just what are adaptogens and how do they work?

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Celebrities and Instagram stars all seemingly spice up their lattes and smoothies with adaptogens - but just what are adaptogens and how do they work? Adaptogens are not a new invention. Adaptogens have been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Indian Ayurveda for thousands of years. However, more and more studies and areas of application are also being found for them within Western medicine.

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are natural plant substances, often herbs, roots or mushrooms, that help the body to adapt to stressful situations. These include panax ginseng, ashwagandha, schisandra, rhodiola, maca and medicinal mushrooms such as cordyceps, hedgehog spikenard and reishi.

As bioactive, secondary plant substances, adaptogens can counteract the effects of stress in the body. Stress changes our body by damaging the neurological (nervous), hormonal (endocrine) and immunological systems. For women in midlife, stress often exacerbates many symptoms of the menopause, so the fact that adaptogens stimulate the body and counteract the effects of stress is particularly helpful for us to know.

Adaptogens were first investigated during the Second World War. Scientists were looking for a 'miracle pill' that would enable pilots to fly longer, better and faster. The term 'adaptogen' was coined by the Russian pharmacologist, Nicolai V. Lazarev in 1947.

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How do adaptogens work?

The name suggests it: adaptogens work by helping the body to "adapt". They work on a molecular level by regulating the balance between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands. These three hormone-producing glands are involved in our stress response - when the body is exposed to stress, they burst into action. Adaptogens have a direct effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (or HPA axis for short) - the body's own system for producing hormones in response to stress. No matter in which direction the body gets out of balance, adaptogens help to bring it back into homeostasis - a state of equilibrium.

What happens during stress?

Stress - for example sabre-toothed tiger attacks, arguments with your partner or overreacting bosses - triggers a series of reactions in the body. These consist of 3 phases:

  • Alarm
  • Resistance
  • Exhaustion

When we experience stress - such as an argument with a partner - our body reacts by releasing hormones such as adrenaline. Adrenaline improves muscle performance and increases the ability to concentrate, thus preparing the body for the upcoming task of resisting this stress. With this kind of protective wall for the body - more energy, clearer thinking - we are better prepared to tackle this stress! Victory or defeat is followed by the phase of exhaustion.

Adaptogens work in the middle phase - the resistance phase. They allow us to withstand stress for longer, so to speak.

Adaptogens can calm us down and at the same time increase our energy levels without over-stimulating us.

They support our adrenal function and thus counteract the negative effects of stress. They also help our cells to eliminate by-products of the metabolic process.

What are the health benefits of adaptogens?

The benefits of using adaptogenic herbs, roots and mushrooms may include:

  • Boost resistance to stress
  • Reduce fatigue and tiredness by increasing energy
  • Neuroprotection (protect brain and nerves)
  • Antidepressant effects and improve mood
  • Stimulate the central nervous system
  • Increase mental performance and alertness
  • Normalise the balance of hormones - homeostasis
  • Improve immune function and athletic performance
  • Protection of cardiovascular health
  • Balancing effect on blood sugar
  • Influence on reproduction and libido
Some of these effects have been investigated and proven in numerous studies - for others, the scientific evidence is very sparse or still outstanding.

    The adaptogens maca, ashwagandha, schisandra, hedgehog spikenard, reishi, cordyceps and panax ginseng can be found in our XbyX plant extracts. The Balance Bundle contains three of these extracts: Think Clearly for focus and concentration, Take It Easy for your equilibrium and Lust for Life for joie de vivre and creativity.
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    Which adaptogens are there?

    There are many different adaptogens, each with different effects. Choosing the right adaptogen for you depends on the desired result. Ashwagandha, for example, is often used for exhaustion, as it energises and relaxes in equal measure.


    • Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) holds an invigorating effect, promoting thinking, concentration, memory, physical stamina - contained in XbyX Think Clearly
    • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) reduces mental, emotional and physical stress and anxiety, bringing harmony to body and mind whilst also strengthening the immune system - found in XbyX Take It Easy
    • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) works against fatigue
    • Chaga is rich in B vitamins, melanin and zinc, allowing it to support the immune system, promote general well-being and provide energy
    • Chlorella - potent green algae - rich in chlorophyll, protein, amino acids and essential fatty acids
    • Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris) increases stamina and energy - promotes oxygen supply, immune system and mental performance while increasing athletic energy - found in XbyX Phyto Power
    • Goji berry (Lycium barbarum) promotes energy, physical and mental performance, calmness and well-being and can also improve sleep
    • Eluether root (Eleutherococcus senticosus) improves concentration and prevents mental fatigue
    • Hedgehog goatee mushroom, also known as lion's mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus), it supports memory function and brain health - found in XbyX Think Clearly
    • Jiaogulan (Gynostemma Pentaphyllum) reduces stress and increases stamina.
    • Maca, also known as Peruvian ginseng (Lepidium meyenii), it promotes fertility, libido and sex drive, improves energy and stamina - found in XbyX Lust For Life
    • Liquorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) reduces stress
    • Reishi medicinal mushroom - traditionally used to strengthen the heart and mind - it supports the immune system and reduces stress - found in XbyX Peri Balance
    • Rhodiola rosea (R. rosea) supports against physical and mental fatigue
    • Schisandra berry (Schisandra chinensis) promotes stamina, mental performance and concentration - found in XbyX Phyto Power
    • Tulsi / holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) reduces physical and mental stress, stress-related anxiety and depression
    • Turmeric (Curcuma longa) promotes brain function and helps against depression

    Where can I find adaptogens?

    Adaptogens are available as herbal food supplements in capsule form or as a powder. As a powder, they can easily be added to natural dishes such as smoothies, muesli or drinks.

    In our XbyX plant extracts you will find adaptogens that work in synergy with amino acids, vitamins & minerals and other plant substances.

    When and how do you take adaptogens?

    Stimulating adaptogens, such as Rhodiola, are best taken before 3pm. Our stress levels are usually higher in the morning through until the afternoon, and towards the evening the stress should normally subside and calm down.

    Adaptogens that have a more calming effect, such as holy basil or ashwagandha, can be taken both during the day and before going to bed.

    Adaptogens can be taken daily and over longer periods of time. As the body gets used to them, it may make sense to change them after about 6 weeks and rotate them according to need and well-being.

    As with any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement, adaptogens can also have side effects. It is therefore wise to consult your doctor before taking adaptogens.


    Adaptogens are wonderful herbs, roots and mushrooms that can contribute a lot to the natural balance of our body.

    However, please bear in mind that adaptogens are not miracle cures and therefore not a cure-all for stress. They merely support the body in its response to stressful situations.

    Anti-stress measures such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation, sport, a balanced, healthy diet and, above all, a normal level of stress, are the best way to maintain a positive feeling in your body.

    XbyX Lust For Life is an innovative formula of the adaptogen maca (5:1 extract), the amino acid L-arginine, raw cocoa, zinc and B5. Giving you a boost of energy and helping you with hormone metabolism.
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    Panossian, A. & Wikman, G. (2010). Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals, 3(1), 188–224. doi:10.3390/ph3010188

    Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J. & Anishetty, S. (2012c). A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults. Indian Journal Of Psychological Medicine, 34(3), 255–262. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022

    Ishaque, S., Shamseer, L., Bukutu, C. & Vohra, S. (2012). Rhodiola rosea for physical and mental fatigue: a systematic review. BMC Complementary And Alternative Medicine, 12(1). doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-70

    Panossian, A. & Wikman, G. (2008). Pharmacology of Schisandra chinensis Bail.: An overview of Russian research and uses in medicine. Journal Of Ethnopharmacology, 118(2), 183–212. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2008.04.020

    Panossian, A. & Wikman, G. (2009). Evidence-Based Efficacy of Adaptogens in Fatigue, and Molecular Mechanisms Related to their Stress-Protective Activity. Current Clinical Pharmacology, 4(3), 198–219. doi:10.2174/157488409789375311

    Tuli, H. S., Sandhu, S. S. & Sharma, A. K. (2013). Pharmacological and therapeutic potential of Cordyceps with special reference to Cordycepin. 3 Biotech, 4(1), 1–12. doi:10.1007/s13205-013-0121-9

    Astragalus. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)


    Panax Ginseng. WebMD

    Panax Ginseng.